Minimalism is in.
Capsule wardrobes; intentional living; clean lines; sustainable, closet-sized homes. But I hope you realize that the list I just spouted off represents two very different approaches to minimalism and that doing one doesn't necessarily indicate anything about the other.
Officially, the term minimalism applies to an aesthetic that favors spareness and simplicity. But more broadly, it has come to represent a pared down lifestyle that advertises itself as the answer to the breakneck pace and over-indulgence of American culture. We're stressed out, always working, constantly comparing ourselves to others, and we think that if we unclutter our living spaces, we may be able to make some room for stillness and reflection.
Aesthetic minimalism places no barriers on consumption. But simple living minimalism is almost entirely about living with less. Though the two are at odds, they share enough in common superficially to conveniently allow us to feel like we're improving ourselves while consuming and curating just as much as usual.
Case in point: A very prominent blogger I follow is doing a series on simplifying life. In a recent post, she indicated that she got rid of everything in her closet to buy a whole new closet of more classic items like - wait for it - leopard print sneakers and jeans with holes in them. The only intentional living I'm seeing here is intentionally finding excuses to stock up on trendy items.
The reason this matters - the reason I'm freaking out about it - is that confusing a look with an ethic is really dangerous. It's destructive to the fair trade movement, too, because it distracts people on this really exciting, really hard path to long-term ethical living. It's like a snake oil advertisement: Ease your first world guilt by literally not changing anything! The only problem is that you're actually just swallowing a bunch of poison (or maybe corn starch, if you're lucky).
Look, it's fine if you like the minimalism trend. I agree, it's pretty groovy. But don't confuse simple silhouettes with moral living. Your capsule wardrobe is not for a good cause.
And please, for the love of God (this isn't me swearing; I really mean it), please don't pretend that donating your whole wardrobe to the local thrift store is a great philanthropic deed.