A conflicted minimalist

Hilary Walsh, by Stylelikeu.

The last couple of years, I have immersed myself in reading about minimalist, curated wardrobes, how to reduce one's possessions (clothing and other), sustainable consumption, living with less-projects and so-called simple living. For me this has been a subject for leisure, seemingly more clear-cut than the complex content of the heavy books I used to lug around university.

An argument I have been missing in these communities, though, is that the global problems are not solved by decluttering your personal possessions, on the contrary. Sorry to sound harsh, but stuff that has been brought home (by you) is your responsibility. While getting rid of your items can be relieving and addictive, this doesn't help our society as a whole.

The stuff you consume has to end up somewhere, whether this is your local landfill, or as textile cast-offs in developing countries, where one of the negative consequences is reduced need for local production, alas, loss of work and local craftsmanship.

Still, I believe in the effect decluttering can have on future consumption. If you have spent time sorting through all your stuff, you hopefully wouldn't want to replace those things through mindless consumption all over again. But the buy-cull-cycle is a thing. Maybe it's better to try and stop buying and culling in the first place?

Summarized: I would like to explore how to take responsibility for what I have already consumed, while living simply and fuss-free, taking into account all the advantages of owning less. I want to declutter and simplify my life responsibly and slowly.

I have at times been ashamed for caring about clothes and aesthetics, and have felt that "it's a slippery slope to somewhere superficial", to quote the photographer Hilary Walsh (pictured above) in her Stylelikeu video. But if you had to choose between getting dressed and eating tomorrow, it's an easy choice. Everyone needs to put on clothes, and everyone communicates something with the way they dress, whether they like it or not. And I think clothes are fun, a creative outlet and a good reflection of the sociocultural history (I'd like to learn even more about that last part).

A typical objection is that caring about style and pondering about editing your stuff, is a waste of time and a first world problem. Indeed it can be, but analyzing the consumerist society we live in is in my opinion one of the responsibilities of the first world, and it's important for a change of mindset and culture to happen. At the same time, it's wise to try to always look at the bigger picture, and not become too obsessed with me, myself and my things. Maybe the simplification journey can lead us to a different, less consuming and more stylish place. With more time and energy for tackling the big questions. That is the goal for me, at least.


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