Does Minimalism Require Privilege?
Start writing a post
Student Life

Does Minimalism Require Privilege?

Who really benefits from this new lifestyle trend?

Does Minimalism Require Privilege?
The Minimalists

For those who practice (or are at least aware of) the concept of “minimalism”, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are practically household names. Indeed, when you coin yourselves The Minimalists, host a website full of essays about minimalism, write multiple books on minimalism, and even produce and promote an award-winning documentary about minimalism, it’s safe to say you can be considered knowledgeable on your chosen topic.

In addition to these many accomplishments, Millburn and Nicodemus also host a weekly podcast where they answer questions from listeners about minimalism and give thoughtful responses, sometimes condensing their advice into a snappy, tweetable quote.

In many of these podcast episodes, Millburn and Nicodemus discuss their exasperation with one common question that comes up, which boils down to: “Is minimalism only for privileged single white men?”

While minimalism has gained popularity over the past few years – either as a challenge to get rid of as many personal possessions as possible, or as a stark interior design aesthetic, complete with white walls and angular metal furniture – minimalism as described by Millburn and Nicodemus ultimately comes down to living more deliberately and intentionally. “The problem isn’t consumption,” Millburn says. “The problem is compulsory consumption; buying things because it’s ‘what you’re supposed to do,’ or ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.”

While The Minimalists themselves are both white men in their mid-thirties, they have gone out of their way to disprove the common misconception that they are the only type of people who can benefit from minimalism.

In their documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, Millburn and Nicodemus showcase a variety of people who have incorporated minimalism into their lives. These people are from a variety of races and ethnicities, family structures, living situations, occupations, and so on.

In their podcast episode on “critics,” Millburn and Nicodemus read mean tweets regarding their documentary, and they expressed their frustrations with the assumption that minimalism inherently equals privilege.

“I could very easily respond and say, ‘if you think it’s 100% white people, that probably is going to offend people like Leo (Babauta) and AJ (Leon) and Patrick (Rhone) and the other people of color or diversity in our film’…” says Millburn in the podcast. In response to the accusation that minimalism is only suitable for (and achievable by) those with a significant amount of money, he says, “Yes, I did grow up very poor, on welfare and food stamps.”

The idea that Millburn and Nicodemus want to share is that minimalism is not a “one size fits all” quick-fix, but rather a “choose your own adventure” philosophy. There are different tools and techniques that fit under the umbrella of minimalism that can be used – or not used – in various ways depending on a person’s current situations and future goals.

You can find essays from Millburn and Nicodemus (as well as their multiple affiliated social media accounts) at Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things is now streaming on Netflix and Vimeo, and for sale on Amazon.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Student Life

College 101: How To Ease The Back To School Blues

Getting back into the school groove when you just can't seem to let go of summer.

Beyond The States

With fall classes just beginning, many of us find ourselves struck with summer withdrawals. Especially for those who refrained from taking courses over the summer, it can be quite difficult to get back in the swing of things. Fortunately, there are various ways to help make the transition back to college as smooth as possible.

Keep Reading... Show less
Dating Apps

We Met At A Bar

Salvage what you can; if you can't, it's alright to walk away.

We Met At A Bar
Anne Waldon

We met at a bar.

Keep Reading... Show less

The Mets And Me

They may be the worst sometimes, but this baseball team has given me more than I could ask for.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

On September 3rd, 2001, a sea of children littered my home's navy-carpeted den to watch baseball during my dad's 40th birthday extravaganza. A baseball game flickered on the TV, and a red and blue bubble of a scoreboard sat in the bottom right corner of the screen. The New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies were in a wild game at Veterans' Stadium. As I, a five-year-old boy with a jumble of curly blonde hair, sat in the back of the kid clump, I wondered which team I should root for. After a long debate with myself, I decided that I should root for the team that's winning (duh). But, as the ninth inning rolled around with the Phils maintaining a 7-5 lead, some magic occurred. The Mets put up five runs in one frame, stunning the Phillie fans in the room and winning the game 10-7.

Keep Reading... Show less

Which BTS Member You Are Based On Your Star Sign

If you love BTS, I'm sure you relate to one or many of them in several ways. This star test will help you learn more about which member you are most connected to.

Which BTS Member You Are Based On Your Star Sign

Astrological signs tell a lot about a person. Do you ever wonder what your BTS bias star sign is? Is it the same as yours, or or are you more like one of the other amazing members? Take a look and find out what yours (and the members of Bangtan) says about you.

Keep Reading... Show less

Hittin' the Road Playlist

With the end of August approaching more quickly than many of us would like, the preparation for school is happening in more ways than just one.


The car is all packed. The money you saved (and didn't spend online) from your summer internship is secured quietly in your bank account. The immediate reunion with your long-distance college friends is set. The real question on everyone's minds is: do you have the perfect melody to jam to as you journey back to school? 

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments