After recently watching ‘Minimalism – A Documentary’, I wanted to explore the connection between the trend, and how I think it naturally lends itself to living a sustainable lifestyle. Read on and see if you agree…
So Minimalism, it’s not really a new trend, it’s been around a while, but what does it mean?
To me, and I think the general consensus, is that a minimalist or living a minimalism lifestyle means living with a small number of belongings, having only what you need to live, and truly value them as being important to your life. Simple right? Surely this is the way everyone should live? So that raises the question as to why are so many of us are drowning in excess clothes, belongings, and junk that we really neither need, want or love? Why is the planet drowning, suffocating and suffering due to an ever increasing waste problem?
One of the main reasons for the above is our (as humans) ever needing want to fit in with society and follow the trends that are set by celebrity culture or what we perceive to be an ‘aspirational lifestyle’. These are positioned to us by the big label brands and marketing campaigns directing our thoughts to what will make them the most money and keep the tils ticking over. Ultimately our consumerism habits are dictated by the glossy ads and commercial’s that somehow manage to keep us coming back for more.
At what point did we lose our roots as to what really matters to us and what we want?
Fast fashion is a classic example. Manufactures have lowered the price point for clothes to a couple of pounds apiece sometimes, so we no longer think of clothes as an investment. If we wear it once or it doesn’t fit quite right it doesn’t matter. As a very basic example, how many of us have bought something to put it away in the wardrobe to forget we had even bought it? I know I have. With four solid seasons in the fashion industry being replaced with almost weekly trends, we are on the constant search for fulfilment with the goal posts constantly just out of reach.
Mass production of furniture and homeware has meant again we may buy something for £20 when previously it may have been £100, so if we only have it for a year we can just throw it away right? With food, we no longer have to prepare and cook from scratch. Thousands of varieties of highly packaged fast food line the supermarket shelves, so again we are removed from where our food comes from in favour of convenience. We probably don’t know what’s in it or how it was made.
Don’t get me wrong here, there is a time and a place for convenience products. On the whole, I think we have got too carried away with our fast paced lives to really think about what it is we want in life and what holds a genuine value to us. Whether it be food, belongings, even how we spend our time. We live in a very materialistic world with a lack of connection to possessions, and often the environment.
Watching the ‘Minimalism documentary’ really brought these points home to me. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, ‘The Minimalists’ lead the documentary, and for me really helped clear my view and rethink what my actual likes, dislikes, needs and wants are. The pair are very down to earth and relatable, which I think is such an important factor in getting people to listen and be open to changing habits. Getting carried away with trends and ideas I haven’t whole heartedly agreed with is something I have definitely been guilty of.
Now I feel much more confident in doing things ‘my way’ and trying trends I have a genuine interest in rather than what I am being lead to believe is the correct thing to want and do. Joshua talks about his thought process when it comes to making purchases. The main question he asks when buying anything is, ‘is this going to add value to my life?’ For me this is such a simple, and dare I say it profound, yet simple question that we all should be asking.
So going back to my first question, how does this minimalism link to sustainability?
Well, it may be obvious, but the less we purchase, the less waste, the less rubbish, the less landfill and the less destruction to the planet. The less we are shopping and agonising over stuff we don’t really want the more time we have to do stuff we really care about. Time to spend interacting with our friends and family. Time to get outside and enjoy the coasts and countryside. More time to learn new skills and hobbies that will benefit our well-being, More time to connect with our surroundings and the planet.
On a serious note, I think it really is quite simple. To think about what makes you genuinely happy, and not just for the five minutes post purchase but long in to the future. If we can all take steps to make more deliberate considered decisions rather than getting swept along surely we will be lighter in the mind and lighter on our carbon footprint. Minimalism isn’t boring, it’s a more considered and often more meaningful way of life.
A minimalist attitude is one that is probably more palatable, initially anyway, to those with a negative or indifferent view towards living a more sustainable lifestyle. Minimalism is often seen as a ‘cool’ movement or lifestyle. It could be a great door opener or starting point towards a positive sustainable change. On an apposing thought to not getting swept along with trends, perhaps minimalism IS something we should all get carried away with.