I want to talk about two ‘movements’ that have taken ahold of me over the past few months and arguably, changed my life. Interestingly they could be seen as contradictory: on one hand, minimalism tells us that we only need the very bare essentials whether that’s clothes or beauty products or food items whilst zero waste tells us not to dispose of anything, not even the liquid brine from your can of beans which could go towards making a perfectly delicious meal. What they do both have in common though, and what talks to me on a profound level is consciously not buying shit I don’t need. This has led me down the path of waging a bit of a personal battle against ‘stuff’ with the following goals:
I want to know what I own.
I want to make a conscious decision to consume less.
I want to care for and enjoy what we do own much, much better.
I want to stop always reaching for more.
I want to simplify our lives.
I’ve had enough of buying yet more kirby grips when I have two packs hiding at the back of my bathroom cabinet, enough of clothes piling up on top of each other but when I want to find that one black top, I cannot and enough of three wooden spoons on my kitchen counter when last time I checked, I only stir food using one hand? That sewing machine sat on the floor in Sonny’s bedroom brings me no joy so why don’t I give it to charity or sell it on ebay so someone who really needs and wants it can have it? Why do I need to keep using disposable coffee cups when I can just have one cup I use again and again? In essence, I have generally just had enough of STUFF.
It’s a goal that has taken me on an interesting and at times, quite comical journey – from not buying a single thing beyond bare essentials (food + toilet paper…) for 6 months to becoming “no-poo” (ditching commercial shampoo and conditioner) and at times finding myself with such greasy hair I could pretty much cook off it. So, when the wonderful Unpackaged, a business focused on refills, invited me to attend a talk by Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home I jumped at the opportunity. Last year Bea and her family generated one single jar of waste – I find that idea incredible. Just being at the talk, I left feeling ‘lighter’ and less bogged down so I thought I’d share with you some of my highlights from the evening and some personal learnings I’ve had through my own journey.
1.First up, this is not about recycling, it’s about not letting it enter your home in the first place. We all get offered things all the time. A free pen when you sign up to a new bank account? A blogger’s goody bag? A paper napkin tucked in with your cake? If you try to be discerning about what enters your house in the first place, this job gets a whole lot easier. Consequently…
2.You can’t be too British. By this I mean, you need to learn to be forthright and say no. People try to give you stuff THE WHOLE TIME and you need to learn to politely decline.
3. Follow the Marie Kondo mantra – let go of what doesn’t bring you joy. I recently noticed a candle which had been sitting on my kitchen table for months. I’d probably lit it about twice since I’d had it (since our wedding – so four years), it’s kinda grubby, part broken and do you know what, I don’t actually like it. On just removing it from my room, I immediately felt a little happier. Tune in to what brings you joy, people.
4. Buy in bulk – this is an amazing way to reduce unneeded packaging and to save money. (and no I’m not talking about buying 72 mars bars – in my case, I’m talking cous cous, nuts, and Weetabix) I really recommend Suma – it’s all organic, vegetarian and fairtrade.
5. Catch yourself in the right mood to reduce your belongings – I find there are days when I can’t bring myself to throw out an unused paper clip and other days where I get rid of a binbag of stuff. When you’re in the right mood, go go go!
6. Trial it – before getting rid of something, I will often put it away for a few weeks to trial if I miss it or need it. For example, I took a whole load of kitchen utensils and put them away in a bag out of sight. Have I needed them or wanted them once ? Nope.
7. Rotate things – sometimes you don’t need to get rid of things, you just need to give them a bit of a break. I often collect up the kids’ toys and books that are getting lost amongst their other toys and put them away – a few weeks later I bring them out again and they’re like new in their eyes.
8. Make use of charity shops and the second hand market place – you know those golf clubs gathering dust at the back of your shed? Sell them on ebay, make some dosh and let someone who loves golf and will genuinely use them have them. I have found so many gems for the children in charity shops – for any North London mums, check out Farah in Primrose hill.
9. Make what you do own visible so that, as silly as this sound, you *know that you own it*. When I started on this journey I ordered a load of Le Parfait jars – every single one is full with dried good and being used so much more than when all the produce was stuck at the back of the cupboard. The amount of half empty packs of cous cous and half finshed packs of dried fruit – I’ve sorted and amalgamated everything and am enjoying it so much more.
10. Always consider reusable – from napkins to nappies, coffee cups to clingfilm, there are so many alternatives to the plastic, throw away version that are equally effective not to mention super lovely and cost – efficient. I’ll be doing a post soon all about my top zero waste products…
So where am I at with it now? Although I’ve got a lot more focused on reducing the amount ‘stuff’ in our house, as with every ‘movement’ or particular lifestyle, for me it’s about being obsessive. I’m not going to not have a coffee if I forget my reusable cup one day or carry all the grocery shopping (although I do have a good go at stuffing most of it into my nappy bag) home if I forget my totes at the supermarket.Who knows where this will all take me but I do know that since starting my ‘mission’, I’ve found that I consume in an entirely different and far more conscious way. I no longer browse shops just to see what might be nice; I’m satisfied with what I already have. One of the things Bea Johnson talked about is the concept that “buying is voting” and I could not agree more – so I try now to make the stuff we do own really count, one way or another.
Have you tried reducing your consumption or waste. What do you make of it all? Leave me a comment below…