What minimalism means for me — Part II: What I don't love

low waste Minimalism Sustainability

Welcome back! It's been a while 🤪 

I really wanted to finish Part 2 of this post and think it's fitting given it's earth month and part of what I don't love about minimalism relates to waste and sustainability. 

I shared some of the most notable benefits of minimalism and intentional living in Part 1: What minimalism means to me and what I love. I would say most days, my lifestyle choice of simplifying, and my mindset shift toward intentionalism, has more benefits than I can count. And there are absolutely days when I am not sure my effort is worth the stress that it can sometimes cause. Today, I want to share those areas candidly.

All the unwanted stuff
Let’s talk about stuff. People are collectors of stuff. We might feel we need it, want it, will use it, or can find someone to give it to. The items might be on sale, a really good deal, a habit or lifestyle we want to embody, retail therapy, or a reward for surviving another week of life. Really there are thousands of reasons why stuff accumulates to the point of moving it from surface to surface or hiding it in any space possible. Out of sight out of mind….right? Unfortunately, when you open that closet, stuff is still there…and that stuff, which takes up physical space, turns into clutter. Here is the big moment of truth: anything that takes up physical space also takes up mental space, if it is not adding value to your life and it doesn't bring you joy. That truth bomb is one of the hardest things to face on this journey. And it is definitely one that I still wrestle with—even when I am intentionally shopping, and really confident in my values, things still sneak into my house! Please tell me I am not the only one? The paper clutter is real. The kids’ toys, the kitchen gadgets and utensils, the dog or cat toys, the diy projects, that stuff appears so quickly. Then I hit an overwhelm point while trying to sort through it all and get back to that simple, intentional, and organized space. Sometimes, I want to bag it all up and take it away. But then I wrestle with where will it all end up? 

I have always loved the 5 R’s (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle) and especially the order they are listed in. The daily struggle to fully embrace this lifestyle really starts with these 5 R’s, it can be applied in many areas of life and especially on the minimalism and intentional living journey. Notice that “refuse” is the first recommended step in the minimalist journey. Until you really start to understand your own values, bringing new items in adds to the stuff. I think this might be the hardest one to grapple with because recycling is easiest. Except that most people don’t recycle correctly…so that one creates a bigger issue. Looking at these 5 R’s, which one is easiest for you to do and which one can you start working toward next? My personal journey started with recycling, reusing, reducing, refusing and I am really exploring that repurposing space. Man, that one takes some skill though. ;)

Knowledge can be a burden
On this path of intentional living, I started wondering about the items I was bringing into my home. A lot of people do this when they start having kids, because being responsible for the health and well-being of a litte human is a big deal. I was curious about so many things and as I started learning about the standard US household consumption, the waste that is heading to the landfill, the environmental impact, the societal impact and the health problems that are linked to lifestyle habits, I had to make changes. I wanted to make changes for myself, my family and I felt very strongly about bringing others on that journey too. We are absolutely stronger together.

I started asking:
What is this made out of?
Where is it made?
Is it safe for my kids?
How many ingredients are in this?
How was this made?
Who is this made by?
Where was this grown?
Was there anyone harmed in the process of making this item?

This process started informing my value shift and really united that minimalist lifestyle with the intentional mindset. They became one. The knowledge is…burdensome. The more you know the more responsible and hopefully empowered you feel to do something, make the change, inspire others and shift toward that lifestyle. And it does not happen quickly because every day is a new opportunity to ask those questions and decide what values are most important to you. The purpose of minimalism is not to turn 180* away from the life you are living and that is far from the mindset shift of living intentionally too. It is simple, individual and consistent adjustments every day moving toward the lifestyle you want. Make it your journey, or you will get lost trying to walk another person’s path.

The way I shop, live, learn and love is going to look very different from most others on this journey to intentional living. They say knowledge is power, which I firmly believe. What they don’t tell you is that power can either propel you toward a shift or weigh you down with the “I am not doing enough” mentality. You decide every day what little changes you can make to be 1% better.

Communicating with Family and Friends
One of the trickiest parts of shifting toward a less is more mentality can be the conversations with family and friends. In my experience, both groups want to be supportive, and the concepts are so foreign they don’t understand how to support you. Sometimes doing what is socially acceptable and societally normal is much easier and often more comfortable. I know people who have had a lot of pushback from their family and friends on their journey until they start to understand the reasons and see the bigger picture. That will only come with your resolve to stay the course, stand strong in your values and share your journey, even the ugly parts. Another tough area can be gift giving, especially in a grandparent grandbaby relationship (amiright?!). Communication is key! And for any people pleasers out there, it is time to start taking your power back. ;) Of course, do it in a nice way and you have to be flexible and give in sometimes. It's helpful to give alternatives to gift giving: donations to a charity, quality time spent with you or the kids, a specific gift wishlist, and my most favorite, give experiences (classes, amusement parks, camping, nature crafting, etc.) Those create memories and memories last a lifetime.

Do you think the benefits outweigh the costs?
As the physical clutter and excess clears, I started to feel a shift in my own life toward the things that really mattered like being present during time with the kids, taking time to notice the little things happening around me. That is all rewarding and encouraging, but that feeling of craving that deep connection only gets deeper and hard to fulfill. It is a daily process, some days are much easier than others and that is part of the beauty of this journey.


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