This 3-Step Strategy Was the Only Way I Could Truly Declutter My Home
How the Afrominimalist approaches living with less.
Updated Feb 6, 2023 4:55 PM
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Like so many others in pursuit of simplicity, my journey to less began with online searches and admiring photos on social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. The beautiful images of clean, tidy spaces left me longing for the lives of the seemingly happy people who occupied them. It was difficult not to be taken with the appeal of minimalism and the joy and ease it promised.
I decided to adhere to the advice from a small community of minimalists I had recently begun to follow on social media. Rather than buy all the things I wanted and thought I needed, I decided to live in our small space for a while to see what I actually needed.
Even though my decision was wise, it wasn’t easy. Living in our simply furnished, undecorated condo often made me feel uneasy, and I struggled with feelings of inadequacy. Even though I knew having a home filled with things did not mean stability, it was still hard to shake the ideals that such a life represented. I argued with the voice in my head trying to shame me for being an adult without a couch, coffee table, and side tables in her living room. The horror!
The more I tried to learn about how to become a minimalist, the more frustrated I became. For a practice that was supposed to encourage simplicity, minimalism was becoming more complicated by the minute.
Little by little, I began buying things our home needed. But after a brief flirtation with the neutral minimalist decor that called me to the practice, I realized I was doing the exact opposite of what the lifestyle encouraged—being intentional. My home didn’t feel…well, like home. And I couldn’t figure out why. I mean, every room was spotless, every space as hygge as possible. So why didn’t I feel the sense of joy and freedom that so many minimalists had promised?
It took some time to realize that my discontent was caused by the fact that, although I was living with less, the decor that I had chosen was a reflection of the minimalist aesthetics I’d come to admire. I missed welcoming, warm colors and textures in my living room. I wanted elements of cultural significance on display. And even though these essentials were a far cry from mainstream minimalism, I knew that what was missing in my home was authenticity, a reflection of who I am and what I value at my core.
So I decided to do minimalism my way.
I began curating my wardrobe and home with colorful Ankara pillows, playful textiles, and mud cloth—purposeful, intentional decor that made me happy. My favorite keepsake is a jar of raw cotton that reminds me to thank and honor my ancestors daily, and which also served as inspiration for this guide. Filling my living space with only the things I needed, used, and loved resulted in my own style of minimalism, one that is authentic and aligned with my passion and purpose: Afrominimalism.
It is important for people of the African diaspora and other marginalized communities to understand they may find the letting-go process especially challenging. Often our loss aversion is rooted in the perceived power that comes with ownership, and it may be especially difficult to part with expensive wares or luxury items that have social currency.
Adopting a “need, use, love” philosophy in regard to my belongings is the only way I was able to truly assess what items it was time to release from my life. Starting out, I thought “love” was the only thing I needed. If I loved it, I placed an item in the “keep” pile. Unsurprisingly it didn’t whittle down the list all that much. But when I added the considerations of “need” and “use,” I found myself asking time and time again: Do I really love this or am I holding it for some other reason?
The benefit of need, use, love is that it is all-encompassing, a way to objectively look at your belongings to determine whether they should remain in your life. Obviously if we looked at these considerations individually, we would have a justification to keep everything we own. You may need something but not love it. You may love something but not use it. That’s why every item you are considering has to meet all three criteria: You have to need, use, and love it…or let it go.
Adapted from The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less by Christine Platt. Copyright © 2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Tiller Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.