The relativity new trend of minimalism is changing the way we think about our “stuff.” The young adults of the world (dare I use the term ‘Millennial’s’) are turning away from spending their money on material items, opting to spend their hard-earned cash on experiences instead. Born from baby-boomer parents that would often hoard, save, and stockpile, the newest adults in society are turning the other cheek when it comes to what they observed growing up.
While this is a great lesson in avoiding the consumerism trap of “keeping up with the Jones’” there is bound to be some positive impact on the environment also. The fundamental idea of minimalist living is to be happy with less, to consume less, and buy less.
Why are people turning to Minimal Living?
Modern living has become so busy. We are overwhelmed daily and saturated with information constantly. We work harder to earn more money, to buy more things. There are product variety and diversity, so many options, so little time! Aren’t you absolutely exhausted?
Being a minimalist requires you to be mindful of what is important in your life. It allows you to block out the mental and physical clutter that bombards your mind on a daily basis. Minimal living allows you to regain focus, streamline your thoughts and place emphasis and attention on those things that are vital to your happiness.
Whatever your reason for looking into living a more minimal lifestyle, it’s unlikely you’ll find a downside to this new way of being. Not only is good for the soul and your mind, but the positive impacts will also overflow into the environment too.
Benefits of Minimal Living for Your Mind
Most of us would be aware of the claustrophobic feeling that comes with being surrounded by clutter. For some people, clutter can cause anxiety and even elicit a physical stress response. Tight spaces and disorderly cupboards filled with junk create mental clutter and cause us to live less efficiently.
On the other hand, spaces that are tidy and streamlined are more likely to create a sense of calm and quiet. Having only the necessary material items can create mental freedom and a clearer mind. This allows us to focus on the people and the activities that we value most and make us happy.
Living a minimalist lifestyle can also reduce financial stresses as you learn to live within your means. You become less obsessed with “things” as you retreat further from alluring advertising that tells you your life will be better if only you owned one of “these.” Minimal living creates a greater understanding of needs vs. wants and how to be more mindful of spending and consumption.
How Minimalist Living can help the Environment
Minimalists understand that the large house with the pool and three-car garage is not what will make them happy. It’s the people we choose to share our homes with that bring happiness.
In recent years tiny homes, converted shipping containers and small industrial spaces have been popular among minimalists as well as the environmentally conscious. These spaces cost less to build and use fewer materials and supplies. They are cheaper to run, use fewer resources and create fewer greenhouse gasses. Smaller homes also require fewer products to furnish them, which lessens the impact on the environment.
“Fast fashion” refers to cheap clothing that is mass-produced at a rapid rate. It’s usually in response to a fashionable trend or latest look on the catwalks. Manufacturers of fast fashion brands have come under fire for their disregard for the environment in the form of large amounts of textile waste, water pollution and toxic chemicals from dyes. About 80 billion pieces of fast fashion clothing are being purchased each year and the impact on the environment is devastating. In addition to the production of the clothes, the lifespan of the garments is short due to the quality and the trend. In a matter of months, most fast fashion items will likely end up in landfills.
Minimalists know that quality clothing is worth the investment. Classic styles, fabrics, and cuts never go out of fashion. Clothing made with quality materials washes well, retain their shape better and ultimately last longer.
The majority of household waste is derived from food and the packaging that it comes in. Minimal living requires those to eat less packaged food in favour of fresh produce and foods that come in recyclable or reusable packaging. The earth’s population is expected to reach 12.3 billion people by 2100 and making sustainable food choices is becoming more and more important. Eating a meat-free diet, or at the very least, reducing the consumption of meat is at the forefront of a lot of minimalists minds.
Did you know that 70% of the grain grown in the U.S is fed to cattle, sheep and other animals? Livestock in poorer countries is also fed cereal, grains, and vegetables for the production of dairy and meat. It’s difficult to see how eating meat at the current rate we do will ever be sustainable. 700 million tonnes of human-grade food is used to feed animals every year, would this be better utilized to help end world hunger?
Our cars are responsible for air pollution and emissions. They are expensive to run, costly to maintain and as oil and petrol prices continue to rise, it doesn’t look set to change anytime soon. While most families in Australia have two cars, minimalists are instead opting to use public transport, ride bicycles or walk to get where they need to be. This reduces the carbon footprint left by the individual and positively impacts the environment.
In Australia, cars are responsible for roughly half of all our transport emissions. According to the Climate Council, Aussie cars emit the same amount of emissions as Queensland’s entire gas-fired and coal electricity supply.
The Minimalist Ideal
Minimal living doesn’t seem to be some hippie-dippy fad that will eventually fizzle out. That’s because the fundamentals and ideals of minimal living don’t seem to have a downside. It’s not to say that living with a heap of material possessions is a bad thing; it’s the meaning that society has assigned to those possessions that have the potential to be damaging. If there were a way of living that is better for the environment, and better for your mind, body, and soul, wouldn’t you want to learn a little more about it?
Joshua Becker from the Becoming Minimalist blog puts it really well. He says:
What I have discovered is that minimalist living does not only benefit the environment, it also benefits me personally. In other words, it’s not an either-or situation; it’s a both-and arrangement. Too often, we get caught up in the thinking that the only way to save the environment is to make all these difficult sacrifices in life — like owning less, but minimalism is only a sacrifice if you’ve bought into the lies of a consumeristic culture where we are constantly told that more is better.
But more is not better. Possessions never fully deliver on their promise of increased happiness in life — they only distract us from it.