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Black Minimalists Share What They Stopped Buying In Order To Live Their Best Lives

What does it really mean to "have everything"?

Life & Travel

What does it really mean to "have everything"? I suppose it depends on what you define as everything. From achieving your goals to living the life you didn't have as a child to living unapologetically, having everything isn't always qualified and quantified by material things. This way of thinking is related to the minimalist lifestyle – an existence that is rooted in happiness when living with less. For minimalists, they value experiences over possessions.

Minimalism is not for the faint of heart. The 'less is more' concept is one that requires discipline, consistency, and intention. We have watched as the minimalist theory swept across varying fields from fashion to interior design to photography. It is such a beautiful way of life and we are in awe of how Black women apply the theory to their lives.

So, we talked with four Black women who aren't new to minimalism, they are true to minimalism. Keep reading for why they made the choice, how their upbringing affected their decision, and their advice for other women.

Whitney Roberts

Photo Courtesy of Whitney Roberts

Age: 35
Title/Industry: Writer, Podcaster, Content Creator
Location: Philadelphia, PA

When did you adapt to the minimalist lifestyle?

I have been a minimalist for about four years now. I adopted minimalism because I was honestly tired of stuff. As a writer, I find clutter to be distracting. To keep me as focused as possible, I try to eliminate as much of it as possible.

What was the hardest obstacle in making this change?

Getting rid of certain things. For me, clothes were easy to clear out as I made the practice of clearing my wardrobe every season change in order to donate. The most difficult things to get rid of were my books! I love to read and managed to get my hands on many rare copies.

How did your upbringing affect your choice to become a minimalist?

Majorly! My mom is big on giving things away that we aren't using. She's really generous. I would like to think I inherited her generosity. On the other hand, one of my grandparents was a huge hoarder. They would buy things just to have them and wouldn't share. I saw how that affected their lives and how, in the end, all they had was their stuff.

What things did you stop buying in order to feel freer financially?

CLOTHES! I said earlier how easy they were to give away and unless I need something, I rarely shop for clothes. And you will be surprised how quickly the savings add up when you're not constantly shopping for things that are in style today and out tomorrow.

Can you share your biggest joy since you made the modifications?

The biggest joy is handing over that box of things I don't need knowing that they are going to people who do need them. I recently cleared some gently-used dishes I didn't need and, afterward, found a family that didn't have any. Handing them that box and sharing in that moment of gratitude (them grateful for the dishes and me grateful to help) was a big joy.

What advice do you have for women wanting to live life minimally?

Start small. You don't have to reduce all of your items in one day, or even in one month! Take your time. Choose one area at a time. Go through each item, one at a time, and ask yourself if you really NEED it or not. It's totally doable. Just go at your own pace.

For more of Whitney, follow her on Instagram.

Danae Smith

Photo Courtesy of Danae Smith

Age: 30
Title/Industry: Lifestyle Blogger
Location: Northern Virginia

When did you adapt to the minimalist lifestyle?

I started my minimalist journey in 2015 but in the last couple of years, I've really leaned into the slowness and simplicity of minimalism.

What was the hardest obstacle in making this change?

The hardest obstacle was unlearning rushing and learning to let go. Decluttering spaces wasn't too hard. I could easily let go of clothes and shoes that didn't spark joy, but for me, it was hard to let go of items that held memories. It's a process, but minimalism has challenged my need to hold on to all the things, be that something tangible or intangible. As for unlearning rushing, embracing minimalism has and continues to challenge my need to rush on to the next thing, be that a trend or literally how I move from one space to the next. I'm constantly learning to slow down and be still, to give the moment in front of me my full attention.

"I'm constantly learning to slow down and be still, to give the moment in front of me my full attention."

How did your upbringing affect your choice to become a minimalist?

I didn't grow up in a minimalistic home, but I did grow up in a home that valued delayed gratification, imaginative play, and reading over television, etc. I grew up in a home that did not follow trends a ton and that has deeply impacted how I move through life now. In some ways, the way I grew up helped make the adjustment to a more minimalist lifestyle a little easier.

What things did you stop buying in order to feel freer financially?

I think the first items to receive a personal budget cut were clothes and shoes. Nowadays, I aim to purchase clothing items that are aesthetically pleasing and functional with the ability to be worn in multiple seasons and styled differently each time. Doing the 10x10 challenge really helped me to get creative with the clothes I already owned. I also worked really hard at not eating out a ton, especially for lunch. I worked in D.C. for a while so it was easy to go to a food truck or chain restaurant to grab lunch. Of course, as with any journey, some days were definitely easier than others.

Can you share your biggest joy since you made the modifications?

My biggest joy has been giving myself permission to slow down and be fully present in a given moment.

What advice do you have for women wanting to live life minimally?

Don't feel pressured to pursue minimalism in any particular way. You don't have to suddenly don neutral tones or have a home barely furnished. You can pursue minimalism in full color with a cozy living space or whatever your vibe is. In my eyes, minimalism isn't just an aesthetic. It's a lifestyle choice that makes room for what matters and what you value. How that looks and unfolds in your life can and will look different from the next person.

For more of Danae, follow her on Instagram.

Jaznel Mosby aka J. Chavae or Jaz

Photo Courtesy of Jaznel Mosby

Age: 29
Title/Industry: Wellness Facilitator
Location: Athens, GA

When did you adapt to the minimalist lifestyle?

I adapted to the minimalist, more so essentialist, lifestyle about four to five years ago.

What was the hardest obstacle in making this change?

