THE MAXIMAL MINIMALIST: EMBRACING A LITTLE SCARCITY ISN’T ALL BAD
I’ve been thinking about minimalism for a while now and have done my fair share of reading and watching shows like The Minimalists on Netflix and listening to podcasts on the beauty of a life with less, like this one by Lewis Howes on The School of Greatness and this Oprah’s Super Soul podcast episode, Awe and Clarity. I’m also a great fan of my girl Nyachomba, whose approach to minimalism and passion for sustainability got me interested in this in the first place.
So for the past year or so, I’ve been learning, trying to immerse myself in this thing that seems to be loved more by privileged white people than by the rest of us. It’s like they’ve reached a level of self-actualisation that allows them to do away with the stuff that the rest of us are breaking our backs trying to accumulate – what we believe is the antithesis of a scarcity mentality. But is it really?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned? We accumulate much more than we’ll ever need. Whether it’s clothes, shoes and bags, pillows and candles (guilty!) or just “stuff”, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we can buy our way into happiness and satisfaction; to think that excess is best. That if we could just have one more lipstick, or one more pair of jeans, we’d feel better. Retail therapy is a thing that’s encouraged. Having a shitty day? Buy a new sweater, you’ll feel better.
I’ve done it, and it felt good. But it never lasted, and I was left with a lot of things I didn’t really need, or even like.
Like many of us, I grew up with a mother who is a borderline hoarder (love you still mom!). I think it’s a common thing among our parent’s generation, the Baby Boomers. Many of them didn’t grow up with much, so as soon as they could start buying stuff, they did, and they never stopped. And that’s what they taught us.
So I started looking for ways to avoid that trap. I knew I wasn’t trying to become a bona fide minimalist. I know myself. I wouldn’t do well with a sparse home or closet, but I also knew I wanted to find a good balance that would work for me. That’s how I decided to become a maximal minimalist. A woman who enjoys the best of both worlds – living with less and making sure the “less” is really good quality. A moderate minimalist at heart, but with the outward expression of a maximalist with restraint – starting with my closet.
I started by “sleeping on it” – thinking through every purchase for at least 24 hours before deciding whether to make it, which was great for addressing my shopping impulses. Then I moved to limiting myself to a few purchases a month, what I called my “you did well, you deserve a small treat” pass. Slowly, I became more mindful of what I was purchasing, taking time to consider purchases before actually making them.
What I’ve found to be most liberating about this whole process is that I’ve stopped buying things just because I can, and I’ve stopped attaching value to material things. It’s become much, much easier for me to let things go, and I’ve jumped on the clarity this has given me to clear my closet – and my life – of a lot of junk.
Here are 7 rules that have shaped my approach to maximal minimalism, as applied to my closet and generally around our home.
- Am I buying it because I need it or really, really like it, or am I buying it because I can afford it and need a temporary high?
- One new thing in, one old thing out. This is not a warehouse.
- If I have no free hanger for it, I can’t have it. And I’m not buying any more hangers.
- If I haven’t worn it or used it in 6 months, it’s out – unless it’s something really practical, like a nice blazer, which I’ll still need once I’m no longer working from home.
- How many times can I wear it/use it, and in how many ways?
- How good is the quality? Will I have to replace it in less than one year, or can I wear it/use it for many years? (This is why I have quite a number of Siri Studio pieces – they’re locally made, and made to last).
- Is it a classic piece, or am I attempting to follow a trend? I tend to stick to classic cuts in neutral colours – you can never go wrong with this.
The more I do it, the more conscious I am about what I buy, the happier I am – and the more money I save. I do spend more money on individual pieces because I’m buying better quality items, but it’s money I’ve planned to spend, so I’m spending better. So as you can see, this is not about embracing a scarcity mentality; it’s about choosing measured scarcity and intentionally filling my life with things that mean something to me. I’m also becoming more sustainable in my consumption to avoid waste. I may not be using a menstrual cup yet, but I think I’m on my way there.
If this is something you’re willing to try – starting by decluttering your closet – you could either donate your clothes to charity, family or friends, or try out a service like Closet2Closet Kenya, which allows you sell your gently used pieces on their platform. Closet2Closet (you can also check out their Instagram) connects women with underutilized clothing and accessories to other women who would love to buy them, allowing us to use them for their full wearable cycles [ad]. Imagine decluttering and making some money out of it – I’m really into that!
What do you think of minimalism? Have you tried it? Would you try it? Do you have any tips and tricks you can share to help those of us on this journey? Drop them in the comments – let’s learn from each other.
I also have a little giveaway courtesy of Closet2Closet. Tell me: what’s stopping you from decluttering? Why are you holding onto stuff you don’t need, and what would encourage you to get rid of it? Leave a comment below and one lucky winner will get the chance to pick one of two gifts: either sell your items on their website at 0% commission to them (basically use their platform for free and keep all the money from your sales); or pick an item or items worth up to KES 3,000.
So go on, let me know what’s stopping you from starting this journey, maybe we can help you get started? And don’t forget to follow Closet2Closet on Instagram.
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The Cultured Cow