Surviving the times: For some, living with less may be a choice, but being poor isn’t


I ponder on socio-economic issues quite often. Lately, I have been looking at the correlation between minimalism and poverty.  What makes it so different? Is ‘less’ really more? Here’s why poverty and minimalism isn’t more or less the same.

Minimalists live with less

Minimalism is all about living with less out of choice. People in this movement say they are happier than most.  They find contentment in having discarded unwanted baggage. This means they live a life based on experiences rather than material goods. In getting rid of excess in their lives, they have less financial burdens.

Nonessential items are deemed as trivial and have no value to them, they prefer to invest in relationships and enjoy the simple things in life. Not being attached to assets has its benefits. Image how easy it is to clean up after yourself when you have next to nothing in the house!

Poor people lack resources

Being poor is not always a choice. Sometimes life happens and people fall on hard times. And sometimes people are born into it. Either way, it is an unfortunate position to find yourself in. Poor people do not have the luxury of choice.

They did not wake up one day and decide, I will declutter and give away things I do not need. They lack the basics resources to provide the necessities to live a decent life. Unlike the minimalist, a pauper has to take on hard work and heavy loads to sustain themselves. 

The minimalist is fortunate as they do not have to worry about anything. They do not have chaos in their lives as most of them are actively seeking spirituality and the meaning of life.  The needy on the other hand tend to take on debt to live life the minimalist are so desperate to shed. 

Surviving the times

We’re currently living in unprecedented financial times. Last year (a week ago), Stats SA confirmed that the unemployment rate is the highest it has been since 2008. The reality for many South Africans, is that they’re having to live, and make do, with less.

This new year will bring with it even more challenges – the increase in petrol prices may just foreshadow the economic times ahead. Cash-strapped South Africans may just have to take the minimalist approach to survive the coming times. It’s just that it wouldn’t be by choice.

*These are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Vannie Kaap News.


  1. I am unemployed and choose to live a minimalist lifestyle because I refuse to get into debt. My grandmother always said that nobody needs to know that you’re poor. Make sure your clothes are clean and ironed and your shoes polished. Your house must be spotless and your furniture arranged well. You can have great style if you take good care of the few possessions you treasure. My grandmother was always thought of as pretty well off by neighbours, family and friends. She knew about Feng Sueg long before it was a science. She knew about the Marie Condo method before this method of organising cupboards and closets was popular.

    If we think of how well our parents lived with very little, it should not be a problem to adapt. They had great style with very little.

    I’m however a bit of a Bohemian Hippy so with a dog my house is never quite spotlessly clean, but looks lived in for sure. I never discard clothing because two or three years down the line, fashion repeats itself. When you by classics and not fashion, you’re always in fashion. I repurpose clothing that no longer fits me. This is such a great source of creative lite for me.

    Remember darning? Well my 12 year old linen sheets are starting to tear. I refuse to pay R700 per sheet so I’ve started darning them. I also won’t buy cheap polyester sheets because I love cotton and it helps me stay cool at night.
    If you’re like me, a linen snob, then find creative ways to save your linen. I find that embroidered flowers over a hole is a great way to repair something broken.

    The Japanese never throw away broken crockery. They fix it and fill the cracks with gold leaf making the broken item more valuable. The art of Ikigami is good business in Japan.

    We have traded old traditions of craft for consumerism and have become poor.

    I never buy jams or chutneys or frozen veg. I do this all myself. I’ve adopted a lifestyle of plenty by doing crafty things with food. I bake my own foccocia, bread, puddings and freeze them for when I need them. These are the things we should be teaching our children on weekends. This consumerism must stop. We have ourselves to blame if we are in financial trouble because we want to keep up with the Jones’s.

    Do we want to live for the opinions of others or to live a life of experiences, travel, the ability to educate ourselves and our children and have a stress free life?

    We have to choose. Times are going to be tougher going forward in this new world order. Let’s go back to basics.

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