Minimalism is Only for the Rich

I sadly shake my head when I hear the argument that minimalism can only be embraced if you are single, rich, or a man.

The argument goes like this: If you are rich you can get rid of all but the absolute essentials because you have the money to purchase anything you might need at a later date. On the flip side it’s argued that the poor must hold on to extras because they won’t be able to afford to replace them.



I will agree with this argument only so far.  I won’t throw out a second charger for my phone on the off-chance that the one that came with my phone breaks. But that one charger doesn’t take up that much room nor does it detract from the minimalist look of my home or my drawers. How many “what-if” items does a household need?  You aren’t going to  have a “what-if” couch or refrigerator these larger items are out of reach of a poor family to have a second sitting around just in case anyway.

I also have just the one computer. Should it break I will be able to afford to replace this one because I haven’t wasted money on unnecessary purchases. Can you honestly argue that a family who is tight on money can afford to have two or more computers at one time?  They aren’t going to purchase a second computer if the first one still works.

Why isn’t Minimalism more common among the middle and lower classes?

Am I rich? Not even close. What money I do have stretches because of the choices I make financially.  For example, my home is in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the town. It’s a nice quiet neighborhood but it’s the original section of town where the homes were neglected when people decided to build new, bigger homes leaving this area a bit run down and therefore bought up and rented to the poorest residents.

It’s rare for a person, or family, to adopt minimalism if they aren’t rich because society still measures individuals by what they own. If a person can’t afford a car they carry the stigma that they are a failure while a person who has the money but chooses to live car-free is accepted.  He might be seen as eccentric but simply because he has the means to purchase a car he will not face the same stigma.

It’s hard to watch families with children struggle to give their children the toys, gadgets and homes that will keep them from being judged as poor, and therefore ostracized, and yet it’s these families who, if they could escape the judgement of others, would benefit the most from the riches of minimalism.

I know first hand the pain a child will carry if your family is deemed poor in comparison to others. I was a single mother raising two boys. I wanted to be home with them as much as possible and the best way to do that was to purchase an inexpensive home and keep our expenses as little as possible.  We lived in an 840 sq ft home that fit our needs with abundant outdoor spaces to explore. The house needed improvements which we began tackling from day one but we happened to live in a well-to-do community.

One day a father stopped to pick his child up who had been playing with my son. The father asked me how long  I planned to live in this particular house and received the answer that I had no intention of moving for a long time.   His child was no longer allowed to play with my son because we wouldn’t pretend to be in the same social class.

It is often this reason you will see poor families spending money at dollar stores or splurging on nice furniture they can barely afford. They are attempting to hide their financial status and being ostracized by others  “better than them”.

It’s time we stop judging others by the car they drive or the neighborhood they live in and accept one another. If we accepted one another regardless of financial situation we would realize we are all rich.

Is minimalism only for the single and rich? I argue it isn’t but societal pressures make it harder to adopt minimalism if you aren’t.

One comment

  1. Hi Lois, thanks for this article and I really like your main argument- it is something that is often neglected in the minimalism debate. And also the way minimalism is portrayed in the media: sleek super expensive design that demonstrates that you ARE wealthy because you can buy a citrus press that costs a fortune or you have a huge empty house. In my case, I only possess a limited amount of things because I do not want to have to rent a bigger flat, which I can’t afford, because I am NOT rich. I wear my clothes for a long time, I mend things myself or let the tailor do it for a small fee. And some authors have argued that minimalism is also about purchasing and giving things away or selling them- in my case I am very very careful what to buy in the first place. To me minimalism has brought me freedom as I am NOT wealthy. And most of all-the environment profits from it.


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