I want to chat about how sustainability led me to minimalism and how I really think that they are connected. I really became interested in sustainability through studying fashion design and learning the impact of fast fashion and while researching how to produce clothing more sustainably I kept coming to the idea that the problem is not really using polyester over organic cotton although that does contribute to it. The root of the problem is just the amount of clothes that are being produced and also thrown away. According to “The True Cost” 80 billion new garments are purchased in one year and that’s up 400% from 20 years ago. So we’re buying more clothes than ever and this doesn’t just have to do with clothes people are buying bigger houses to fill with more stuff, constantly the newest technology, hundreds of beauty products, and filling fridges with food that doesn’t get eaten. All of these things require resources there’s pollution from manufacturing and transportation often environmental impact with the use and then a lot of them unfortunately just get thrown away and end up in the landfills where they don’t biodegrade.
Now I have a more simple living approach to minimalism I guess. I don’t see minimalism as trying to live with as little as you possibly can I think it’s about living with the things that you actually use and need and enjoy having around. That totally changes the way that you view stuff and it’s no longer about shopping for that excitement of buying something new because we all know that that fades away. Then you have to keep shopping to continuously have that feeling of owning something new but if all of your things have value and a function in your life you not only appreciate them more and you don’t need to buy new things all the time but, you also see when something that you might want to purchase doesn’t really have a function or value in your life. Then you know that you don’t need it.
In general buying less things means that you can often invest more in the things that you do choose to purchase and buy things that are higher quality and going to last a lot longer. Invest in manufactured products that use sustainable materials and are just generally much more responsible and care about their impact
It’s interesting because the stuff that I own has become both less important and more important. It’s become much less important in the sense of you know the way I see myself and define success because I think a lot of us sort of were fed the idea of that having a lot of stuff somehow means your more successful and happier and you know buying things and having new things we equate with happiness which is ridiculous. So they become much less important in that sense and then more important in the sense that the things I do choose to own I want to either support companies that I really believe in that I think are doing great things in terms of ethics and sustainability or things that are having much less of an impact than something new would, so buying second hand which I also really love. The things that I do own are so much more valuable to me than they were like with my clothes for example set of having closet just bursting with all kinds of pieces that I didn’t really care about I now I have pieces that I really like that I enjoy wearing and that I feel good in.
There are two aspects though that are often talks about or related to minimalism that I don’t think fit so well with the sustainable benefits and those are the idea that you should just have a massive declutter and get rid of everything and not really care about where it goes and buying new stuff to fit maybe a more minimalist aesthetic and I do think sometimes content focuses a bit too much on the decluttering aspect and not enough on the actual purchasing and accumulating stuff aspect. That to me is really where the sustainability component comes in. Some people talk about you know just get it out of your life get rid of it and I don’t think that’s such a good approach I think it is really important to make sure that the things that you’re getting rid of are either being donated to an organization or a company that can use them or given to other people. We have a responsibility for the stuff that we’ve bought and accumulated to try and get rid of it in as a responsible way as we possibly can so it’s not just going into the landfill.
I’ve also seen people asking questions about a capsule wardrobe, for example, if you should get rid of all your clothes and then by a capsule wardrobe and that’s definitely not a sustainable approach. For sure use whatever you have. When I started my capsule wardrobe I actually decided I didn’t want to buy anything new for quite awhile until I really got a sense of what I needed in my capsule wardrobe and what I wanted to purchase so that I could purchase things that I knew would work really well. The second thing is a lot of people follow the one in one out rule which I totally understand it’s a great way to make sure that you don’t just re-accumulate stuff it’s also a good way to assess the stuff that you buy to make sure that you know you’re buying something that you actually want and you want it enough to get rid of something else but I think sometimes it’s sold as sort of a well you can buy something new as long as you get rid of something so that you have this continuous rotation of stuff with a closet for example so that you kind of are able to constantly rotate clothes and have new clothes that’s obviously not a great sustainable approach either. The idea of having things and using them as long as you possibly can and taking care of them so that you can use them a long time that’s kind of the root of where sustainability and minimalism really work together. If you don’t take on the minimalist label or adopt a fully minimalistic lifestyle there are still so many great things to take away from the idea of just assessing what our connection is to the stuff that we buy and why we buy what we buy and I think really the way to combat mindless mass consumption is just to think a bit more about the things that we purchase.
So I hope you have enjoyed this article. I love to hear your thoughts and remember think about what you buy before you buy it, you most likely don’t need it.