Minimalism has become a raging trend this year. With the wild popularity of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the tiny house movement, it’s become apparent that many of us are craving a life reboot, of sorts, feeling overwhelmed in all of our “stuff.”
For me, part of being a conscious consumer—in addition to buying fair trade, ethically made and second hand–has become buying less. Much less. But even with the lessened stream of new items entering my home over the past few years, I’ve accumulated more than I need.
Recently, I made the decision to move overseas. The process of downsizing has left me reflecting on minimalism, simple living, and what it is that I really, truly need. I’ve found myself looking at a stack of books that I read once and then put on a shelf to dust and look at occasionally, wondering why I kept them (or even purchased them in the first place when I could have rented them from my local library). I’ve looked at the four or five kitchen gadgets that I use perhaps once a year (and could really do without) and wondered what I was thinking when I purchased them years ago. I’ve been realizing how much time I spend cleaning and maintaining all my stuff and, honestly, it’s time that I’d rather have back to do more of what I’m really passionate about—being in nature, volunteering, eating good food and spending time with friends.
To keep myself from once again accumulating things that I don’t need once I’m settled in my new home, I’m sticking to these resolutions:
Think carefully about the life cycle of new stuff before I buy it.
Much of the stuff I have in my home, that I’ve found myself spending lots of time disposing of, is stuff that I’d never have purchased if I had really thought intentionally about it’s life cycle—how long would it be with me? If it breaks, can I repair it? Once I’m done with it, can I recycle it or repurpose it? Is it timeless enough to last me 10 years? 30? 50?
Get rid of stuff slowly and consciously.
This is something that I’ve been doing as I downsize—trying to avoid simply hauling bags of my no-longer-wanted stuff to a donation site at Goodwill or Salvation Army (where they might head to landfills or to a developing country rather than end up in a loving new home). Or worse, tossing old stuff in the dumpster. Instead, I’ve been donating specific items to places I know they’ll be used. Old towels go to the humane society to serve as puppy bedding. Half-used paints and art supplies go to an arts nonprofit who will use them for children’s art classes. The hassle of taking ten small bags of donations to ten different places has been enough to motivate me to be a slower, more thoughtful consumer!
Practice gratitude, generosity and contentment.
It’s so easy to get caught up the frenzy of advertising and consumerism that tells us to “buy, buy, buy,” especially as the holidays approach. I’m choosing to focus, instead, on what I already have and why I’m grateful for it. I’m asking for donations to be made in my name in lieu of gifts, and committing to giving more away rather than keeping it for myself.
I feel more peaceful and at rest when I have fewer things. Life is simpler, slower, and sweeter. I’d love to hear about your experiences with minimalism as well!