The new minimalist: how far can disownership go?

My twenty-something friends talk about all the various ways of streaming music, movies, series, and books. (Recently I heard that not a single singer in Spain sold more than 90,000 albums in 2016 [article in Spanish]). They also have a belief that they will never earn nearly as much as their parents did (youth unemployment in Spain is higher than 40%). This got me wondering how far a sharing economy based on music-streaming and social media models could take us?

Back when Unclutterer started, PJ Doland had a great series of articles about extreme minimalism, talking about someone who actively rejected ownership on a grand scale. But what if extreme minimalism wasn’t a choice? What if with the steadily shrinking middle class and the rise of the uber-rich, owning things became prohibitive for a large portion of society?

A coworker told me recently about the years she spent in Nicaragua where amongst the poorest levels of society, there isn’t a strong concept of ownership. If one person in the community has something (like a newly drilled well in the case of my coworker), it is considered to be the property of the whole community.

Jacki has talked about office sharing and Jeri wrote about sharing items to reduce clutter. To add to my growing awareness of the disownership trend, I saw an article about co-owning a home with friends and what risks and traps to avoid.

The creative part of my brain has put all these pieces together and has formulated a question that I find myself very curious to explore: What would a non-ownership world look like?

I’m not talking about a Utopian socialist/communist society. I am talking about the next steps of an increasingly corporatocracy that excludes more and more people from belonging to it without the support of friends and family.

That question has prompted me to take a new look at the Extreme Minimalist Monday theme. Occasionally over the next little while, I am going to take a look at the extension of sharing/streaming technology into day-to-day life and how it might affect the level of clutter/organization in the lives of people who participate in it.

Let me give you an example.

Here in Spain, social media Influencers (yes, with a capital “I”) talk about the importance of carving out a unique fashion style and always being on the edge of whatever is coming next. Obviously these Influencers don’t have TARDIS-like closets that are infinitely larger on the inside than the outside, so they have to do something with all the clothes they discard when they move onto the next trend.

And so Chicfy was created (website in Spanish). It’s an app that’s part Instagram and part eBay. Users create their store, put up photos of the clothes they want to sell, (usually relying heavily on the selfie photography style) and gain followers. These followers then buy the clothes and when they tire of them rework them into a different style that will encourage their own followers to buy something.

At some point someone needs to physically buy (or sew) the clothes, but instead of sitting unused in a closet, or ending up in a landfill, they get passed along, the way children’s winter boots used to go from oldest to youngest siblings until the soles wore out.

I personally don’t know anyone who uses the app, and the song that they use to advertise the service is an incredibly irritating earworm that has become a streaming hit. For an extreme minimalist, it could be a good way to opt out of the consumerist society that demands we buy only new, while still staying on the edge of what’s considered fashionable.

Now then, taking this to the next level, will buying new clothes become something only the rich do, while the rest of us buy progressively more worn-out wardrobes along some social-media-created scale of affordability?

6 Comments for “The new minimalist: how far can disownership go?”

  1. posted by Ekaterin on

    This selling and reselling of clothes makes an assumption that is not true for everyone: that there are enough people in your area that wear the same size as you.
    The other option is to learn sewing and make your own.

  2. posted by melissa on

    Back in the 70s my friends and I lived a minimalist lifestyle because there was very little money to go around. I always bought retreads for my car. We bought bulk at the health food store. We were in a post war recession. At the front door of all health food stores, which also served as gathering and meeting places for our tribes, there was a free box. You put things – mainly clothing – you didn’t want in there and took out what you needed. People shared housing making creative use of small spaces. Value was more on experience and personal connection than possessions. I knew people who fashioned rooms out of under stairs closets, other closets, backs of truck, vans, chicken coops, even under a grapevine. My boyfriend and I lived in a van and stayed in motels or friends homes when we felt like it. When I was on my own in Hawaii living in my van I’d stay at friends homes sometimes and lend them my van to go camping in for a couple of days while I enjoyed the pleasures of their home, alone. Many of us felt that we wanted no more possessions that could fit into our vehicle, if we had one. Bartering was big. When I moved to Los Angeles at 23 I bartered for practically everything, and it worked out well! That was a good measure then as young adults living light. Although I live simply and have for these many years, I’d like to get closer to something like that now that I’m in my 60s.

  3. posted by Eileen on

    I am struck by Alex’s idea that we could be facing a situation where lack of resources forces minimalism rather than allowing it to be a lifestyle choice. Certainly most of us who grew up in middle-class America didn’t confront this reality. An advantage of the sharing society is that it uses fewer resources, but will it produce living wages for all? Additionally, we’ve often broken discussion of acquiring possessions into “wants” vs. “needs.” But this assumes the resources to make a choice between the two. I’ll be interested to see where Alex’s thinking goes …

  4. posted by Lisa on

    We have Car2go in our city, a car-sharing service, that lots of young people use. Parking in the city is expensive and shared cars park for free. They are an economical choice.

  5. posted by John Trosko on

    Alex Fayle!!!! Wow, blast from the past!!!!!
    Great to see you’re “around” Alex!!!!!
    John aka OrganizingLA

  6. posted by Sarah on

    I don’t know if it’s still true, but it certainly WAS the law in the USA that if you own a music CD and rip it to create mp3 files (or similar), you had to continue to physically POSSESS the CD’s from which you did the ripping, otherwise it was considered illegal use. Perhaps someone can update me on that.

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