How To Leverage Minimalism For Sustainability

Film Recommendation

Minimalism (2016)

An Alternative Outlook

I thoroughly enjoyed this film! It’s a touching documentary of life out on the road with Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, aka The Minimalists. The audience follows them, as they travel across the US promoting their book & the minimalist philosophy. It’s a timely and enlightening piece, as more people begin to push back against oppressive consumerism.

Given the extent of rapid environmental destruction, we certainly need an alternative model, and minimalism is an effective one. Although I can’t (yet) claim to be a minimalist myself, I’ve had the pleasure of following their blog for some time now. There is plenty of great learning and inspiration! The Minimalists are awesome teachers, as they share their own struggles and insights with adopting this equally challenging & rewarding way of life.

Sustainable Inspiration

For The Minimalists, discovering this lifestyle was a revelation. Like most revelations, it came from struggle, but it also brought significant value to their lives. They are now looking to reach out to others and help them on their own journeys of reprioritization. In that regard, minimalism and sustainability are a perfect fit!

Indeed, minimalism syncs wonderfully with the concept of sustainability. For starters, it addresses the need of significantly reducing our environmental impact. For another, it helps us connect with the long term mentality in an effort to maximize what spend our precious time and money on.

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it

Henry David Thoreau 

Appreciating Minimalism

There are a number of ways we can become more sustainably motivated, and a greater understanding of minimalism can help us to get there. The idea is to focus on relationships & experiences, and less on the the material.

As described by the minimalists, many in the world today equate success and satisfaction with material possessions. This feels especially in their native US of A, where consumerism has become a source of patriotism.

The Minimalists seek to offer Americans, and indeed the world at large, a reminder of what is truly valuable. They do this through the consideration of an alternative lifestyle, one where consumption is not the driver.

Zen Humor

Offering Help

The authors share their view in a friendly and empathetic way. They aren’t attempting to pass judgement on those who obtain pleasure out of their possessions. Rather, they are promoting the notion of conscious consumerism. This means buying and keeping only what you love, and limiting your purchases to what gives you joy and satisfaction.

This philosophy is meant to help us recalibrate our needs. Not to own things simply because there was a sale, or because you might need it “in case.” They remind us that in most cases, we probably don’t need to keep up with the latest version of things.

Tyler Durden Wisdom

As was echoed in Fight Club, the more things you own, the more space you need. The more space/things you have, the more maintenance it requires, and the more of your precious life you need to invest in it. Both in the hours worked to buy these items, as well as the time cleaning, managing, and organizing all those things. Until all the things that you own eventually take up a significant part of your life. Or simply…👇

The doc provides examples of people who have chosen minimalism. Those who have decided to live with less stuff, as well as in smaller spaces. There’s even an example of a world traveler whose entire earthly belongings fit into just two bags. Admittedly, when done by choice there is also a significant amount of privilege to be able to adopt such a lifestyle.

human covered in a pile of laundry
Click to learn more about where discard clothes end up (The Atlantic).

Uncluttered

We all need things! Minimalism doesn’t advocate for us all to become homeless, jobless nomads. There is a minimum that is required to survive and thrive, and then there’s excess. One of current problems (vis a vie climate change) is that we don’t fully appreciate the extent of our excess.

It’s not a knock on people who were lucky enough to be born into a family with money for things. Nor is it an argument against those who may not have much and desperately need more. Rather, The Minimalists highlight the fallacy behind the notion that more is always better.

Lessons Learned

Those who can afford more things, don’t necessarily become happier as a result. The Minimalists encourage us to listen & learn from those who have climbed the corporate/social ladders of the world. We can leverage the wisdom & experience of those who were able to buy whatever they wanted. An enlightened few eventually discovered the superficiality of it, and sought instead deeper meaning & satisfaction from life.

These truly are great lessons. It also helps to hear it from people who’ve went through the journey themselves. We can all gain from a better appreciation of minimalism. In the process, it’ll help with our path to greater sustainability. I hope it’ll leave you feeling similarly inspired to reflect upon your own habits and find opportunity for better.💪

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