I have a treat for you today! I’m chatting with my new friend Christine Platt (AKA The Afrominimalist) about the gaps in the mainstream minimalist movement, living an intentional life, and Christine’s game changing approach to time management.
This interview is the debut in my new series: Women Who Inspire. I’m so thrilled to kick of this series with Christine’s interview, and can’t wait to introduce you to some of the women who inspire me over the coming months.
Christine has written over two dozen books for people of all ages, and is known for serving as an advocate for policy reform and using the power of storytelling as a tool for social change.
In addition to holding a B.A. in Africana Studies, an M.A. in African-American Studies, and a J.D. in General Law, Christine is a member of the Association of Black Women Historians, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and serves as an Ambassador for Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She is also the managing director of the Antiracism center at American University. And I thought I was busy.
I discovered Christine, through her creative platform, The Afrominimalist, where she shares details her creative journey towards a more intentional, minimal life and home.
Christine’s philosophy around minimalism aligns closely with my own. We share the belief that a minimalist lifestyle should not be dictated by rigid rules, restrictions, or a particular aesthetic. Christine is living proof that minimalism can be tailored to your unique set of values, history, and style preferences. I am so inspired by her work, life, and career, and cannot wait for you to meet her. Here we go!
What does it mean to be an “Afrominimalist”? How does your definition of minimalism differ from what’s reflected in mainstream minimalism?
It’s so funny because I began calling myself the Afrominimalist after I realized that my journey to minimalism had to include elements of Black history and culture– the core of my life’s work. I tried the mainstream minimalist neutral, barren aesthetic, and it just didn’t work for me. I needed colors! Textures! Mud cloth and wax prints! Hence, the Afrominimalist persona.
If I had to give a working definition of Afrominimalism, I would say, “A minimalist life influenced by the African diaspora.” My definition of minimalism is more aligned with the practice, that is having only those things that you need, use, and love. I feel that mainstream minimalism is more focused on a certain aesthetic.
What have been the biggest benefits of living with less in your life? Can you speak to the links you see between minimalism and mental health?
As you know, I live such a full life! From serving as the Managing Director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University to writing children and adult literature, mothering a teen, mentoring young writers… I do the most. Ha! But these are all things that I am very passionate about and I cannot imagine any other life. (Rather than simply stating that I am overwhelmed I like to clarify that I am “overwhelmed with blessings.”)
Living with less has afforded me the gift of time and space to pursue and dedicate myself to what is most important to me. I have less to clean and manage so, that’s more time to spend on creative endeavors. I have very little outlay so I can be highly selective about the projects that I take on. Minimalism has definitely alleviated a lot of the stress, depression, and anxiety I used to have trying to keep a larger living space clean and tidy, or an abundance of clothing to choose from. Also, my creativity hates clutter. It literally won’t show up if my desk is covered with papers and knicknacks. It’s impossible for me to focus.
Where do you see mainstream minimalism falling short? Who are you inspired by and can you recommend other minimalists that you love to follow?
I think mainstream minimalism does a good job of showing one way living with less can look (those beautiful, serene pictures that we tend to admire because they are so calming) but it falls short with showing the many different approaches to minimalism in practice. As a result, many people believe minimalism is an impossible lifestyle and standard because say, they cannot imagine living with one knife, one fork, or one spoon. Or, they want more colors and varying textiles. Mainstream minimalism has resulted in a number of unofficial rules about how many things you can own and what your space has to look like. But the reality is, practicing minimalism can and should look different for everyone because our households, needs, and lifestyles are so different. I have learned so much by following other minimalists on Instagram. It’s literally the best community! I highly recommend checking out the #minimalist, #tinyhouse, and #vanlife hashtags to find other minimalists to follow and learn from.
What are your actual morning and evening routines?
Well, let me first start by saying that I love rituals and routines so, here again is an area of my life where I do the most. Ha!
I usually wake up around 4am and ease into the morning while remaining in bed. What I actually do varies from going through my mental checklist for the day to daydreaming. Sometimes, I even fall back asleep! If I don’t, I get up at 5am for #5amwritersclub which is just a group of writers on Twitter and Instagram who like to write first thing in the morning. I started when my daughter was younger because it was literally the only time I had to write before our day got started. And now, it’s become routine. After an hour of writing, the house is usually still quiet (because my teen is not a morning person), so I slowly move about. Make coffee or tea. Do a little yoga and meditation. Maybe some reading. Then, I shower and do an elaborate self-care pampering session of dry brushing, oil cleansing, and skin care. When I am finished, then (and only then!) do I wake up the teen to start our day. Mornings spent in solitude are really sacred and special to me.
Because I wake up so early, I am usually tired by 7pm. Ha! After a day spent working and writing, in the evenings, I just want to unwind with a hot shower, facial steam, and a nice cup of warm tea. This is also my favorite time to check in with my online community. I am usually fast asleep by 10pm.
I know you are very intentional with not just your space, but the hours in your day. How do you approach time management?
I recently shared the approach to time management that was a game changer for me because I used to have no concept of time. (Like, what is an hour, really?) Instead of looking at my day in time increments, I look at each hour as money–every hour is $1000 (for easy math lol). Instead of asking myself, “How am I going to spend the next 24 hours?” I ask, “How am I going to spend my $24,000 today?”
This approach really helped gain a better understanding of how much time we truly have in a day, that we can’t “save” time. I mean, at least $6000 – 8000 is spent on sleep. And prior to the pandemic, I could spend anywhere from $2000 – 4000 just commuting. This approach helps me be very intentional about how I “spend” my time and what I choose to spend it on.
What is your writing practice? When are you most creative and productive?
I remember reading a quote by Octavia Butler that said, “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” And it’s so true! I am most creative and productive in the mornings, which is why the habit of waking up for #5amwritersclub worked so well for years, and still works today. But sometimes, I don’t have the luxury of spending several hours in the morning writing so, I make it a habit to write every single day–whether it’s morning or night. Publishing deadlines also help enforce and reinforce my discipline and commitment to my writing practice.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
Lately, I have been reading Toni Morrison’s The Source of Self Regard which is a collection of her essays, speeches, and meditations. It’s akin to being able to reach out to her for guidance and wisdom whenever I need it. Sometimes, I randomly open the book and read. Other times, I am very intentional about my selection. New on my nightstand is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It’s about the indigenous teachings of plants, of botany. As soon as I finish my current book manuscript, I can’t wait to start reading it. I look forward to getting lost in her words!
Favorite quote or mantra that guides or inspires you?
Gah! So many! I will just share a personal mantra that I created after my divorce, “I am not a grown woman, I am a growing woman. And may I never be fully grown.” It really helped and continues to help me not be so hard on myself. I am still growing!
Most precious thing you own and why?
Raw cotton blossoms. They were sourced from a fifth generation Black cotton farmer in North Carolina, Julius Tillery. I had a chance to visit his cotton farm and learn more about his family’s history. It was amazing. I keep them in a mason jar and every time I look at them, I smile. They remind me of the determination and resiliency of my ancestors.
One self care tip you religiously follow?
Finding time for solitude. It is the best way for me to recharge so that I continue living a life that exceeds my wildest dreams!
Photography Credit: Jared Soares