The hardest obstacle in making this change was thinking that I had to have five to 10 items in my possession when in reality, it was being conscious of what I needed and what truly made me happy.

How did your upbringing affect your choice to become a minimalist?

Growing up, my mother had so many random things in high volume that she didn't need or use, be it shoes, food, cups, etc. I knew that it was because of a lack mentality (she grew up pretty poor in Jamaica) so I did have sympathy for her, but it drove me NUTS! I became obsessed with organizing first, then minimalism/essentialism was introduced to me and the game changed!

What things did you stop buying in order to feel freer financially?

I had to stop buying clothes and shoes. I was a real shopaholic in my early 20's, buying things for their photo potential regardless of wearability or comfort, but minimalism helped me kick that to the curb. I would always tell myself that I didn't have money when in reality, I did have money, I was spending it all on shoes, clothes, and FOOD.

Can you share your biggest joy since you made the modifications?

My biggest joy since this lifestyle change has been filling my home with things that I absolutely need and that I absolutely LOVE. Everything has a purpose and a place which makes my compartmentalized mind very happy!

What advice do you have for women wanting to live life minimally?

The advice that I would give to women wanting to live minimally or essentially is to add before you subtract. It's like wanting to be healthier. If you cut everything out, you're going to crave it more often and probably give in...the same applied to me when it came to my things. Figure out what you love and what you need, incorporate those items in your life and then give thanks to what you don't need or love (think Marie Kondo-style). I also released things much easier when I gave them to someone I knew/loved. It made me happy knowing that they would use something that was simply taking up space in my home!

For more of Jaznel, follow her on Instagram.

Christine Platt

Age: 44
Title: The Afrominimalist
Location: Washington, DC

When did you adapt to the minimalist lifestyle?

I began adapting a minimalist lifestyle in the summer of 2016 but in all honesty, I had no idea what I was doing. I was so focused on trying to mirror the neutral, barren aesthetics I saw online. It wasn't until 2017 when I began focusing on being authentic and intentional with my personal style that I truly began adapting to a minimalist lifestyle. For me, that looks like Afrominimalism—a home and wardrobe that reflects the history and beauty of the African diaspora.

The shift to being authentic and intentional was so pivotal! It is what led me to write The Afrominimalist's Guide to Living Less, to really encourage more people, especially Black people, to embrace the practice of minimalism more holistically. Being a conscious consumer has more benefits than having a tidy house and benefiting the environment. It is an opportunity for our community to use their resources to build generational wealth—and for many of us, we are the first people in our families to have the opportunity to do so.

What was the hardest obstacle in making this change?

The hardest obstacle wasn't sorting through everything to decide what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to let go (which is what I thought would be the hardest part). I was very surprised at the emotional work that came with the letting go process. I had to acknowledge what aspects of my childhood led to my excessive spending. I had to acknowledge that I had so many things but so little savings. And I had to forgive myself for all the decisions and choices that led to my overindulgence.

But ironically, I believe emotional labor is one of the most important parts of the process. Honoring my feelings has been essential to maintaining a lifestyle with less. And I really encourage anyone who is planning to or in the process of decluttering to embrace the anger, frustration, sadness, tears, and whatever other emotions emerge. It is important to first know the reasons why you have more than you need, and then honor the emotions that come with that understanding. If not, it is likely that you will continue the same spending habits and find yourself in the same situation again.

"Honoring my feelings has been essential to maintaining a lifestyle with less."

How did your upbringing affect your choice to become a minimalist?

I am so glad that you asked this question! How we were raised plays an important role in why so many people have more than they need. From how we saw our caregivers handle money to fulfilling unmet childhood expectations, there are aspects from our past that have influenced our relationship with money and spending habits. When I was younger, my mother and I spent the weekends shopping, and it was always my favorite part of the week. We had so much fun together! And so, I associated shopping with fun, with rewarding myself, with enjoying the fruits of my labor.

When I began adapting a minimalist lifestyle, I realized what a significant role my childhood played in my emotional spending, as well as the cultural influences and other aspects of my identity, such as being a first-generation everything. I have since become very intentional about breaking that cycle with my daughter and sharing my experiences with others so they can learn from my experiences.

What things did you stop buying in order to feel freer financially?

OK, I want to address a misconception about minimalists—we buy things all the time! We are just 1) very very intentional about what we purchase and 2) constantly letting go of things that no longer serve us to make space for what matters. In order to be financially freer, I had to learn the reason behind my excess (the mindless consumerism and bargain shopping), and refrain from those behaviors. It's how I came up with a mantra that I sometimes still must use when I am shopping: "Remember, it's not a deal if you don't need it."

Can you share your biggest joy since you made the modifications?

Oh, my goodness! There is so much joy! Having savings is such a big part of my joy. Understanding my power as a conscious consumer and investing in my community. There is such joy in being intentional with where and how I spend my money.

What advice do you have for women wanting to live life minimally?

You know, I recently read this beautiful interview in ELLE with Taylour Paige who plays Dussie in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (which the historian and lover of Black storytelling in me is just obsessed with that movie. Just, gah!) It just felt like I was having a conversation with a young Black woman on her way to understanding and seizing every opportunity in her lifetime. One thing that Taylour said really struck me: "We're all eternal. And this is just a blip in eternity. But if I can be conscious of that, why do anything I don't want to do?"

If you want to live more minimally, do it! And be fully conscious of and committed to your decision. And don't be afraid to make it your own. For me, it's Afrominimalism. But for you, it may be something entirely different. Think of minimalism as intentionalism. Be intentional about creating the life you want to live.

For more of Christine, follow her on Instagram.

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