Talking about living small — or minimalism, or paring down, or simple living, or however you prefer to think of it— is something that can feel awkward to me.
And for a good reason, I think. Because as admirable and, dare I say, ideal, as living small is, there’s a certain amount of privilege in making that choice.
For every one person who, like me, chooses to live with less… well, there are hundreds of thousands of people for whom that’s not a choice. They don’t live in a small apartment and forgo air conditioning and skip the meat section at the grocery store because they want to minimize their footprint on the world. They do it because there is literally no other option available to them.
I can say that in my house we pinch our pennies, and carefully consider our purchases, and are limited in where and how we live because of our income. All that is 100% true! We are a single-income household, after all, until B. finishes school.
But I also just bought a $30 rattle for my child, because I decided I’d rather have one very nice rattle, made out of materials I feel comfortable bringing into my home in a process that I know exploits as few resources and people as possible, than have multiple cheaper rattles made who-knows-how out of who-knows-what.
I think that’s a good calculus to make. I think more people should make it! And doing my best to buy products made in known ways by people paid a living wage comes partly out of a desire to put more people in a position where they can choose how to spend their money rather than just surviving.
But when advocating that way of living, it also feels important — vital, even — to acknowledge that I’m making a choice not everyone is able to make.