"When it comes to our lives, I feel you deserve so much more than vicious cycles. It takes gentle determination to reach the aspirations we hope for ourselves, even minimalism," Roe of Brown Kids wrote on one of her Instagram captions. These simple yet profound words describe the journey of the Brown Kids: a black couple who identify as minimalists and are advocates of living intentionally. You're probably wondering, what does minimalism even mean? It's a word that has been used loosely and can be associated with many frivolous things. Oftentimes, minimalism is solely viewed as getting rid of things. However, to Roe—who is one half of Brown Kids with her partner, Erin, also known as "E" on Instagram—it means the complete opposite. The couple has cultivated a large yet somehow close-knit community on social media because of the way they choose to live their lives. They're on a mission to reach financial freedom and celebrate liberation along the way.
Think: What's truly important to you? It's a critical question I've been asking myself since my conversation with Roe. It's the question that drives her and her partner's life, except they choose to place value in the things that matter to them, not in what society has conditioned us to believe are valuable—this is how they live intentionally as minimalists. In a bustling world that can often feel full of noise, it's easy to get distracted, which in turn will sway your choices. Roe is all about "getting clear."
Ask yourself this: How often have you read about minimalism from the black cultural perspective? As this article from Pacific Standard magazine questions, is minimalism meant for black people? "Black communities have long practiced core tenets of the lifestyle—yet are not well-represented among its most recognizable influencers," the article states. A scroll through social media will show that the community of "minimalists" are predominately white. In an underrepresented community, the Brown Kids have remained authentic and held on to their truth. Below, Roe, a brown woman, shares her honest thoughts on minimalism and living intentionally.
How do you define minimalism and intentional living?
"My partner E's definition is to pack light and to travel far. The way I view it is minimalism is the practice of finding what is important to you and making that your life. This doesn't have anything to do with counting objects. The practice of figuring out what matters to you ditches assumptions. It ditches the color expectation and the belief that 'white people are minimalists.' What matters to you has nothing to do with your ethnicity, ability, finances, or any other socioeconomic trappings. The definition of minimalism is spacious enough for you to take on and do it for your own life."
What sparked this lifestyle shift for you?
"When I first started minimalism, it was in the practice of self-care. In my mind, being intentional about what I own had a direct result on how I treated myself as a person. I love beauty, fashion, and lots of clothes. I didn't realize that I was causing myself emotional and financial harm. Emotionally, I was hurting myself because I was trying to figure out how to convey that I was worth it. I felt like if I could take on every trend or be seen as stylish, that would give me value as a person. I never got there because I would go to my closet and feel overwhelmed. I would constantly feel like I was failing. The financial part of it was that I had been taught that self-care was that women shop constantly and buy the shoes. We shop because we're women. It was like, I shop therefore I am. As a woman, I was like no, I deserve these clothes. I had bills to pay, but I'd buy the clothes anyway.
"During this time, I wasn't covering my financial responsibilities and feeling overdraft like crazy. I was spending all my money and didn't have any resilience. I knew something had to change—it was a crisis moment for me. I looked at the life two of my friends were living, then looked at my life and knew I had to stop. I was too sad about where I was and so far from where I wanted to be that I knew I had to change.
"This was the beginning of me rethinking everything and starting a new beginning. What I meant was, what did I need to do to be free? Freedom for me is spaciousness and the ability to choose your present moment. I knew the life I wanted to live wasn't off-limits for me. It was about financial stability, needing a whole lot fewer things and being super clear about what my style was. The first place I started in my journey was my closet because it was my biggest place of pain, depression, and confusion. If I could make that work and feel fabulous in my clothes, it'd be a good place to start and then attack the other areas of my life."
There's not much outward representation of people of color who identify as minimalists. Oftentimes, the lifestyle can be seen as elite or unattainable. What are your thoughts on this?
"Black Girl Magic is having its time right now. Twenty years ago was not our time. Now we're experiencing black sisterhood, economic resilience, representation, incredible art and film that speaks to us, and more. It feels like a renaissance. A big reason there wasn't a presence in this way of living was because it wasn't the time yet. But I think there's something really special about the context of millennials. Everything in our lifetime has been called to question our reality and our experience. Black people are no longer deferring to society to give us meaning; we're asking what is meaningful to us instead of depending on all of these other things. With the economic opportunities people of color are having, we're wanting to figure out how do we do life well? And how do we take care of ourselves? Right now, people of color are coming into this really beautiful moment where we're asking ourselves, how do we design the lives that we want? And many of us are coming to the answer: Maybe it's smaller things.
"My partner and I live like this for economic freedom. Particularly people of color are entertaining this idea too. We're asking ourselves, what does financial freedom look like, and what's that relationship to the things we own? My partner, E, and I are kind of strange. We're two black people and we want fewer things and not more things. We were willing to own our truth, which created a community. The representation for black minimalism may not be there, but the culture's there. The people are there or else they wouldn't be following us. We're in the beginning of our visibility. Soon, our lifestyle won't be as novel. The time is coming for more visibility of people of color who think the same way because we are definitely not alone."
In terms of living intentionally, what does commitment look like? And what does grace look like when you don't follow through?
"I'm not disciplined; I'm clear. My work that I do every day is to remain clear. I do whatever I need to do to get clear. I sit down, close my eyes, and think to myself, What does it feel like, look like, taste like to be free? Who is around me? What kind of decisions am I making? When things get fuzzy, I'm in the practice of sitting down and asking myself these questions. I do this to re-center and keep going. The work is not in the action; the work is the in the clarity. I know what clarity means to me and what my life looks like. I live a seasonal life where I'm able to move with nature. I want to be of benefit and contribution to communities of color and do whatever I can to create and offer economic resilience. I always ask myself how close or far I am to that. I naturally maintain my focus and my vision. I wake up every day, and I ask myself: Roe, how close are you? If you're far, what's the one thing you can do today to get closer? On the days I don't feel as clear, I'm in the practice of self-kindness and self-honor. These words are not necessarily captured yet in self-care when we talk about it but need to be."
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start living intentionally?
"Ask yourself, what is meaningful to you, and how can you make that your life? This is a powerful, guiding, and illuminating question. It can help anybody at any time at any stage of your life. And then ask yourself, who do I need to tell to keep myself accountable? This is when things can start changing fast, and we can shock ourselves when we start doing that. It's a mindset shift. We've heard before to take 100% responsibility of ourselves. I want us to act as if we are the only ones who can make this happen for ourselves—you don't have to believe it, but you can play like you do. Find the guided questions that allow you to show up for your life and craft it to make it what you want."
What's next for Brown Kids?
"We're moving to Baltimore into a tiny 200-to-300-square-foot space. We're trying to design and create more ways to find more financial freedom. We'll do this by experimenting with tiny living. We're also trying to figure out how to hack this home thing and how can we make this a thing that everyone knows how to do. This feels so fun for us, and we're going to get out of debt because of this move. The goal is to get financially free."
Want to be a part of the Brown Kids' community? Follow their journey here.