Living with Less: How To Be a Minimalist Environmentalist

Stuff. Do we own it or does it own us, you know what I’m sayin’?

Life Changing Magic of Tidying UpI recently read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which is a ridiculous book full of unintentionally hilarious Japanese cultural anecdotes. More importantly and to the point, the book is centered around a powerful thesis: You should surround yourself with the possessions and things (and people) that bring you joy. Get rid of everything else. 

Stuff accumulates so quickly. You go to a conference and take home the schwag bag full of crap you have no idea how to use. You get a weird gift from a friend and put it on a shelf because you don’t know what else to do with it. You start saving all the rubber bands Whole Foods puts on your egg cartons in a big rubber band ball and it’s just sort of sitting in a kitchen drawer, growing like cancer.

And of course the solution seems obvious: Toss that ish. Chuck it. Good riddance! Marie Kondo brags in her book about clients who threw out 30 or more 60-gallon bags of trash when they cleansed their homes. And boy, did those clients feel a weight lifted off of their shoulders when they did that.

But what about not accumulating so much useless junk in the first place? (Kondo doesn’t once address this issue.) I’ll concede, a full-house cleanse is a fantastic first step, because how do you know what you can live without until you live without it? But after you are down to only the objects and things that bring you joy, discipline is not in cleaning or organizing every day, but in not buying or bringing things home in the first place.

It’s pretty simple to live a more minimalist life really. You just have to do it. Here’s how.

Step One: Cleanse the bajeezus of your house. Only keep those objects which bring you joy. Leave the definition of “bring you joy” open to include useful objects (like toilets, which bring you joy because you’re using it instead of a bed pan). Do not leave the definition of “bring you joy” open to include those objects which could theoretically be useful (ahem, that physio ball in the corner or that drawer full of unused kitchen gadgets), but that actually are not because you don’t use them and, therefore, can’t possibly bring you joy.

Step Two: Donate what can be donated, recycle what can be recycled, repurpose what can be repurposed, toss what needs to be tossed (sorry, landfill).

Step Three: Don’t bring random stuff home. When you’re about to make a purchase or toss something free into your bag, take a moment to think about how this item will fit into your life. If it doesn’t (or if it requires some pretty serious roundabout justification), pass.

And voila! You are free from your things and well on your way to saving the world. Buy less stuff. Have less stuff. Throw away less stuff. That’s environmentalism through minimalism.

On the subject of minimalism, I’m a huge fan of The Minimalists. Check out their blog on The Easiest Way to Organize Your Stuff.

Featured photo courtesy of Greg Stamos.