I'm beginning to notice something very eerie as I pop in and out of the latest taprooms and coffee bars near St. Paul's Lowertown. It's something that brings to mind the homogenized horror of George Orwell's 1984 or the minimalist set-designs of 2001, A Space Odyssey. It's unsettling. It's disturbing. It's disorienting. Didn't I just leave this place?
Generic Coffee Shop
Reclaimed wood bars and tables. Nondescript and uncomfortable chairs. Exposed brick and duct-work. Lots of tall windows. A chalkboard menu. Avocado toast and craft beer.
I'm sure you can think of at least one place you've visited recently that has this exact vibe to it, right? I used to think this kind of aesthetic was neat - it was very open and bright and simple. Your focus was on the people around you, the menu, your drink. The experience.
Now, I can't seem to find a place that doesn't look like this.
I think I'd kill for a good, old-fashioned, mom-n-pop dinner, complete with fake plants and ripped fabric booths. At least that had character.
The reason I'm thinking about this is because I recently read an article on The Verge regarding "Airspace" - a phenomenon of sterile, minimalist interior decorating that's eked its way into both Airbnb rentals and commercial spaces - a sort of gentrification of a homogenized IKEA aesthetic and the evils of KonMari. Give it a read if you have time.
I'm seeing the same sort of commercialized clone aesthetic sweeping across many of the lifestyle and fashion blogs I follow too. Many of these people are millennial women on the West Coast who've made lifestyle blogging (and Instagram curating) their defacto business. Most of them are tall, white, and blonde. They all wear the same things and tend to shop at the same places - usually each other's fashion lines.
They use Millennial Pink backgrounds for their Insta stories, sport straw handbags (this year, at least) in all their summer outfit snaps, and prefer a very stream-lined, IKEA-inspired minimalist lifestyle and home design.
It's all very trendy and safe. It feels very sterile and robotic. Stepford, even.
It scares me.
Want some fashion examples? I thought you might, so I'm happy to oblige. All of these images come directly from Pinterest - if you spot yourself or your work please let me know. (I'm happy to remove your images as needed.)
Striped pants. Neutral shoes. White tops. Straw bags. Ruffles. Minimal accessories.
Ahhh, and there is it. It all comes back to Minimalism. That's starting to feel like a dirty word. And the more I read about it (and the people who have attempted to adopt it in every aspect of their lives), the more exclusive it feels. The more coveted, ironically enough.
As Fred Perrotta puts it in his article Materialism vs Minimalism, some people use minimalism as a proxy for virtue. The less I own, the better I am.
Minimalism is for the privileged - that's when I mean when I say it feels exclusive. Because it really is. It costs money - because while they're decluttering every nook and cranny of their life - they're also investing in good quality items. And they can do that, because even if the item breaks or it no longer "sparks joy" in their life - they can just replace it for another minimalist, high-quality, expensive item.
It's the same with capsule wardrobes - whittling down their closet until they're only left with a handful of expensive items in all the same shades of beige, blush pink, and cornflower blue.
Frankly, I blame everyone's obsession with Marie Kondo - the declutter guru who coined the Konmari method of tossing out 95% of what you own.
Her message — and the crux of Kondo’s KonMari method — is to rid yourself of items in your home that don’t “spark joy.” On the surface, it’s gentle and happy enough, but her methodology is as ruthless as it is unrealistic.
Her books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, along with the just-released Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up., probably have more words in the title than items she owns in her home.
According to this article in The Star, Why Decluttering Guru Marie Kondo is Wrong, Kondo claims that the only way to be happier, thinner (really!), more vibrant, and successful is to get rid of your stuff and live as minimally as possible. Only post-purge can one experience the good life, I guess.
But how realistic is this for the majority of us average citizens?
Most of us need things like period underwear (just saying), toilet plungers, breast pumps, rakes, vacuum cleaners, etc. Do these things spark joy in our lives? Probably not. Do we need them, even if they are less than aesthetically pleasing? Most definitely. According to the brutal KonMari method, they gotta go!
Where am I going with all this? Oh yes, the homogenizing aesthetic of the millennial lifestyle blogger. Where less is more. Where everyone adopts the same trends and the same hairstyle and the same decor choices. Where no one takes risks, breaks the cookie-cutter mold, or expresses any true character or individuality. Why is this happening? Why are they becoming so similar to each other and how do we fight it? How do we kill the status quo?
The spaces featured above are not cozy or inviting. They do not look lived-in or personal. They have no character. They resemble waiting rooms or lobbies - a pit stop on the way to the next adventure, destination, or experience.
So where do you rest? Where do you go to reconnect with your self? Where do you call home?
The women pictured even further above: They do not look interesting to me - I feel like I can pinpoint exactly what kind of music they listen to, which films they enjoy, what they do for a living, and where they shop.
There's nothing fascinating or interesting that would inspire me to want to strike up a conversation and learn more about them. Nothing stands out. Maybe they prefer to blend in. I don't get it. Collectivism scares me.
Does it scare you?
Important Sources and Further Reading: