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August 08

If Hoarding is a Pathology, Why isn't Minimalism?

By Sister Wolf

Recently, a friend complained that minimalism is a classist concept since poor people don't go around fretting about the crap on their coffee tables. Not only is it an elitist idea, I think minimalism is a pathology, every bit as debilitating as hoarding. Marie Kondo didn't invent the concept of decluttering, but she raised it to a religious level of grandiose self-denial.

Marie Kondo

If you've somehow managed to avoid all knowledge of Marie Kondo, she's a woman whose book about decluttering is a worldwide best-seller. Her equation of a ruthlessly curated home with spiritual superiority seemed to resonate with millions of anxious women. Her central tenet is to throw away every item you own unless it triggers a spark of joy. Soon, women everywhere were going through their drawers and closets, purging the joyless pieces that didn't make the cut.

Minimalism has largely been the province of the wealthy before Marie Kondo preached her way into our consciousness. Now, every consumer feels pressured to pare down their wardrobe to a capsule collection. The capsule collection should consist of artfully boring pieces that cost more than ten times what they're worth. The emphasis is on quality, meaning brands your neighbour can't afford.

Once you've got your capsule wardrobe, you have freed up your time to worry about your living space. The more stuff visible in your home, the more you should hate yourself for your greed, your insecurity, your tawdry love of nick-knacks. The idea is to project an ascetic monk's quarters. The fewer non-functional pieces of furniture, the more spotless your very soul. 

Remember descriptions of Carine Roitfeld's office at French Vogue? A glass table with nothing on it but her phone and reading glasses, white walls and a black leather couch. After years in that office, there were no signs of extraneous crap. The stark emptiness seemed so forbidding and unattainable by mere mortals. Because mortals do not have the discipline for this level of minimalism. So French! So elegant! So self-abnegating!

In the ethos of minimalism, stuff means weakness. Just as a hoarder can't let go of anything, the minimalist can't collect anything. To the minimalist, stuff equals weakness. Minimalism in fashion means the search for the perfect everything. The perfect t-shirt, the perfect coat, the perfect bag, the perfect black pants.  One website explains its focus on "delivering premium wardrobe essentials, elevated basics and succinct trend pieces to its customers."

Sophia Coppola's office vs. Parisian Vogue office by Carine

Words like "refined," "edited" and "effortless" assure the minimalist that they are paragons of taste and sophistication.  Their eye for excellence is better than yours, you with your piles of cheap t-shirts. In other words, your abundance of clothes signifies your crudeness. Your collection of jackets for every possible outfit and occasion just proves what a low-class slob you are.

Many of us who were momentarily brainwashed by Marie Kondo now dismiss her as a nutcase. Fuck her and her rules for folding your five joy-sparking shirts into tiny little squares! Fuck her passion for throwing away perfectly good things that are gathering dust on your dresser or mantelpiece! Let her throw away her own stuff. Some of us have lots and lots of non-utilitarian belongings, and that's how we like it. We're not afraid of clutter. We don't fear to lose our minds if there's shit on the coffee table.

I know someone who admits that she can't throw away a "nice" cardboard box. I know someone else who flipped out when his kid left a toothpick in the dining room. They represent two extreme attitudes that have taken control of their lives. But having fewer things doesn't make you more evolved. Unless your belongings are attracting vermin, you can keep acquiring stuff with a clean conscience (if not a tidy living space.)

Less isn't more, after all. More is More, which is also the title of a book about designer Tony Duquette, whose over-the-top style in interiors, jewellery and set design is peerless, baroque insanity. His fantastic mix of high and low elements is a tribute to inspired excess, and all the justification you need to fill up your cart at the 99 cent store. According to Duquette's biographer, he once spent $1,000 there!

 

Minimalism is an aesthetic until it's a disorder. I prefer to collect and collect and collect. Someone can edit my stuff after I'm dead.



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