Less Is More: Why Minimalism is for the Wealthy

It’s no secret that Kim Kardashian is the American equivalent of royalty with her net worth of about 1.7 billion dollars and massive influential sphere; however, despite the tremendous amount of money she has and makes on a day-to-day basis, she seemingly promotes a minimalistic aesthetic. Images of her 60 million dollar mansion detail a “home” that looks unlived in yet warm and cozy, which is precisely the point. However, when examining the cost of Kim Kardashian’s mansion, which she reportedly bought for 20 million, one thing becomes clear: the “sustainable,” minimalist aesthetic she’s going for is practically unattainable for anyone else. With 20 million spent on the purchase of the property, leaving 40 million dollars for renovations and equity, the message of superiority and privilege practically comes screaming off of the empty countertops, walls, and hallways.

The average American makes just over $67,000 a year (according to the US Census Bureau) and the cost of living for a family of 4 ranges anywhere from $70,000 – $85,000 on average. With these statistics, it’s easy to see the disparity between income and cost of living. Thus, it should come as no surprise that nearly 600,000 people are experiencing homelessness in America with over 7 million Americans experiencing housing insecurity.

However, some may question why minimalism wouldn’t be an appropriate lifestyle for those experiencing poverty, and the answer is that it might very well be an applicable lifestyle when employed correctly. According to The Minimalists, “Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around…Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” Minimalism, as a lifestyle, has very different implications than the minimalistic aesthetic depicted in modern magazines and in the million dollar mansions of the Kardashians. Essentially, minimalism is about focusing on what is important to the individual, and ridding oneself of excessive possessions. That does not, however, entail the purchase of more expensive things in order to rid yourself of more possessions. Ultimately, the minimalist aesthetic drained minimalism of its core values and placed all importance into the “look” of having less, as shown in the photos of the Kim K mansion.

In reality, most individuals considered to be poor or middle class live oppositely to the minimalist lifestyle; it seems that a maximalist lifestyle seems to fit the desires of the American public. Individuals struggling financially may see themselves saving up to buy more clothes of lesser quality and buying fast food (rather than buying the groceries to make their meals at home). The objects they purchase and surround themselves with may even be considered part of their identity; there’s a deep appreciation for objects and material things that comes from wanting to show off accomplishments and keep memories. Additionally, the modern version of minimalism (where you spend more to have less) is considered by many to be an imitation and a mocking of the lower class. So, the minimalist aesthetic of Kim K and other influencers is not only out-of-touch with what it means to be a minimalist, but also insulting to those of a lower socioeconomic status.

Furthermore, the trend of minimalist aesthetic can be seen not only in home decor but also in other areas of our lives; this idea that the outward appearance of less is more is steadily creeping into our daily lives from our clothing and the “clean-girl aesthetic” to makeup and the “natural look.” However, both of these looks/aesthetics are expensive and time-consuming to maintain. While sustainability is certainly not a bad thing, companies profit off of the social expectation that someone will care about sustainability by increasing their prices and making sustainability unaffordable. For example, the Hydro Flask and the Stanley cup (both popular sustainability water bottles) are sold for $45 and $40 respectively. Conversely, one can buy a reusable water bottle on Amazon for $10.

Overall, wealthy influencers, magazines, social media, etc. may promote the aesthetic of minimalism, but their minimalism is criminally expensive and out-of-touch with reality. We, as Americans, tend to put so much effort and money into our outward appearance that we lose the values of the lifestyles we choose. Instead of picking aesthetics like clothing off a rack, we should pay more attention to what matters to us individually. One might find that they really are a minimalist; however, one might find that they like their material possessions perfectly fine. Only when we aren’t subscribing to what the extremely wealthy and the American corporations are telling us can we live autonomously.

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6 thoughts on “Less Is More: Why Minimalism is for the Wealthy

  1. I never really thought that Minimalism was a way of life. Living in the U.S, to live like a minimalist was to have sleek technology surrounding you. I think it is kind of interesting to analyze what a minimalist aesthetic is by bringing technology into it.

    You said “Minimalism, as a lifestyle, has very different implications than the minimalistic aesthetic depicted in modern magazines and in the million dollar mansions of the Kardashians.” and in a way I kind of disagree with that. Reading over what the minimalists said about what their lifestyle entails, I can’t help but think that only the rich would be able to accomplish something like that. Only the rich has the tools to live their life in “freedom”. To be free of the trappings of consumer culture is to be on the very top.

  2. I never really thought about it this way how the rich would go for an aesthetic that isn’t clustered with an overwhelming amount of flashy items, I simply thought of it as any old art style that’s come into trend. But this idea of having the wealthy in a way appropriate to the lower class to make their estate look to have less but with their designer twist to it and calling it a lifestyle is an interesting observation of how materialistic culture still can exist despite the less that they have because it’s still all for show. This is only setting more trends and increasing the insecurity of those who aren’t up to date with what’s in style and reaching those who don’t keep up with this lifestyle simply because they can’t, and the issue is that these aesthetics only seem attainable but in reality, are still a rich-people thing.

  3. this really opened my eyes when you said: ‘Overall, wealthy influencers, magazines, social media, etc. may promote the aesthetic of minimalism, but their minimalism is criminally expensive and out-of-touch with reality.’ Because this is so very true. I don’t know why they would bother to achieve this minimalist look when it’s not so minimal. They put so much work effort and money into this and show people how ‘easy’ or ‘pretty’ it or they look. This is the very version of looking expensive, the ‘clean-girl look’. This is a sign of wealth now but having less or looking basic was looked down upon not so far back. the rich made it popular so now everyone loves it.

  4. Hey Maddie,

    Interesting idea, and I agree with it, I find myself getting more and more frustrated with people who are claiming to be something they seem to be missing the point of entirely. For example, it’s now popular again to be a reader but looks at the books people are ready, or healthy cooking styles that are extremely wasteful. Overall this concept seems to be created in so many walks of life which was why I apricated your point so much. True minimalism looks very different from social medial minimal aesthetic, and it’s these same fast fashion hatters and healthy eating, social book readers that seem to be propagating these ideals. Hopefully, in the future, the materialist ideas that run rampant will start to shift towards better quality and better lifestyle choices to promote actually wellbeing as opposed to projecting the image of such.

  5. This concept is so interesting to me because celebrities such as the Kardashians seem to be afraid of any signs of a house being lived in or showing any of their possessions when they clearly have so many more possessions than the average person. I recall one time seeing a clip of a cookie jar from one of their homes and all the cookies were meticulously stacked. I have always wondered why certain celebrities are obsessed with minimalism, especially since its a facade. Behind those minimalist doors are an abundance of clothes, shoes, and other belongings. Real minimalists have minimal belongings. They have no sense of individuality as they are all trying to fit into this one specific aesthetic.

  6. Hello Madeline!

    Your article addresses something I’ve thought about before, but had trouble explaining out loud. I think many celebrities, like Kim Kardashian, love minimalism so much because it makes them feel good about themselves. Saying less is more is philosophical enough, but actually doing it speaks even more volume. However, what’s the difference between an ordinary person like me being a minimalist, and Kim Kardashian being a minimalist? An obvious answer is money. Celebrities usually have multiple homes, very large ones at that. Filling a mansion with “minimalist” items undermines the entire principle of it. I think for many celebrities labeling themselves as minimalist is an out of touch way they “ground themselves” with ordinary people who cannot realistically afford to have more, or choose to own less to fulfill themselves with the true fulfilling things in life that cannot be manufactured.

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