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.