Minimalism: Yay? Nay?

The minimalist lifestyle has exploded lately.  Competitions of owning the least amount of items possible have practically become a cult initiation, due in part to the popularity of The Minimalists (documentary, podcast, and blog) and Marie Kondo’s KonMari method. The message for both of these mindsets is to live with less and only have objects that you truly derive happiness and worth from.

This is powerful stuff.

Our culture, that has an obsession of keeping up with the Jones's and having the hottest new thing, is actually biting onto these new ideas.  In a way, I was impressed and it gave me more hope that maybe we could potentially be moving away from the worth of things and onto the worth of experiences and financial stability.  The piece that really resonated me with this way of thinking was that its core tenets were originally meant to benefit the psyche but in turn could have tremendous benefits for the environment and wallet IF interpreted well.

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What do I mean by that? Let’s dig in.

As a person starts their journey sparked by either Marie Kondo or the Minimalists, one of the first steps is to purge.  Both philosophies concentrate heavily on getting rid of items that you do not use, that you have excess of, or that you do not derive happiness from.  My immediate thought is the concern of people throwing items out that may not be of use to them anymore but that are in fine condition and can be of value to someone else.

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Do not just throw something out to narrow down the number of objects in your home but add numbers to landfills. Quiz yourself first.

1. Is the item in working condition?

If not, can it be recycled? For old electronics that have batteries in them, make sure to take the battery out before trashing and dispose of the battery properly. You can then search what programs are located near you for electronics recycling.

If yes, consider selling or donating it instead of just throwing out. Clothes in good condition (not stained or ripped) can always be donated to a local charity or Good Will.  Is it a large piece of furniture that is difficult to move? Oftentimes local chapters of Big Brothers, Big Sisters or Veteran organizations offer free pickup if you call to schedule. Consignment stores typically take both clothes and home items as well, you can make a little on the side by bringing the items here.

2. Do you see yourself using it again?

Maybe it’s not something that you use frequently or every season.  Some arguments will say it is better to throw it out and buy new in the future instead of storing it.  I disagree, unless the chances are VERY slim and you aren’t sure you will use it again, why add to the trash and consumption in the future?

When I have perused various forums and discussions on how to be a ‘successful’ minimalist, I see many questions on how to narrow down to bare bones to have the smallest quantity of items possible.  In my mind, the key point is not to make the number a competition but to change your mindset for the future.

Do you have two winter jackets? Some hardcore minimalists would say get rid of one.  Unless you have outgrown one or never use it, why? Be logical with the downsizing. Yes, there is no need to have 27 pairs of jeans but be realistic with what is overkill and simply creating waste.

Whether you stick with either of these philosophies long term or not, the most important takeaway to stress is the reduction in consumption.

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The saying “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is in that order for a reason.  Yes, recycling is crucial for the earth but it is intentionally the last effort in the mantra.  Reducing your consumption up front minimizes production, transportation, and waste greatly.

Remember to ask yourself each time, do you really need this new purchase?

Will it bring happiness or meet a need?

Perhaps your time and investment is better off spent learning a new skill or an experience than buying more. In order to start changing our impact on the earth, the most important change is getting our culture away from this obsession with consumption. Thankfully, Marie Kondo and the Minimalists are leading us to less.

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