Some of us, when we hear the word minimalism don't think of the 1960s male-dominated art movement but instead think of the current movement to reduce our stuff. The unofficial name is something like: get rid of all your stuff and live-out-of-a-van movement. Just kidding, the movement’s scope is a bit broader than that. Though, I think some people feel a sting when someone mentions minimalism to them, like it's a slap in the face, a judgment like “You own too much stuff! Downsize already!”
Minimalism is not about passing judgment, then prescribing a dumpster to toss all your stuff into, because neither will solve your problems. Imagine if it was that easy, as if by decreasing your stuff by 50% you can increase your happiness by 50%, totalling 100% success. And then you call yourself a minimalist and brag to your friends, in-laws, grocery-store clerks about your so-called “success”!
Minimalism is not a formula, it is being conscious of what you own, what material items you bring into your life, and parring down if necessary so that you only own the things that bring you joy. What is so threatening about that? You get to be the one to assess what adds value and joy to your life, and nobody else.
Maybe you think you are too old for minimalism and don't want to be associated with those “I’m 30, I’m hot, I own 30 things that all fit in a backpack and I make my living traveling and writing a blog” because no offence to them but that lifestyle is not for everybody! Especially if you have three kids and a dog.
What I’ve taken away from minimalism is simply “you are what you buy”. You remember that old saying “You are what you eat”? Well both are true to a degree. If you buy a lot of junk, junk that is poorly made or of one-time-use, then you are contributing to the overwhelming amount of garbage on this planet and I know you are a nice person and don’t mean to do anyone harm!
There are so many small things that you can do to be a less harmful consumer. It's not all or nothing! You don’t need to be a vegan minimalist who cycles everywhere to make a difference. But even though you are just one person, you influence people around you, consciously or not and if your habits are good, that rubs off.
1) Next time you are going to buy something ask yourself, “will this add value to my life?” and really think about it before you walk to the check out.
2) Do a little research before you buy a product and choose to buy from companies that care about the environment and source their products sustainably and if possible avoid products that are individually packed in plastic.
Use a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one! Bamboo is biodegradable.
Buy a shampoo bar instead of liquid shampoo from a plastic bottle, because the bars have no wrapping and are often organic.
Buy non-perishables in bulk, so there will again be less waste from packaging.
3) For the ladies, consider getting Thinx underwear (www.shethinx.com) and a menstrual cup. I have both and though it was expensive up front, I have no more costs for paper/plastic menstrual products. That means there is zero waste being added to the landfill.
Do you know how many pounds of menstrual waste the average woman sends to the dump in her lifetime?!?! Read the article below and find out…(it's good for a laugh too).
4) Buy local produce and only buy the things you like instead of the things you buy because they are “healthy”. Those purchases usually remain in your fridge, in your vegetable compartment, uneaten and lonely where they turn mouldy and slimy.
If you really can’t stand reducing what you own drastically, but still want to help the planet I have a solution for you… Kick up your materialism game a couple of notches! Become so utterly over attached to your material things, so that you will treat them so well that they will last longer than even the manufacturer wanted them too. And if they eventually break or rip, you might take the time and care to repair them instead of buying a replacement. Doing such handwork is a free exercise in mindfulness.
Mini(mise) waste because Mat(erialism) buries us!