celebrity minimalism

This story bugged me enough to write about, even though I know that I should probably just ignore the ignorant trolls on the internet…

I think we all already know that celebrities can’t win. No matter what they do, they get judged harshly.

Last night I noticed a trending story on Facebook – “Shailene Woodley Can Fit Everything She Owns In One Suitcase” – which obviously caught my eye. I don’t care at all about this actress, but I know her name because she stars in a couple of movie adaptations of books that I really like that I’ve decided not to watch. But I would have probably wanted to read more no matter who the celebrity was, because that sounds like minimalism! The Facebook public commentary was judgmental, negative and stupid, as it always is. So I clicked over to a couple of different articles to get more of the story.

Shailene told Jimmy Kimmel that she gave her house to her grandmother because she was home 15 days last year (that means, presumably, that she was filming on location or otherwise working away from home for 350 days last year! ugh) and when she got home she realized that she would prefer to spend time with her family and friends rather than living alone during the short 2 months that she was going to have in LA. So besides the single bag of things, she ‘owns’ some kitchen stuff that she is letting her grandmother use in the house that she gave her, and she’s staying with friends and family. Kimmel asked if her grandmother lets her in the house and she answered no in a way that I thought was completely joking, but he cut her off so it seemed like he might have believed her.

She explains that she has a carry-on sized suitcase that holds everything she owns. There were a couple of references to it being lost by the airlines, which, duh! doesn’t happen with carry-on luggage. That’s why you carry it on – so it won’t get lost. She said it was convenient to just have a small bag to take with her. She said it was nice to only have 1 pair of jeans to wash. She seemed to find that freeing. I don’t think most of the people listening related to that. She listed some of the other things she has – a hoodie, some tops, and so on. She didn’t really get to say very much, the way she was being questioned. Kimmel asked if she had a phone, a computer, or an iPad (yes, yes, no).

There really wasn’t too much time in the 2 minute interview to explain what she was doing and why, but it’s a familiar story to anyone who has heard about minimalism – some people find it very freeing not to have to manage a bunch of possessions that they don’t have time to use, regardless of what they can afford. Some people who find that they’re on the road more often than they’re home give up their leases and live nomadic lives. It might not be common, but it’s not all that uncommon either.

People online seem to think giving up her home makes her a total bitch, sponging off everyone around her, a sentiment that is common online whenever anyone talks about more extreme minimalism. I’ve seen this kind of hate all over the internet and I don’t really understand it – why should it bother other people if someone chooses not to own a lot of stuff? Is it just because they tell people?

I gather in this case the hate is building on already existing negative judgments about Shailene Woodley – the article in Gawker was one of the nastiest things I have read lately, even before I got to the comments, which were 90% nasty as always. Based on the 2 articles about her that I read on this website I don’t think I will ever read anything there again – it was mean!

People acted as if she had called herself homeless (something I didn’t hear in the interview) and then got really pissy about her luxury version of homelessness, as if she was a horrible person for being so rich she could give her house to her grandmother instead of  leaving it empty while she’s on location (that bitch!).


People were upset that she was couch surfing because it’s taking advantage of her friends’ hospitality (that bitch!), but also upset that her couch surfing was probably luxurious, in other rich people’s houses (that bitch!). And that she was probably borrowing clothes to wear for publicity events (which is standard practice in Hollywood, but still – that bitch!).

It seems to me that if a person is only spending a few weeks in their house each year that they probably don’t need that house. Especially if they have family members who are happy to be able to see them and spend time with them. My parents would happily host me for weeks at a time in their home. A lot of people have families who are able and willing to give them a place to stay. And she also visits and stays with her friends who hardly ever see her since she’s working all the time. Maybe they have fancy guest rooms, maybe not. She didn’t say she was staying with them for months (in fact, quite the opposite – she said she was only in town for 2 months, doing press for The Fault in Our Stars) so she’s probably only visiting people for days or maybe a couple of weeks at a time. (that bitch!)

Plenty of celebrities own multiple houses and buy houses for their relatives and that’s OK, presumably so long as they have one for themselves too. I gather it’s also OK to have your entourage of deadbeat friends come and live in your awesome mansion.

Some people also accused her of bragging about how little she had and how unattached she is to things, which is as bad as bragging about an expensive sports car apparently. Although, when celebrities talk about expensive things they like a lot of people go out and buy them, or at least they would if they could. So I guess when rich people act rich that’s better than if they live modestly, unless they do it without us finding out… ?

She may be a horrible, insufferable person – I don’t know. Everyone who reads Gawker clearly seems to think so. But I find it really odd that she is being criticized for choosing NOT to own an expensive house that sits empty for months at a time and not own a ton of stuff she doesn’t want or need. She has tons of money, so people feel she should be wasting it at an appropriate rate. Or at least keeping it a secret if she’s not.

I hesitate to link to this nasty article on Gawker, but since I referred to it, I should.

This article recaps the interview without the judgement. It also has the original clip embedded, in case you’d like to see it for yourself. It wasn’t a very good interview, from either side.

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1 Response to celebrity minimalism

  1. Emily says:

    People are ridiculous! I wish they’d spend just a few minutes thinking about her life, and then think some more before they’d comment. First, she’s an actress. So that probably means she spends 3/4 of her day wearing someone else’s clothes, right? She just needs clothes to get to and from work, and to hang out at home or occasionally go out to eat or drink. Well, so, why in the world would you have a giant closet full of clothes when you’re constantly being dressed by someone else? First point seems obvious to me. Second, you are so right! Why in the world is it so bad for her to give her house to her grandmother! That sounds very generous and thoughtful and wise to me, definitely not something to criticize. Imagine if the headline had been “Shailene Woodley gives home to poor ailing grandmother so she has somewhere to live” instead, how everyone would think she was so nice. I don’t think she was trying to claim that her lifestyle is superior, she was just telling her story. You’re right, celebs just can’t win. I pity them.

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