I don’t spend much time on my blog talking about my day job.
This is for a number of reasons. Some are out of concern for you, the reader: it would be a bit off-topic and I don’t want to bore you.
But mainly it’s for my own personal reasons. I like to ‘leave work at work’ for my own sanity, I don’t hugely want people I know professionally reading my most intimate thoughts about struggling with debt or stress, and I also worry that I might land myself in trouble with my employers by saying something horrendously inappropriate. Which I most definitely would.
So I won’t go into reams of detail about how I pay my bills but suffice to say, I spend much of my working life in an area of the UK with some pretty deep-seated problems with poverty, and sometimes come across issues like homelessness, unemployment and the housing of refugees.
I also spent my wasted youth on the periphery of the local queer activist scene, and while I never felt I fully fitted in with its ‘smash the system’ aims, I guess some of it rubbed off on me.
All this means there is sometimes an aspect of minimalism which makes me a little uncomfortable.
I’ll put it this way: maybe I’m spending a little too much of my time thinking about how to get just the right number of things to achieve maximum happiness.
Yes, I know, so much of the thought behind minimalism is commendable.
You’re taking a step back from a world obsessed with buying crap, made out of diminishing resources, by exploited workers, to turn profits for huge corporations.
You’re instead focusing on aligning your spending with your values.
You’re carving out space in your life for pursuits which might help others, or feed your soul, rather than taking part in a fruitless contest to see who can amass the most toys.
But it is an inescapable fact that being in a position of having ‘too much’, and realising that paring down might make you happier, is a very privileged place to be.
The act of minimising, decluttering, simplifying, call it what you will, is both commendable and undeniably solipsistic at the same time.
In my experience, people facing very serious struggles with poverty or disadvantage have more pressing concerns: Where can my family live, now the landlord is turfing us out? How can I afford to get my children birthday presents when I’m out of a job? How can I learn how computers work when I’ve never been able to buy one? Where can I get clothes for a job interview when I’ve got no money? How do I settle in a new country when I’ve had to leave all my worldly possessions in a war zone?
In this context, concerns about how best to carefully construct a chic capsule wardrobe, how to reduce the time you’re spending online or how to tactfully decline gifts can appear to border on the obscene.
But what do we do about this? Throw up our hands and decry it all as bourgeois bullshit, then reach for the credit card again?
If this isn’t the answer (hint: it isn’t), then what is?
It’s an issue I’m still grappling with.
While I try to make my lower-middle-class existence less stressful, less cash-strapped and less wasteful, how can I continue to build in to my daily life consideration for – and action to help – those who don’t have this luxury?
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