Minimalism: A New Middle-Class Phenomenon?

Too many young Youtubers nowadays are advocating with an almost religious zeal about how getting rid of clutter ‘changed their lives’ and, so, perhaps it’s time we had a real look at this ‘minimalist’ trend which is sweeping the nation (or at least the internet.)

Minimalism, as it is being sold today, is a concept sold to the middle class by the middle class. Peek a little closer behind the velvet curtain (just the one of course, why on earth would you need two!?) and you will find consumerism, rebranded and with a shiny new marketing campaign. Getting rid of your old stuff paves the way for – yep, you guessed it – more stuff! By getting rid of a number of spare items you have carefully collected over the years in preparation for the inevitability of plates broken, socks lost and bulbs blown, either by throwing away or selling well below the market value, you are paving the way for further consumption down the road, when things inevitably break and get lost, but now at an increasingly inflated price.

Don’t let the shiny movies and YouTube videos fool you, this puritanical cult is not for everyone despite what its proponents claim. For many working-class people, it is impractical to get rid of what are deemed by minimalists as ‘unnecessary’ things. Where disposable income is scarce to non-existent, and employment is often a lot more precarious, it simply doesn’t make sense to follow the commandments of minimalism. Even though some minimalists claim that hoarding is a mental disorder, akin to that of OCD, hoarding can also be viewed as a natural response to the conditions of scarcity. These conditions of scarcity, being mainly unchosen by the individual, mean it would be unfair to judge, as many minimalists do, people in different circumstances for clinging on to their things for dear life, as they can’t always rely on regular pay checks and large amounts of disposable income to replace things.

Commonly used titles by minimalist Youtubers include ‘Why I became a minimalist’, ‘How minimalism changed my life’ and ‘10 Things I stopped buying.’ If I was creating my own YouTube video I very much doubt I could list 10 things that I have stopped buying, but there is one especially important thing I’ve stopped buying, which is the idea that minimalism, or any other all-encompassing doctrine is the answer to all of life’s woes.


Sophie Wheeler

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