One thing I’ve learned on my journey of simple living is that simple living by choice is a huge privilege. This is an important fact to acknowledge.
Less is More…Only If You Have Enough
I’ve written a little bit already about the magical point of “enoughness.” This is key. To the less fortunate, to those who are barely at the “survival” level, minimalism is utter nonsense. How can you throw around the term “less is more” when there’s barely enough resources to get by?
If that’s you, then you have more to teach me than I have to teach you. I write about minimalism from a background of teetering on the edge of overconsumption. I’m balancing, trying to live within my means and not fool myself into thinking I deserve to overindulge in luxuries and wasteful spending.
If you consider the newer definition, where a minimalist is a person who intentionally chooses to live with a minimal amount of stuff, you can physically see the role privilege plays in that. Curating a life and a home filled with things you love is a privilege. Decluttering is a privilege. Heck, having clutter in general is a privilege. But being able to get rid of 75% of your belongings after realizing you never needed any of it? Or not worrying about how you’d replace all of your possessions if your car was broken into? Hi, my name is Cait, and I am so incredibly privileged….
…I know people who only ever buy what they value because that’s all they can afford. And I know people who can’t even do that. When there are so many people who don’t have enough to begin with, how can I wear the “minimalist” badge proudly? I can’t. At least, I can’t if it means identifying as the typical definition of the word, and writing posts about what items to declutter or what’s included in my minimalist beauty routine.
But here’s what I can do: I can recognize both my current privilege and my experiences growing up in a middle class household in western society. I can practice being content and grateful for the life I lead today, knowing circumstances can change and this may not last forever. I can share the personal lessons I’ve learned since embracing this lifestyle, changing my mindset and figuring out what matters most to me. And I can accept that I’ll never be the voice for everyone, but that I am still a voice in this space and I take that seriously.
The Purpose Behind It
As with anything we do, minimalism only has value if we’re doing it for a larger purpose. Our lifestyle should point not just from something, but to something. Josh and I have a family mission of Simplicity, Generosity, Hospitality, Community. Simple living isn’t the end goal. Simple living is how we achieve our larger goals of giving, volunteering, thankfulness, and contentment.
Not everyone may share our purpose, but for us, this shift has been life-changing. Our family is radically different now – we spend a lot less, and we’re more intentional about the things we do. I don’t see us ever going back to our old ways. We only wish we had started sooner.
Challenge the Norms
I realize that to those who are less-fortunate, minimalism is already daily life. But for many middle class Americans, those who are bombarded with ads and opportunities to spend, those who lean toward overconsumption and waste, voluntary simplicity is an incredible re-alignment.
I’m no expert. I’m just a mother trying to make a difference. I don’t take my privileged position for granted. In fact, my goal is to turn my privilege on its head and use it for the good of those of those who have been given less.
With my privilege comes the obligation to use it for the greater good. That means not being selfish with it. That means following the example of Jesus and associating with those society deems “the least of these.” It means bringing the invisible and the forgotten into the light. This might be uncomfortable, but I believe it’s part of that obligation.
I might not like where it leads me. It might make me feel undeserving and angry. It might make me ask a lot of uncomfortable questions about society. It requires that I intentionally challenge the norms of society and expose the injustices that I see.
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is, yes, I’m privileged. But I don’t see my privilege itself as sinful. I see it as a tool in my belt for fighting injustice toward the less privileged.
I believe in equality and equal opportunities, therefore I will use whatever means I have to speak up for those who have been silenced. I will spend less on myself so I have more to give to those who weren’t given an equal chance. I will continually ask the question: What does it mean to love my neighbor as myself?
We don’t live like this in spite of our privilege. Our privilege is exactly why we voluntarily say “No, we have enough.”