Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How minimalism can help the environment

Minimalism can be defined as

"One who believes in or seeks a minimal state; one who seeks to minimize or reduce to a minimum."

The minimalism movement is certainly nothing new, however there has been an explosion of bloggers touting the minimalist lifestyle in the past few years. I have been following a selection of these blogs and find myself drawn to minimalism for a different reason to most. Many find a minimalistic lifestyle a form of meditation, a way to slow life down and create a calm space. I see the potential to create a better environment.

People seem to swing all along the minimalist pendulum; there are those who challenge themselves to live with less than 100 things, others who live (or wish to live) in tiny houses or who strive to live in one room in their house. And yet there are others who simply want to de-clutter their lives.

The current thinking is we should own more and more. Everything is disposable. Something breaks? Oh well just buy a new one. Have some clothes/gifts/souvenir that you get home and find you don't actually like? No problem, it didn't cost much just throw it out. This kind of mindset creates waste on a large scale. Our landfills are overflowing, our ocean has become a plastic rubbish tip and yet we are still buying and throwing out things we don't need. But a minimalist life forces you to re-address the way you live. I may never limit my life to 100 possessions but I can certainly care more for the things I do own.

A minimalist lifestyle asks you to reassess the worth of the things you own. It asks you whether you really need all the possessions you have and all the possessions you want to have. Many who read these blogs might think - hold on, they're throwing everything out. How can that be good for the environment? For me, the core to minimalism isn't about simply getting rid of the things you have (although there are plenty of great re-use and recycle options for your current belongings) but it is about changing the way you think to reduce the amount of disposable items coming into your house in the first place.

My mantra is to buy higher quality less often. This doesn't mean buying the most expensive thing you can find. On the contrary it means finding the best quality product for a great price. It's about looking at the labels of your clothes and buying good quality material that won't warp or shrink in the wash. Clothes that will last and are worth mending if a seam splits of a button falls off. In fact many of my clothes are from second hand stores but I still look for good quality, long lasting material whether I'm buying new or second hand. It's also about buying quality made furniture, or as we are trying to do more of in our household, buying high quality materials and building our own furniture.

Souvenirs are the perfect example. How many times have you travelled overseas or to another city and bought a keyring / mug / hat / shirt (insert tacky souvenir as appropriate)? Where are they now? Sitting in a box at the bottom of your wardrobe? Maybe they were thrown out long ago? It's about changing the way that you look at your purchases. I have travelled many parts of the world but rather than come home with a bag full of temporary keepsakes I have a tonne of photos and an array of experiences stored in my memory. I did decide on one item for each place I visited - a postcard. One beautiful postcard from every place I have been which will be created into a wall mural, so it is never hidden away and not seen or used.

Here are some ideas on ways to bring minimalism into your life.
  • Think before you buy. Try not to impulse buy. Leave it for a day or even a week. If you still need the item after that impulse has passed than you know you will actually use it.
  • Buy good quality products. Ask yourself will this last. Is the material good quality. Is it solid and well made. Is it a timeless style which I will still like next season/year. Will I still have this or be able to resell it in 10 years time?
  • Does it have multiple uses. Especially kitchen items, too many people buy single use items that often rarely gets used. How many of these do you have in your kitchen drawer? Don't buy these kinds of items in the first place. Look for innovative ways to reuse items you already have.
  • Give experiences not things. This is such a difficult one. You know what I mean, those wonderful thoughtful gifts that sit in the bottom of a cupboard for the rest of their lives. Start asking your family and friends to buy you experiences rather than throw-away things. Movie tickets, a day at the thermal hot pools, home made baking; there are so many options. Start giving these kinds of gifts in return, they'll soon get the idea.

The important thing is to change your habits to reduce the amount of short term items that come and go out of your household. Many of the blogs focus on de-cluttering and getting rid of your "stuff" however if you don't change your habits you will just replace that stuff with more stuff. So instead of focusing on minimising what you already have, minimise what you will have.

Do you live a minimalist lifestyle? What about it appeals to you? Do you have great ideas for reducing the amount of disposable items that enter our homes? I'd love to hear from you.

No comments:

Post a Comment