Minimalism is enjoying quite the heyday at the moment and the arrival of the Minimalists on Netflix; a feature length documentary which explore the lives of two minimalists on a journey to promote conscious consumerism, has boosted the profile of a lifestyle trend that’s been growing over the last few years.
If you’re passionate about sustainability you can’t help but notice these are connected. Moving away from crazy consumerism means moving towards buying long lasting quality over available quantity, and encourages a more ethical approach to buying. If you’re new to this concept, however, it can seem a little daunting to get started.
As someone who’s on this journey while living on a low budget in a big city, I’m here to share my top tips on getting started:
Have a Goal
The trick to any kind of lifestyle change is to have something you’re working towards, instead of focusing on what you’re trying to leave behind. Are you wanting to declutter your workspace? Build a capsule wardrobe? Stop buying sweatshop made? Think about what matters to you and why making certain changes will help you get there.
It’s not so much about having a specific end goal, which can transform into striving for perfection and feeling like you’ve ‘failed’ if you ever slip up. Yet, more about having an idea of the lifestyle you are creating. Every small step is building that lifestyle, and if you slip up that’s ok, you can make further progress tomorrow.
Small changes add up to big impacts. When looking at sustainability or minimalism we can feel paralysed sometimes, like we need to throw everything away and start again. This isn’t a productive way to see real change happen.
Start with the small things around you that you use up most often, for me this was tampons, toothbrushes and deodorant. When my next period came around, I opted for a reusable menstrual cup, which immediately stopped me throwing potentially 11,000 tampons away across my lifetime. As products reached the end of their lifetimes I switched to bamboo toothbrushes and I started using an alum bar for deodorant, which will last for years.
These small beginnings helped me simplify and get into a mindset which I can now apply to every area. When a t-shirt finally falls apart, I send it to textile recycling and replace it with a more sustainable alternative. Instead of mindlessly buying, I’ve found a more circular way of approaching what I own.
Keep it Simple
It doesn’t take long before you start seeing questions like ‘can I own this and still be a minimalist?’ or posts explaining ‘why I quit minimalism - too restrictive!’. The minute you get sucked into a lifestyle trend it becomes just that, a trend. One with rights and wrongs, where you can win and lose.
Just let that all go and focus on what actually works for you in regards to your goal. It’s not about owning as little as possible, it’s about making sure that what you do own adds value to your life. Instead of owning ten cheap, kind-of-ok-but-it-was-there dresses, you own one or two really great quality dresses that you love. So, within that if you have hobby supplies, a collection, a pet that’s a little messy, that is totally ok. Those things make you happy. Follow what works for you, instead of trying to pigeonhole yourself or make your life look like someone else’s.
Minimalism is in the Mind
Minimalism is about making things simple, easier and guilt free in our day to day, it’s as much about clearing our mind as it is the space around us. The beauty of a minimalist lifestyle is that for me it makes room for a mindset which I can then use to tackle larger issues, like quitting fast fashion.
With my daily routine streamlined and my life more fuss free, I’m able to approach larger issues in a much healthier way. Once you step out of the trap of just buying what’s in front of you because you can, you start to buy what you really like. Without the urgency of needing to buy what’s on trend, you can focus on buying beautiful, sustainable essentials and statement pieces that you really enjoy and that will last a long time.
The fashion world is often complex and murky, but by creating a healthier relationship with what you own, the idea of stepping away from fast fashion and towards ethical alternatives doesn’t feel like a burden, it’s just fun.
Ultimately, it’s about finding ways to make the core ideas behind a movement work for you, not trying and failing to make yourself into something you’re not. Starting small and making simple choices is a much easier and more achievable way to care for the planet, its people and ultimately yourself.
Focus on you and your goals, and you’ll be surprised what kind of changes you’ll see.