How Minimalism Undermines Today’s Throwaway Culture



The journey of minimalism


Minimalism began its ascendancy in the years after the Second World War. Starting as a renounce of “stale and academic” art, the movement saw popularity with the general population due to its representation of changing times. This favoured cool over the "dramatic". Artists such as Frank Stella in the 1950s, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, and Sol LeWitt of the '60s and '70s, created simplistic yet thought-provoking art that soon flourished into fashion, as a result of its contrast to pre-war culture. People just wanted to move on.


Fast forward to today, and much like the civilians of the 1940s, our minds continue to be clouded with constant concern about the unpredictable future. On top of this, the focus of life experiences has been redirected to that of material wealth due to the throwaway culture that cheap labour costs and mass production have actioned.


This unsustainable culture the fashion industry, in particular, has found itself in has resulted in modern minimalism becoming as prevalent as ever. As well as fashion, it is now a philosophical lifestyle that aims to abandon these unhealthy ideas of expenditure and materialism for the idea of Less is More - giving room to focus on the things we really want rather than what we don’t have. For many, including myself, this is often a sense of freedom.



But how does minimalism undermine today’s throwaway culture?


As well as its healing properties to those feeling overwhelmed, minimalism is reminiscent of the recycling culture of the past. Have your parents ever bragged about the milkman, and how every bottle was recycled and returned to your door with fresh milk? Or, how as kids they would round up Coca-Cola bottles and return them for money?


Similarly, those of a minimalist lifestyle are more inclined to reuse items and clothes rather than buying more to prevent clutter at home and in the mind. Whether by conscious decision or not, minimalism goes hand in hand with sustainable and environmental practice.


Without being a part of any minimalist community, I view myself as a minimalist when it comes to my clothes. I’m not referring to a wardrobe consisting of twenty pairs of the same suits, like that owned by Patrick Bateman or SpongeBob. I’m referring to the minimal amount of clothes I own. I have two beanies and two caps, a handful of shirts and T-shirts, a small variant of trousers, seasonal jackets and coats, and half a dozen shoes purchased with the purpose of functionality. Why do I do this? It’s a cheap way of life, I’m unbothered by what other people think of me and the constant need to keep up-to-date with moving fashions, and If something breaks, I’m more inclined to repair it than buy another.


As a result, I’ve become far more practical with a sowing needle than I thought I would ever be. I have a glue for repairing shoe soles, as well as a hydrophobic spray to keep my jackets waterproof and my sneakers looking fresh. As far as I’m concerned, this is my fashion, and the gratification I get knowing I’m helping my wallet, as well as the planet, is enormous.


From this, I have gone on to recycle many objects that others would have thrown away, ranging from an incense holder made out of a beer can to a plant pot assembled from my housemate’s broken dishes (it was my way of saying sorry!).


What being minimalistic with my fashion has therefore taught me is how limitless you can be with limited resources and that fashion is what you make of it. On top of this, much like my parents, I undermine throwaway culture by reusing and recycling the small things in life.



Is minimalism going to save the planet?


With 350,000 tonnes, (around £140 million) of used but still wearable clothing going to landfills in the UK every year, and 57% of people saying that they recycle their textiles with 41% of people saying they’re not aware of recycling facilities for textiles, it’s likely that minimalism alone isn’t going to save the planet any time soon.


We all have our own take on life, and for many, having material wealth and keeping up with the new trends is a relief from the pressures of society. Minimalism isn’t for everyone. But the one thing that everyone should take away from minimalism, is the idea of less is more.