Going back to minimalism
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my struggles with minimalism. My previous article focused on the physical stuff, but there is also an emotional aspect to minimalism.
Minimalism can be a mindset that brings meaning, peace, and fulfillment. But lately, minimalism has been slipping away from me. It seems everywhere I go, I’m bombarded with ads telling me how to look, what to wear, what to drive, or where to travel.
Companies are more than willing to try to sell you their blend of minimalism, which involves buying more. It’s not surprising that trying to keep up real simplicity is a challenge.
However, minimalism has a lot of benefits. It gives my life focus, and helps me save money. I’m willing to give it another try.
There are a few guiding principles to my minimalism: limiting new purchases, seeking meaning, and having more experiences. None of the concepts are something I invented on my own, but I try to adapt them to my personal life.
1. Can I repair this or buy used, rather than buy new?
Minimalism intersects with a movement called zero waste, in which people try to create no trash. With zero waste, everything is composted, re-used, recycled, etc., and nothing goes to a landfill. I haven’t been able to do this successfully yet, but I am making progress.
I know some people who buy a new phone every year, or buy the latest gadgets. I hesitate at that, because the newest, shiniest features aren’t worth all that money and wasted time, packaging, and manufacturing. I don’t think everything should be viewed as disposable.
My (fairly old) phone stopped making or receiving calls, and when I tried to get it fixed, I was told, “It’s outdated; get a new one.” So I did — buying a brand that’s projected to last much longer.
I don’t think everything should be viewed as disposable.
I only buy secondhand clothes (with the exception of stuff like socks). I can buy quality blouses made of 100% natural cotton or linen for much cheaper than brand-new polyester. Thrift shopping is on trend now, so prices aren’t as good as they used to be, but it is still so much better for the environment.
Before I make a purchase, I try to first evaluate whether I can rent or borrow what I need. Failing that, can I buy it secondhand? Often I can.
2. Does this add meaning to my life?
Awhile back, I tried a “no-buy” month, during which I tried not to purchase anything. It did reduce how much I shop, but it wouldn’t work for me long-term, because there’s stuff I really do need.
Buying a new set of tires isn’t glamorous — but they are important for safety, and being alive adds meaning to my life.
A new set of hedge trimmers seems like one more added piece of junk — but if it saves time and energy, and prevents me from getting a ticket from my hedges blocking my windows, it’s valuable.
Minimalism involves purchasing less, but balancing that with health and safety. You should not put off buying something important just for the sake of frugality or having less. Similarly, make sure you keep up with your health (including taking needed medications).
Part of the zero waste mindset is no unnecessary consumption, and I carry that over to minimalism. A sub-principle of this would be, Does someone else need this more than I do?
Abiding by this could involve making a line in my budget to donate to a charitable cause, or giving possessions away to someone who needs them more (extra food to a food bank; clothes to a nonprofit; an old, still-working phone to a domestic violence shelter).
Everything I own should have a purpose; if not, it needs to go.
3. Should I have more experiences, and fewer possessions?
Our society says that when an important event happens — a birthday, graduation, anniversary, promotion — we should give a physical object, like cut flowers or candy. It’s our way of saying “Congrats” or “I’m proud of you” or “I love you.”
Do we really need to buy something to show our love? We could show our appreciation with an action. Personally, I think sitting through a four-hour graduation, or hosting a small party, is itself a gift.
I even hesitate before giving plastic gift cards, because they will just sit in a landfill after use. Some businesses will let you re-load the gift card, but how many people do that? I wonder why companies can’t make recyclable paper gift cards.
I try to take people to a restaurant after a nice event, or give a paper card with cash. And I’ve started telling people that I don’t need gifts. If they really want to get me something, they can make a small donation to an animal shelter.
Next on my minimalist journey is some more spring cleaning. I’ve got a stack of paperwork on my desk, and I definitely need to minimize my to-do list.
So that’s my own personal style of minimalism. What’s yours?