An “afrominimalist” author explains why it is better to live with less
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And finally today, maybe like many of us, you started the New Year with the goal of finally getting organized, maybe decluttering that kitchen cupboard and drawers. There’s no shortage of books, social media accounts, and TV shows to help you out. But maybe you feel a little overwhelmed, like you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you feel like a lot of people talking about it don’t really talk to you.
Enter Christine Platt. She is called the Afrominimalist and she is the author of the book “The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living on Less”. Her work aims to get everyone, but especially people of color, to live with less by breaking down how race and racism shape ideas about property, wealth and what is worth keeping. When we spoke, I asked Platt to describe his philosophy.
CHRISTINE PLATT: Afrominimalism is simply my way of defining my minimalist practice, which is influenced by the history and beauty of the African diaspora. But I really wanted to write a book that explained the psychology of ownership – okay – so that we understand our motivations. For example, why are we motivated to have certain things? I wanted to write a book that really focused on understanding our attachments. Why is it so hard to let go of things we no longer need, use, or love? And, you know, I also wanted to write a book that offers a more holistic approach accessible to everyone.
MARTIN: It goes without saying, I guess I shouldn’t have to say it, that people of all races love things, but prosperity and luxury manifest themselves in certain ways in black culture. I’m thinking hip hop. I think about how wealthy athletes, I think about how, you know, wealthy artists have kind of trained us to look at things as a marker of success. I mean, how many fancy cars have appeared in music videos, how many furs, how many super diamonds? How do you talk about it in a way that doesn’t make people feel like you’re judging them for it?
PLATT: I think we, you know, we have to own that. And then once we have it, you know, we use that information to become aware, to create empathy. And, you know, for black people and for other marginalized groups, it’s often the missing link in how and why we consume the way we do. And, you know, it’s empowering once we own it, isn’t it? And that’s why I dedicated the book to our ancestors, right? I say living on less is now our choice because property is just a complicated issue for people in the African Diaspora, right? I mean, as a black woman, when I think about property, I have to consider my ancestry. I have to consider the historical and generational inequalities of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, you know, and other state-sanctioned property limitations and their lasting implications. Our family and collective histories are just a big part and continue to influence how and why we consume.
MARTIN: I mean, I think about the pressure to be perfect all the time, don’t I? I think of the pressure on our kind of movie stars or celebrities or even just regular people to be perfectly dressed all the time, even to the edges of your hair, right? To the right? For people who don’t know what it is, check it out. Like, I think of a young woman I know who was planning her wedding with her longtime love, and she and her fiancé owned a house together and were good, you know, good savers and had kind of been really intentional on their lifestyle.
But when it came to the wedding, there was a lot of pressure from both sides to hit the jackpot with the bespoke dresses and the horse-drawn chariot or like Bentley. And I said to him, why you – why? And she said, well, because none of their families could ever have that. And so you can see the strong emotional push to live that way, right?
PLATT: Yeah. I believe that forgiveness is an essential step in acknowledging and understanding our overuse because for many marginalized people, that forgiveness often needs to include and extend to our caregivers and communities, right? We have to give thanks to the people who helped lift us up – right? – and understanding that so many of them were doing their best under the circumstances, you know, whether it was due to lack of education, lack of resources, you know, lack of guidance. So many of our choices and behaviors are reflections and remnants of what our ancestors had to do to survive.
And, you know, today, a lot of these learned behaviors from our ancestors and their guidance, you know, like living, you know, living for the moment – right? – because tomorrow is not promised and all those things, right? They continue to influence our relationship with money and impact our opportunities to build generational wealth, which is why I believe we need to continuously work to dismantle many cultural beliefs that simply no longer exist. applicable and beneficial to us individually and collectively.
MARTIN: So that logically leads to helping people listening to our conversation say, OK, OK, I want to – I’m inspired now. I want to get organized like now, but where do I start?
PLATT: I really do offer a four-step holistic approach, which you can get for free (laughs) on my social media, which is, you know, the first step is to recognize that you have too much, right? not ? And the second step is again this important aspect of forgiveness. And the third step is to let go. And the fourth step is to pay it forward, you know, to be very intentional with these things that no longer serve us so that they don’t just end up in landfills and they end up with people, you know, or organizations who can really benefit from their use.
MARTIN: For people who started at the beginning of the year and then lost hope, you know, a few weeks into the new year it seemed like too much, is there anything they can to recommit to the cause?
PLATT: I have a challenge that I host on Instagram, which is really about giving up one thing a day, like, going for at least one thing a day, right? I mean, you don’t have to go, you know, that weekend warrior mission, do you? But I also feel like, you know, even taking a break – if you’ve lost a bit of steam, even taking a break and starting to do some of this self-discovery work, starting to do some of that inner work and understanding, why am I this way as a consumer? Why is it so hard for me to let go, right? The answers to these questions are what really make travel not only manageable and tolerable, but possible, you know. And so that would be my little encouragement for people.
MARTIN: It’s Christine Platt, author of the book “The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less”. Christine Platt, thank you very much for talking to us.
PLATT: Thank you very much for inviting me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.