Every minimalist goes on a journey—our starting points are all different and the way our lives look after the process of decluttering is as individual as we are.
My minimalist journey has been long and winding. Like many, it began with decluttering physical spaces, but quickly moved on to the more intangible aspects of my life.
The more I cleared space for the things that mattered, the more I began to care about the quality of what I let into my life rather than the quantity. Determining the quality for some things like friendships, the online content I consumed, and even the food I ate was. But determining quality for other things, like clothing and home decor, required a bit more effort and research.
My search for quality items to add to my home and closet when others wore out led me to do extensive research on environmentalism, sustainability, and eco-friendly options.
When you start doing that kind of reading and research, it can be a little overwhelming. The American culture in particular is inherently wasteful because we’ve learned to prize immediacy and convenience over what’s actually best for our bodies, the planet, and other people. A little more intentionality and research can result in a better life for yourself and the planet, and getting started is easier than you might think.
Start Living More Sustainably
Sustainability might be overwhelming at first, but living and consuming more intentionally can be as simple as changing a few habits.
Here are three simple ways to start living more sustainably:
1. Think outside the Goodwill box.
If you’ve already started your minimalist journey, chances are you’ve made at least one trip your local thrift store or donation center like Goodwill or Salvation Army. In 2016 alone, I made over half a dozen trips to my local Goodwill store and I probably made just as many, if not more, in 2015.
Thrift stores are an easy option when you’re decluttering because they allow you to donate everything from books and clothing to home decor and tools all in one fell swoop. But depending on the item, your local thrift store may be overladen with more items than they can sell in a reasonable amount of time, which could result in the item you donated eventually winding up in the trash. This occurrence isn’t as prevalent with miscellaneous items, but it’s all too common for things like clothing.
Rather than donating all your stuff in one place, think outside the box a bit and do some research on other places in your area who could use specific types of items. Donate your used books to the local library or teacher’s classroom. Take your used towels and pillows to the animal shelter. Give your extra clothing to a family or friend in need.
You might have to stop at more than one location, but in the end, everyone benefits.
2. Repair instead of replace.
When you wear through the sole of your shoe or lose a button on your shirt, is your first inclination to replace it with something new, or repair it and get more wear out of it?
Chances are, unless it’s a favorite piece, you’re probably more inclined to toss it than you are to go through the effort of repairing it, but did you know that by extending the use of a garment for nine months, you reduce the environmental impact by 20-30%?
If an item is good quality, it will save you both time and money to repair rather than replace it whenever an issue arises.
Buying a new shirt will cost not only money but time to search for the right one, while sewing a button back on or fixing a small hole takes mere dollars and just a couple of minutes. Resoling a pair of shoes often results in them looking better than they have in ages and means you don’t have to break in a new pair. Painting or refinishing a table or other piece of furniture gives new life to an old piece and can totally change the look of your home.
Our disposable society teaches us that items can be thrown away without consequences, but that simply isn’t the case. So next time an item breaks, consider if it’s easier in the long run to replace it, or if repairing is the better option.
And if you really do need to replace it, head to that thrift store and see if you can find it secondhand first!
3. Always be prepared.
It’s no secret that plastic is terrible for the environment. Unlike natural materials, it can only be downcycled, and it doesn’t biodegrade, which means a single plastic water bottle could spend hundreds of years in a landfill releasing harmful toxins into the air and releasing them into the ground.
Unfortunately, plastic is everywhere from the packaging for products we buy on a day-to-day basis to the bags we use to take those items home.
One of the easiest ways to combat the continued use and production of plastic is by purchasing reusable containers or bags. You can get canvas bags for your groceries and other household goods, mesh bags for produce, and resuable coffee cups and water bottles.
But having those items does nothing if they’re never there when you need them. To solve that problem, always keep them in your car so they’re available even when you make that spontaneous trip to the store on the way home from something else.
Sustainability might be overwhelming at first, but living and consuming more intentionally can be as simple as changing these few habits. Don’t let the overwhelm get to you. Like the rest of your simple living journey, start small and let the change grow.