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Book Review: Deeper Than Decluttering — Christine Platt’s ‘Afrominimalist’s Guide’

Book Review: Deeper Than Decluttering — Christine Platt’s ‘Afrominimalist’s Guide’

Not only is Christine Platt a social media influencer with 74.1K Instagram followers, but this former Department of Energy senior advisor has also turned her unexpected life change into a source of healing through living with less. Platt has a M.A. in African-American studies, a B.A. in Africana studies, and a J.D. in general law, but after achieving everything she had spent her youth striving to achieve, Platt realized the cycle she was living wasn’t sustainable. 

Platt left her job, her marriage ended, she exited the suburbs, and she returned to live in her 630-foot condo in the city with her young daughter. Through this transition, the Afrominimalist was born. The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less is much more than a system to get rid of old furniture and clothes; the author’s intention is to leave the reader with a path to authentic liberation.

Minimalism is a growing trend in America, from tiny houses to Pinterest pages filled with white-walled rooms and closets with seasonal capsule wardrobes, but the mainstream minimalist world can be strict, expensive, and hard to sustain in real life. The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less takes into account the nuances of people of the African diaspora who have a unique relationship with ownership, value, and worth. 

Early on in the book Platt shares the four-step process to let go of the things we own that we don’t need. “This includes (1) acknowledging that you have too much, (2) learning how to forgive yourself, (3) approaching letting go holistically, and (4) paying it forward with any items that can be used to assist others in need.” Then she reveals a level of complexity often missed by non-Black minimalists. Black Americans “have significant power as one of the largest communities of consumers, yet our unique experiences are rarely addressed in the predominately white wellness and lifestyle industries.”

The difference with Afrominimalism a la Christine Platt is taking into account the unique relationship descendants of Africans who were enslaved have with physical possessions and consumerism when practicing a minimalist lifestyle. Throughout the guide, there are what Platt frames as “callouts” labeled “For the Culture” that speak directly to Black folks. Other marginalized groups can also relate to the “For the Culture” sections, and the author hopes that everyone else will gain insights that will increase empathy and compassion.

The Afrominimalist’s Guide for Living Less is divided into three sections: the principles, the process, and the practice. Platt is a gifted storyteller who weaves in her own real life experiences, which breathes life and relatability into this self-help book. It’s easy to tell someone to let go but much harder to actually let go because there is always a reason behind holding on. The book encourages the reader to take in the information slowly and warns that this is not a guide to quickly get rid of things. 

In the chapter “Why You Have More Than You Need,” Platt shares how even the seemingly most insignificant experiences from childhood can impact our connection to physical things. She tells the story about a couple she knows. The wife confides that she gets super annoyed that her husband buys and wastes expensive dish soap. When he washes the dishes, “he uses so much soap that the bubbles overflow the sink.” When Platt encourages her friend to ask her husband why he uses so much soap, he reveals that growing up in the Deep South with his grandmother, he was only allowed to use a tiny bit of dish soap, “just enough to clean but not enough to make bubbles.” Now that he’s grown with his own money, it brings him pleasure to buy the most expensive dish soap and have an overabundance of bubbles when he washes the dishes. 

Knowing the actual “why” behind the physical object before deciding whether or not it should go is vital to being able to authentically let go. Without processing that “why” the “letting go” may just be temporary. The wife in the prior paragraph may get her husband to stop buying the expensive soap temporarily, but the feeling of joy he gets from being able to afford the bubbles is priceless to him. 

In the “For the Culture” section, Platt then gives the example of Black kids in the ’70s and ’80s who dealt with “constant guilt from caregivers being told everything from clean your plate because there were starving kids in Africa to reminding this generation we were the first generation with a real chance to make something of ourselves so we better not waste the opportunities our ancestors died for, especially gaining an education.” Throughout this chapter there are sections labeled “A Note for Caregivers” that give wisdom on ways to identify, process, and work towards changing negative inherited patterns of behavior.

Another part of this guidebook that is thought-provoking is the idea of sustainability. Platt has entire chapters dedicated to what happens when we donate old furniture and clothing. She explains how fast, cheap fashion is actually expensive. Cheap clothing worn for one fashion season ends up in landfills and doesn’t decompose, harming our environment. Cheap clothing also means that the person making the garment has less money to live on, which causes them, mostly women of color, to live in poverty all over the globe. No matter how inexpensive the garment is, we pay a price. 

Platt shares her journey to letting go of the hunt for sales. So many Black women have connected with our female friends and family through bargain shopping. What is the actual reason behind buying that $200 bag that you don’t need for $25? Platt also breaks down how to let go of the politics of giving and receiving gifts. How brave do you have to be to tell family and friends that as a minimalist you no longer have space for gifts that are permanent and take up space? How wonderful will it feel after having that difficult conversation to never have to politely say yes to things you will never use again?

Living with less can mean we don’t have to be locked into the grind of making more money to maintain things. The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less is an outstanding book for anyone looking to start the process of living a sustainable liberated life. 

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