Someone in Montreal asked this question during a recent tour stop. Granted, she posited it more congenially than written above. But, restated this way, we get to the heart of the matter.
We won’t bother detailing the many examples that immediately torpedo this assumption—Leo and his six kids, Tammy and her tiny house, Patrick and his family, et al.—none of whom are single, nor rich, nor white guys, and yet they all embrace a minimalist lifestyle.
Instead, let’s look at the question from a broader perspective.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in today’s economy “it’s entirely possible for poor people to have much of the same material comforts—cars, televisions, computers, smartphones—as more affluent people, yet be trapped in low-paying jobs with little prospect of improvement.” In other words, rich people and poor people can both be oppressed by the possessions they desire. However, poor people are considerably more stifled because of their lesser “prospect of improvement.”
Perhaps minimalism is the “prospect of improvement,” though. You see, whenever desire is greater than one’s ability to attain, discontentment sets in. But by mitigating our impulse to compulsively consume, we take back control of our desires—as well as our pocketbooks.
According to the New York Times, there is evidence that “money relieves suffering in cases of true material need. But when money becomes an end in itself, it can bring misery, too.” Said another way: once our basic human needs are met, money doesn’t buy happiness, and neither does poverty.
If anything, people with fewer resources, especially those with less money, can benefit most from minimalism because a minimalist lifestyle helps people determine what truly adds value to their lives—what things actually serve a purpose and bring joy.
This is even more important when our resources are limited. If we have less money, then we must be more intentional with how we spend it.
Simplification begets intentionality. Rich or poor, married or single, black or white, simplifying one’s life can only benefit one’s circumstances. The Stoics understood this. So did Thoreau and Gandhi and Jesus and the Buddha. It sure would be nice if everyone else did too.