Minimalism: Everything You Need To Know
And How The Powerful Zero Waste Movement Can Make Minimalism Easier… And More Effective
Minimalism has become a dirty word to some, and an incredibly fulfilling way of life to others. This is probably because there is no hard-and-fast definition of minimalism. It’s different for everyone. For this reason, it can be hard to decide whether or not a minimalist lifestyle is right for you.
Zero waste, on the other hand, is pretty clear cut. It’s all about reducing the amount of waste you send to the landfill. Preferably down to zero. This article will provide you with everything you need to know about the ins and outs of the minimalist lifestyle and how to take a big step toward zero waste.
You’ll also discover how the zero waste movement is changing the world one product at a time. Plus, how the two lifestyles can come together to create a better life for you... and for the world!
What Is A Minimalist Lifestyle?
Minimalism is not just a way of life that values experiences over things, although that is a defining feature for many. It’s also about determining for yourself what is most important to you and living in harmony with those values.
This means getting rid of those things that don’t add deep value to your life. But it’s not limited to just items. It can also apply to relationships, activities, and even ideas.
For many, minimalism means buying fewer possessions and cutting down on physical clutter. This, in turn, tends to lead to less mental clutter, a simpler life, less anxiety, and more money in the bank.
For others, it means cutting out toxic relationships and ideas in order to live a more intentional and content life. Since everyone has different values and goals, minimalism can mean one thing to you and a whole different thing to someone else.
The common thread in all types of minimalism is about making your life better by subtracting negative or useless aspects of your life in order to add meaning and joy.
Minimalism And The Zero Waste Movement
The growing zero waste movement has been increasingly coupled with minimalism as a way to not only limit the items people buy, but to become more mindful of the items that leave our homes headed for a landfill.
The conscious decision to limit excess spending on frivolous items can also do much to help you be mindful of the kinds of items you buy. Limiting waste, after all, is one of the main motivations behind the minimalist lifestyle.
The less you purchase, the less you have to throw away later. But there are necessities that we purchase regularly. By purchasing items that are plastic-free, biodegradable, or compostable, you can take another step toward helping yourself and the world. This also tends to help people feel more fulfilled in their everyday lives by enabling them to think about the whole. It gives you power as a consumer.
What Does Science Say About The Minimalist Lifestyle?
One thing is clear: many people that have made the change from a “possession-centric” lifestyle to a minimalist lifestyle claim that they are happier, more content, less stressed, and generally more at ease than they were before they made the change.
This assertion is backed by numerous studies where people who spent money on experiences rather than items were generally happier with the associated experience, even long after it happened.
It seems that once people have food to eat, a place to sleep, and a relatively safe life, piling on more stuff doesn’t seem to do much to make them happier.
People tend to become happier when they have positive relationships and experiences to share with those important people in their lives. This is the basis for minimalism.
Minimalism Isn’t Magic
Sounds pretty good right? Who doesn’t want to increase their happiness and live a more meaningful life?
But don’t start throwing all your stuff away yet.
Some people think that once they get rid of the stuff they don’t use, their lives will magically get better. They’ll be happier, as easy as flipping a switch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. If it did, everyone would be getting rid of their stuff!
Luckily, we’ve included some guidelines to help you determine what actions can help you on your journey to a minimalist lifestyle and a more meaningful life.
The Minimalist Lifestyle: Take Stock
The first step in deciding on a minimalist lifestyle is taking a hard look at your life. We suggest starting with possessions because, for many, having space in the home translates to space in the head.
One of the ways to do this, as suggested by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (perhaps the most famous minimalists out there) is to use the 90/90 rule.
The 90/90 Rule
It’s very simple. Look at an item. Any item in your house. Ask yourself if you’ve used it in the last 90 days and if you’ll use it in the next 90 days. If the answer is no, then perhaps it’s time to get rid of it. It doesn’t have to be 90 days, though. It can be four months, six months, even a year. Whatever you think is right for you and within reason.
Coupling Minimalism and Zero Waste
For an easy way to practice zero waste, you can look at disposable items you use regularly and determine if there’s a way to make them easier on the world. Maybe you’re already using plastic-free items, recyclable grocery bags, and environmentally friendly cleansers. If you’re not, it’s something to consider.
Purchasing eco-friendly versions of things you use regularly can really help to make you more mindful of the waste you generate. Plus, it’s a great way to start exercising minimalism in places you hadn’t thought possible before.
Analyze Your Relationships and Activities
Chances are you know which relationships and activities are negative without thinking too much about it. But the 90/90 rule probably isn’t appropriate here. After all, we all have good friends that we go months without talking to, on occasion. That doesn’t mean you need to cut them out of your life.
Rather, think about whether the people in your life bring you joy and add meaning to your life, or whether they bring about negative feelings and hardship. This is no easy feat, and there is no rush to come to a decision.
You may be perfectly content with all of your current relationships and see no need to phase anyone out of your life. That’s fantastic! There’s nothing that says you have to limit your relationships or your activities.
The Minimalist Lifestyle: Be Aware
When trying minimalism on for size, it’s important to be aware of habits that may be deeply-ingrained. After all, getting rid of items and activities that don’t bring you joy and add meaning to your life is only one part of the lifestyle. You also have to maintain that mindset.
Practice Zero Waste Purchasing
Whenever you find yourself about to purchase something that isn’t essential, ask yourself if you really need it. Will it bring you joy and meaning for a long time to come? Or will it be used once or twice and then forgotten about, just another item to clutter your life?
