How to be a Practical & Socially Conscious Minimalist
One of the popular criticisms against minimalism that I actually love is how elitist it is. The common saying minimalists use is "to only buy what you need", but that implies that everyone has the privilege of being able to afford to buy more than they need. I know this was not the intention of the movement, but it does exclude a large portion of the population.
Since those phrases are geared towards those with privilege it is important to point out that most of the problems that are caused by overconsumption are from people of privilege over-consuming, so yes... they should buy less. The problem is stating that this lifestyle that underprivileged don't get to be apart of will lead to happiness.
I do see the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle, since I try to adhere to it as well. I follow a different set of rules than the extreme minimalists do... such as only owning 500 items. I can't afford to only own 500 items because I need to keep, for example, extra parts from an old computer in case I need them for my new one or for another project. So... here are some practical rules to follow if you want to basically just stop buying so much crap and get your life organized while also being socially conscious about it.
The only thing you should be throwing away when you're purging all of your crap is garbage. Like on hoarders when they do not even throw away their trash. Or if your furniture or clothes are beyond the point of being useable. If it is useable, donate it. Like I said... there are many people in underprivileged communities that you can help by giving them what you don't want instead of a landfill.
2. Remember that Your house doesn't need to look like this
This is minimalist decor. There is also minimalist art. You don't need to strive for this. I think this is impractical. I want to see pictures of my family on my wall, I want to be inspired by artwork, and I love lots of pillows and throw blankets and I'm still a minimalist. The main point of minimalism is that you rid of the excess, not that you rid of everything. For me, excess is cable television and bulky exercise equipment because I don't use or love either of those things, but there is still some stuff in my house.
3. When you buy, make it matter
I honestly hate the "vote with your dollar" mindset... that you can just buy eco-friendly clothes and save the Earth. It's not possible and there needs to absolutely be real and drastic policy reform in order for that to happen. It also excludes those who don't have enough money to chose what they buy, they have to buy the cheapest option available.
With that said, if you do have privilege and you are buying things and experiences, educate yourself on that company. Even if you have to buy from WalMart, look them up, research them, tell people about them, teach your kid about them, and vote with your actual ballot for people who are pushing for reform. If you do have the privilege of having options, always always always chose the most ethical option you can because unfortunately, money is power so give power to those that really deserve it.
4. Give Experiences Instead of Gifts
I've wrote a lot about this in my other posts, Minimalizing your Life, Not Just Your Closet and How to Change the World by Changing How You Give. For Christmas this past year I took my boyfriend to see Jay-Z instead of an actual present and we had a blast and made memories and that's better than any gift I could've given him (especially because he already has everything he needs/wants).
It is absolutely okay to have a room full of junk if its intention is for it to be reused. There is a reason why folks in the depression never threw anything away. It's better for the environment that you reuse the parts from that old computer (to use my previous example) than it is for you to throw it away. When I came up with the idea that I wanted an aquaponics unit that could fit on my counter I was able to make it that day and only had to buy a water pump and a goldfish to make it because I had all of the materials, which is again better for the environment because I didn't have to throw away the packaging for the new stuff. It was also better for my bank account.