Need, Use, Love: The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less by Christine Platt

About this time every year, I get the bug — it’s time to spring clean. I am not the only person who gets antsy to declutter and reorganize, for sure. There’s a whole host of industries profiting off those of us that like to abide by our better angels and not just clean up but but clean out — rid ourselves of the excess weight of possession in our daily lives.

Everyone has their go-to tactic. Mine starts usually by reading something to get me in the mood. I first read about the “minimalism” thing almost 10 years ago and looking at my review, I clearly wasn’t in the mood for two guys to tell me how it’s done. Also? different time, different place. In the middle of raising three tweens and teens, focusing on less wasn’t at the top of the agenda.

Now, it’s different. One kid is out, one is in college, and there’s a greater sense of urgency on my part to clear out the clutter. In the last several years, I’ve explored the topic more — I’ve done the “spark joy” thing and even the “hygge” thing. (Love the hygge thing. Love it. I live for cozy.)

Reading about living life with less helps get me into a better mindset, for sure — but selfishly, it’s also been a bit of a crutch in that I can get smug — “60 pairs of jeans? Hundreds of pairs of shoes? Dang. Maybe I’m not that bad after all.” Which of course is missing the point. After all, everyone’s lives are different, and someone could just as easily come into my home and think I am apeshit for all the books I collect. To each their own. Judging, even of ourselves, is definitely the antithesis of the process.

This year’s kick-in-the-pants is Christine Platt’s “The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less.” Platt’s storytelling around her personal experience will resonate with those who are looking for more of a life-changing and less of a house-cleaning transition. But the guide rails she constructs are applicable across the board. Whether you are cleaning out two closets or 12, the principles are the same.

Platt takes care to emphasize minimalism isn’t an aesthetic — it’s a lifestyle journey that is different for everyone. She explains to readers there is a lot of emotional and self-discovery homework that needs to be completed before you grab the garbage bags and start processing your possessions through the all-important “need, use, love” matrix. (Psst …. this “need, use, love” matrix? While I haven’t put this to practice yet this spring, and there’s echoes of “spark joy” here, I suspect it’ll serve as a great reminder about what’s really important in life — and it’s not stuff, per se. Cleaning and decluttering is often when I also rediscover my love of reading, my love of being in the kitchen making things, my love of being outdoors when I can be, etc.)

Also of note: Platt also delves into the socio-economic and cultural ramifications of everyone’s individual experiences and upbringing and how that impacts the psychology by which we accrue so much stuff we don’t actually need. Coming from a place of privilege, I sound like an idiot even commenting on the validity of much of this commentary, but I didn’t want to not acknowledge how eye-opening this information is and impactful it is in my continued learning about privilege in general.

I think it’s also important for those of us that get this minimalism — or even just plain cleaning — bug on the regular to acknowledge the context and impact of what we learn along the way, every time we circle back to this experience. For example, this year, heading into my seasonal decluttering, I am doing it having just read Amelia Pang’s “Made in China.” With that in mind, instead of getting rid of something because I know I want something new, I will focus on making sure I am using the things I already own in the most impactful way before I seek to replace them — and those things I need to replace, I will replace with the most ethically responsible items possible.

So, to all my spring cleaning brothers and sisters, I say happy reading — if you are looking for a spark, Platt’s book will get you in the mood to start tackling your project. Living with less will have you enjoying life more.

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