If it is something you use regularly, or an item that brings you joy, see if you can find it in biodegradable form. Or plastic-free.
Purchasing items you actually use from small businesses that employ practical ways to help the world is a great way to decrease your carbon footprint. For many, the feeling they get when shopping with eco-friendly businesses for necessary items beats any short-lived feeling they had when shopping before. It feels good to do good!
But changing these habits can be the hardest part. Shopping does tend to bring us a small amount of happiness, but it quickly fades when the item we bought doesn’t impact our lives in a significant and positive manner. This is why the zero waste movement fits so well with minimalism. It’s all about purchasing items you use on a regular basis, just environmentally-friendly versions of those items.
Be Aware of Your Activities and Relationships
It’s also beneficial to ask yourself about your habitual activities and relationships. Will going to Happy Hour at the local bar give you a worthwhile experience, or is it another activity you won’t receive any real happiness from? Are the people there going to enhance your life, or bring you down? Is there another experience that you would rather do instead, that will bring you lasting joy?
These are all questions that become easier to answer the more you ask them. They’re usually very difficult to answer honestly at first.
Look At Your Financial Life Through Minimalist Eyes
At this point, after you’ve taken stock and become aware of what you spend your time and money on, you’ll probably see a difference in your bank account. Most people tend to save money when practicing a minimalist lifestyle.
Now, you can begin to ask yourself if you really need three credit cards, subscriptions to seven streaming services, expensive food delivery, and that monthly shipment of beauty products that you hardly ever use.
If they bring you lasting joy and you want to keep them, great. If not, then start to phase them out.
Your Home on Minimalism
Depending on how far you go with minimalism, you may start to notice that your home looks a little empty. You may consider moving to a smaller house. We tend to buy stuff to fill up the room we have in our homes. This is why tiny houses have become popular with those who practice minimalism.
A smaller house also means less money spent on heating and cooling. This, coupled with practicing zero waste as much as possible, can drastically reduce your carbon footprint.
Experiences Over Things
You can start to think about what you want to do with the extra money you have now. Saving a percentage is a good idea, but what experiences do you want to have? With whom do you want to have them? Will you spend more time with your family? Will you travel? Take a painting or writing class? Learn a new language? Spend more time on your spiritual life?
Suddenly you find time and energy to focus on activities, people, and experiences that really matter to you, instead of becoming distracted with things that bring you short-lived satisfaction and artificial happiness.
Minimalism is a Tool to Make Your Life Better
It’s not about seeing how few items you can own. Or looking down on others who are on a different path.
It’s about figuring out what is best for you. Minimalism isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. It’s a tool you can use to help make your life better.
It’s about being mindful of what does and doesn’t make you happy, and determining which brings you greater happiness: purchasing items, or investing in relationships, experiences, and activities.
Criticisms of Minimalism
Critics of minimalism see it as an anti-capitalist agenda. They tend to imagine stark-white rooms with one or two pieces of furniture and a lack of all those items that make modern life convenient. They imagine the minimalist as denouncing society at large and consumerism in general.
While some who call themselves minimalists may practice this extreme way of life, living off the grid in the woods somewhere, it’s not accurate for most who practice minimalism.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that way of life. If it makes you happy, go for it. The truth is there’s no check-list for minimalism. It’s all about tailoring it to your own unique needs and specific values.
You don’t have to stop using the internet or throw away your TV if you don’t want to. In fact, there are tons of people out there who already practice minimalism, only they don’t call it by that name. It’s just a normal way of life for them. It’s a fairly natural human instinct to cut out the negative and the clutter from our lives. You may already be a minimalist, without knowing it!
Minimalism for Families
Minimalism has also been dismissed as only possible for single people or young couples. While it does tend to be easier for single people to cut down on their excess stuff, it’s possible for a family, or even one person in that family, to practice minimalism.
If you have family members who don’t see the benefit of minimalism, it may be a situation that requires compromise, like so much of family life does.
If you want your household to try minimalism, you have to do what’s right for everyone there, in terms of what affects their lives. It may not be a rapid change, but you can cut back on excesses a little at a time if that’s appropriate for your situation.
One family’s version of minimalism is likely to be very different from another family’s version. After all, no two families are exactly the same.
Less is More: The Minimalism and Zero Waste Conclusion
Determining what really matters to you is the most important part of any sort of meaningful life change. Only when you figure out what really matters can you design a route to get to where you want to be. Otherwise, you’re just wandering around in the dark.
What items can you live without? Can you find those items you do need in a more eco-friendly form? What makes you truly happy, truly content? Who are those people you want to spend more time with? What experiences do you wish to have?
These are the questions that will help you determine your version of minimalism and zero waste. There are no right or wrong answers. And those answers will probably change as your life progresses.
Minimalism is a powerful tool that can help you live a better life. But it’s not like flipping a switch. It can be difficult, particularly in the beginning. So start with the 90/90 rule and see how you feel. Then go a little further. Do a little research and find out what you can do to reduce the use of plastic items in your home.
Try it out for a couple of months and see how it feels. Use a reputable source to purchase biodegradable items that you often use. Turn your thoughts toward investing in positive experiences, people, and activities. Try to eliminate those negative items and habits and replace them with something positive and meaningful through practicing minimalism and zero waste.
Find your own style, your own version of minimalism, and get on the path to your best life!
(P.S. You can check out our best-selling eco-friendly sale items here!)
Written by Matt D. for Weighstead