Monday, 8 July 2019

Dodging gurus

Articles on zero waste and minimalism naturally drift my way. 

Every day I see such headings as:
  • How to save money through minimalism
  • Zero waste: 7 things to stop buying 
  • 10 things I no longer own as a minimalist
  • 8 things a minimalist no longer buys
  • How to declutter your closet
  • How to declutter your kitchen
  • What not to buy in your zero waste life
  • How many clothes do you truly need?
  • What a minimalist bathroom looks like
  • How to buy less
  • How to throw things away without feeling guilty
  • How to tell if you are a minimalist
  • 15 things I won't be buying this year
  • 30 things to throw away
  • 9 reasons to stop over-spending
  • 10 ways to own less
  • How to create a capsule wardrobe

I mean . . . seriously? Are these things not just . . . common sense?

I am very interested indeed in reading about people's different paths into a discipline of simplicity — what motivates them, what they found difficult, how and where they live, the freedoms they have won and the habits that sustain them. But telling me I should throw out expired meds, dead ball-points, odd socks and DVDs I don't watch is redundant information. 

Furthermore, something I find intriguingly counter-intuitive is how  very many of these self-styled minimalist gurus anxious to instruct me on clutter-free living seek to do so via blogs flashing with pop-ups and littered with advertisements and bristling with links out to consumer products. And it goes without saying there's a course to sign up for and a book to buy — last chance for this year and a bargain at thirty-six dollars.

You get a few, of course, who are the real deal. Daniel Suelo comes to mind, and Dee Williams, and Rob Greenfield. People from whom it's possible to learn substantial life lessons. But they are few and far between and rarely surface. 

Commercialised 'minimalism' reduced to a money-spinning stunt or a hastily cobbled together faux lesson on supposed simplicity has to be the living definition of pathetic.


Bean said...

Sadly this is so true. To be fair there are some really good minimalist lifestyle YouTubers who seem generally driven to share their "wisdom", but there are many who seem to think that YouTube is a quick road to riches. I find it ironic that a zero waste, minimalist will post a video with nothing but references to purchase all kinds of items that they "show off" and have links to websites etc.
I was enjoying a YouTube vegan, zero waste lady, nice videos about her life and young family, but as they progressed and she gained many followers she was suddenly promoting all kinds of products. For example while out shopping, her reusable canvas bags, you can buy them here, her reusable bulk food jars, you can buy them here, here sustainable water bottle, buy it here, you get the picture.
I think what happens is once a YouTuber hits a certain level of subscribers companies suddenly become interested, they send the person samples of their wares and all they ask for is a mention of their company and website. Perhaps eventually negotiating to pay to have active promotion of said product and links included. This is when the YouTuber can start making money, and the lure is strong, but it tends to ruin their message as their videos become little more than an "infomercial".

Thankfully there are many YouTubers who stay on message and don't sell out.


Pen Wilcock said...

Yes — the trajectory you describe is my take on it, too. To me, part of the minimalism is a restraint, a commitment to simplicity, declining to be drawn in to the rat-race and the opportunity to make a quick buck. I have the same reservations about paid clergy in the church; once you link your income to the promotion of ideology then giving false impressions follows quickly behind.
I prefer the way the Amish do it, so that they have regular occupations but choose ones that fit in with their ideology, rather than using their faith and belief in a commercial manner. Nobody should be selling their spiritual path for profit.
John Wesley was an interesting case in point. He became very well known and highly esteemed, so the pamphlets he wrote sold in large numbers, and he was criticised for making money out of this. But his maxim "Earn all you can, save [refrain from spending] all you can, give all you can" meant that much of the rewards of his effort went to the relief of the poor and setting up Methodism. Also, what he wrote came from a scholarly and rational basis with honest intent. I think Josh Becker is another one like that, and also Mark Boyle, Jay Shafer, and the two men called The Minimalists. They derive an income from their books etc, but they'd still be doing it even if they didn't — it's honest. Some of these others are just jumping on a bandwagon.

Rapunzel said...

So true.
The blog for pay fraternity are getting desperate for ways to create "content".
Not conTent as in contentment, but CONtent as in stuff to fill up the internet with in hopes of gaining and keeping a following that will bring them advertisers/sponsorship and therefore cash.
It's all about marketing these days......

YOur blog is such a restful place to come and contemplate!!!!

greta said...

you have hit that nail squarely on the head (you, too, bean!) my sentiments exactly.

Jenna said...

I was raised by parents who were transplanted from deep in Appalachia, born during the Great Depression, so I usually don't learn very much from the minimalists. I'm usually looking for kindred spirits and something to counter the ubiquitous slow-drip of materialism. That's how I glommed onto you, Pen--seeking a compadre in simplicity and, back then, Plain living as the next evolution of spiritual practice.

I do get disappointed when YouTubers that gain following precisely for their transparency and sincerity are lured away by sponsorships and all that. I understand sharing a "good thing" but ultimately it seems that it's usually just about those good things after they first take that apple bite.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, friends.

I'm interested in your comments and glad I posted this, now. I felt misgivings that maybe I was being unwontedly negative.

Rapunzel — Yes! I see that one face of minimalism is being a digital nomad, and making living through writing etc, but first base is, surely, actually having something to say. Staking out a place where we can compare notes and absolutely not, ever, be seen as punters, is part of what I wanted to do here.

Greta — Yep.

Jenna — Ah, that's so interesting. I was raised by a mother who managed on a very small income, and was herself raised by a father who by sheer grit and determination worked his way up out of serious poverty. I recognise in myself the values and methods I learned from them. From the minimalists I learn what might be called the mirror image. I learned from my forebears about taking refuge from the scourge of poverty in restful affluence. I learn from the minimalists about taking refuge from the scourge of affluence in restful poverty. They're both talking about the same thing but coming at it from opposite ends, if you see what I mean.
— What you say about the bite of the apple expresses the process of degradation exactly.

tonia said...

Yes. To all of this. Although, I admit that sometimes what is obvious to others who have been forced to live frugally or who come by it naturally, doesn't always seem obvious to me or others I know. I guess we all do have to begin somewhere. But it does seem that there's a lot of weight in the shallow end of the pool and not so many doing the real hard work of living simply.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Tonia — I suppose it must also be true that what you so perfectly describe as the "weight in the shallow end" is made up of precisely the kind of people who get busy online chasing up commercial opportunities. The ones just getting on with living simply are harder to see, I suppose. Like truffles.

Rebecca said...

I am more and more convinced of this!

Rapunzel said...

From now on I shall think of myself as a truffle.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Rebecca — waving!

Hi Rapunzel — Good. Exactly so. Rare, precious and hidden from view.

BLD in MT said...

Ha! This is so true! I've recently unsubscribed from one newsletter that had gotten kinda relentless with their last-time-you-can-take-our-course-this-year message. I mean, whatever gets people inspired and thinking about less being enough the better, but I'm certain this is not the most direct route. It makes me think of people who buy storage systems and containers and closet organizers and such rather than realize the problem lies in the fact they own too much stuff, no matter how it is stored.

Pen Wilcock said...

I agree — for me, being inherently lazy, organisation is one of the problems not part of the solution.

BLD in MT said...

Oh you make me laugh! And that's so, so true.

Pen Wilcock said...