“I’ve Been thinking about the things I’ve held on to.
What has been given to me and how I have received it.
Whether or not I have chosen to let go,
Or live in fear of choice.
How do I maximize living, in a minimal lifestyle?”
Earlier this year I naively wrote on a post-it note “YOU ARE A MINIMALIST!” I had no idea what a minimalist was or what minimalism meant at the time. I just felt like I had a lot of shit around me (both physically and mentally) and I wanted to throw everything away. When I began to do a little research on minimalism I discovered it was a way of life. People were out here living off of 36 item wardrobes, couples were purposely living in 200 sqft. studio apartments and the Mariekondo method served as the minimalist’s commandments. It was overwhelming and intimidating and something I reluctantly pursued. I held a deep fear of ridding myself of the many things I cared for: gifts given to me, the gifts I had given myself and all the things that made me feel nostalgic. Though this process has been tough, I realized that feeling nostalgia is nice but it was time for me to feel something new.
On Janurary 9th 2018 BGIO, a self-care podcast for women of color, debuted an episode called “Intentional Living with Roe of @brownkids” that challenged my reluctance and encouraged me to do the inner work I had been avoiding. I’m still in awe of Roe’s commitment to intentional living and purchasing:
“I would buy things as quickly as I could. Then, I realized, that I was inflicting emotional and financial violence on myself.”
Even typing these words is difficult for me because it rings true to how I use and used money against myself. Admitting self-inflicting pain is a tough- who wants to admit that they are hurting themselves?! Yet, this was a powerful reminder to challenge my understanding of self-worth and the value I place on the things I acquire/surround myself with. Roe does an excellent job of recounting and intertwining her troubled financial history with her current relationship with spending/acquiring things. She asks her listeners as they are shopping:
“What are you really wanting? Do you want this dress or do you want to feel luscious and whole in your body?”
I want to feel whole. In order to do so, I had to ask myself: “what financial traumas have I experienced? Have I acknowledged their current effects on my life?”
I grew up on the poverty line. Neither below or above, literally on it. This meant an unstable lifestyle of intermittent meals, utilities, clothing and often shelter. My mother has long been a single parent of 4 and continuously battled financial strain. I remember seeing her ignore bills, cry at the thought of not being able to pay for dinner, and fight with my stepfather about anything money related. Even to this day, she holds so much guilt in not being able to provide for me fully. She was also a low-level hoarder who held on tight to EVERYTHING in fear that she would have nothing. I share my mother’s deep-rooted fear of not being able to handle debt and provide for others. I have held on to a lot in fear that someday I will have nothing. Ironically the “things” I have collected over the years have had no real substance. When I attempted to purge the mounds of clothes, shoes, papers, perfume samples, furniture, in search of catharsis, I found myself right back at the store.
I was constantly trying to fill my emptiness with empty things. It was a vicious cycle.
Living minimally is a way to maximize my life experience. Being selective of what I surround myself with helps me appreciate what I have. Taking a moment to determine if something is fulfilling its purpose (or if it even has a purpose) in my life is liberating because I am removing all that does not serve me (items, behaviors, even people!). I am still a work in progress, for example, I struggle giving up books and probably NEVER will. Above all, I am glad to consider myself a work worthy of progress. Do you?
In American culture, the “traditional” methods of seeking a minimalist lifestyle are overwhelmingly white. This can be stifling to black and brown folks who have several intersections to cross to get to the root of this type of inner work. I am all about sharing the wealth, so here are a couple of minimalist lifestyle resources that cater to communities of color. Please let me know if you know of more!
Websites + Articles + Podcasts
8 BLACK WOMEN WHOSE MINIMALIST LIVING WILL MAKE YOU “‘BOUT THAT LIFE.”
embracing afro-minimalism: for black women minimalism can be revolutionary
EPISODE 30 — INTENTIONAL LIVING WITH ROE OF BROWN KIDS