Making yourself a minimalist: A popular aesthetic we should rethink

Photo of a bed
Willow Maurice/Creative Commons

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Recently, I’ve noticed that the minimalist decoration aesthetic has taken over social media, specifically YouTube. I’ve watched YouTubers give tours of their minimalist rooms. They usually don’t have a lot of furniture, and it’s all predominantly white. At most, there are a few house plants that provide a nice contrast to their sterile, lifeless room. 

Don’t get me wrong: A minimalist aesthetic can help declutter your mind, and it’s always good to own less things. However, since watching these minimalist room tours, I’ve noticed that the definition of the minimalist aesthetic varies greatly between different people. 

How do we distinguish minimalism as an aesthetic and as a lifestyle? As an aesthetic, minimalism has seemingly evolved into overpriced, basic, white furniture with gold accents. Your room should be so bright from the pure white furniture and walls that you’ll be blinded and confused as to whether you’re in a hospital or the great beyond. 

As a lifestyle, I take minimalism to mean making do with what you have and not falling into the overconsumption that we’ve been trained to accept as the only way to live. I believe minimalism is reducing your consumption footprint as much as possible, whether that means using only what you need and nothing more or reusing things and recycling items from other people.

Should a minimalist aesthetic be so black and white, the same blueprint of furniture and colors copied over and over again as I’ve seen on YouTube? Can you still have the bare amount of decorations and furniture from things you’ve borrowed, recycled or refurbished that are colorful and full of life? Why don’t we see this as minimalist even though it is by definition? 

I’m not entirely sure why this aesthetic has bothered me to such an extent — maybe it’s because it feels like a trend to me. People will spend thousands of dollars to achieve a minimalist look, but is that really minimalist? It would be beneficial for us to rethink this trend and perhaps combine the aesthetic with the lifestyle. 

This semester I made it a goal to live more minimally, so I moved to my apartment only with what I could fit into my Toyota Camry. While it seemed as if I didn’t bring enough stuff, it’s just the right amount because I’ve learned how to make do. I’ve adopted my grandma’s habit of reusing every container and bag. I left excess knick-knacks and dishes that I never used last semester at home. I got my towels and other items from my mom, who didn’t need them anymore. My point is that I didn’t spend thousands of dollars to achieve a minimalist look and lifestyle. However, my room, bedding, furniture and dishes aren’t all white and overpriced, so does it even count as a minimalist aesthetic by today’s standards? To each their own.

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].