Setting goals with minimalism, and thinking about how compatible this way of life is with sustainability
When starting your minimalism journey, it’s important to have some goals in mind so that you know what you’re aiming to achieve. Is it to have 50 items and be an extreme minimalist with the freedom to travel wherever you want with everything you own in a small backpack? Or is it to have a nice tidy, clean open space in your house that brings a level of calm when you return home from work?
Goals will help with the decluttering process, even though it takes time, a slight toll on your emotions depending on your attachment to your things and quite a lot of determination, having goals aids your process and sometimes guides you in the right direction.
I have some goals which might be considered extreme to some people, but if I really need things, there is always an opportunity to acquire them again.
I don’t really have a specific number of items that I want to own in mind, but one of my goals is to always have a tidy house. Being such a messy youngster, it still is sometimes a challenge to keep on top of the house cleaning and organising, but the fewer things I own, the easier it will be.
I also want to be able to keep all of my clothing in my side of the wardrobe, rather than having an extra two draws in the dresser as well. At the moment, I still need to go through my clothes and see what I wear regularly, if there’s anything I can sell or donate, or anything that is completely worn out. I wouldn’t say I have an over-abundance of clothing as I have done quite a few declutters, but I have a number of different clothing categories that I segregate into different areas. For instance, I have the classic underwear draw, which is now decluttered enough that it is just the one draw. I don’t even know how I ended up owning so much underwear before but it would never fit into the spaces I envisioned it in. Now I just have the one draw and it makes it so much easier to not have to sift through a number of different places just to start getting dressed. I then have a draw for workout clothes and swimwear, so basically a sports draw. I haven’t gone and done a proper workout at a gym since the week before the first lockdown started as I can no longer afford my gym membership, but if I can convince myself, I would maybe use these clothes for home workouts whenever I decide to start those. Then I have a bag dedicated to my safari clothing; sounds weird keeping clothes in a bag, it’s not like I’m going anywhere right now, but I know exactly where these clothes are the next time I need them and it saves me a bit of space in my wardrobe.
Other goals include reducing my toiletries a lot and once used up, switching to more environmentally friendly and sustainable products. I’m doing quite well with this. I used to obsessively buy creams and cleansers and lip balms and all sorts, but not being a girly-girl, or particularly caring what I look like, I never used these products regularly and they all just sat there collecting dust. I am now on my last two face moisturisers, and I now have no spare body washes or shampoo bottles, I have switched the body wash and shampoo over to bars. The worst thing with toiletries is when clearing them out, if you find expired ones, you have to throw them away because they can’t be given to someone else. The other problem with unused toiletries is that if they have been opened, even just to smell them or use them once, they can’t be donated to any charities that excepts these. The good thing is, just a couple of months ago, Boots announced that they have placed some recycling areas in 50 of their stores, so you can take old products to these stations, even if they weren’t purchased from Boots, saving them from going to landfill.
One of my other goals is to have an under-control med kit; I used to buy a lot of first aid/medical products because I have this habit of getting ill or injuring myself on a semi-regular basis. The problem was, I would forget I already had something and then go and buy more of it such as paracetamol, neurofen, lemsip pills, creams and ointments. This then led to a bunch of things going out of date because by the time I found them, they were years old. Please remember that if you clear out medicines, creams or anything you might find as a medical use item in a pharmacy, you must take it to your pharmacy to be disposed of as these items shouldn’t be sent to landfill as they may enter the environment, get eaten by animals or enter the waterways. I now have a greatly reduced medical kit and I always check it before buying anything just in case I already have the product I’m thinking of.
A very big, and slightly unrealistic goal at the moment is to live out of just one bag. This bag would include all my clothes, toiletries, meds and entertainment, maybe leaving one or two small boxes of things at my parents’ house that I might want at some point in the future. The aim of this would then be to travel the world, easily, comfortably and sufficiently. This would take a lot of decluttering, and a lot of convincing myself that I don’t need a lot of things that I’m still hanging on to. I can see myself doing this one day, but I don’t think right now is the time for me to do this. I asked myself and my boyfriend the question “what would you do if you won the euro millions lottery and ended up with a ridiculous amount of money?” My answer: I would sell and donate everything that doesn’t fit into one bag, pack the rest of my stuff up into one bag and travel the world forever, staying in volunteer houses at different wildlife experiences and really live my life without stress or worry of having to be a part of the real world anymore. What others might say: I would buy a huge house, buy a fancy car, buy designer clothes and shoes and bag, buy expensive jewellery, eat out at fancy restaurants etc.
My question to you, what would you do if you won the lottery? Would it be about buying lots of fancy stuff, or would you go and have some amazing experiences and come back with adventurous stories to tell. Just remember, it’s your experiences that go to your grave with you, not your stuff. I have done some pretty good thinking about this question, and if you won even 10 million pounds, you could probably work at volunteer places and have experiences without ever having to have a real job again, obviously budgeting properly. Or you could buy a bunch of fancy stuff where the money would eventually run out. I know which I’d rather do, plus going and volunteering at wildlife rescue centres, or wildlife research projects, means your putting your time and money towards important issues.
Compatibility of minimalism with sustainability
These two topics are not mutually exclusive, just because you’re a minimalist does not mean you are automatically part of the sustainable living society, but minimalism can definitely help you get there. The fact that minimalism alters your consumer habits helps you to cut down on your environmental impact, but whilst you are buying less, you can also start to be more mindful and intentional about your purchases. There are so many different sustainable shops and brands that sell sustainable toiletries, kitchenware, reusable water bottles etc. One of the things to really concentrate your efforts on though is where you buy your clothes from. The fashion industry, particularly the fast-fashion industry which is the second highest polluting industry in the world, just after fossil fuels. I hardly ever buy new clothes, keeping up with fashion trends isn’t the most important issue in my life, and I think that not keeping up with fashion trends is one of the biggest things that keeps my clothing purchases low. In the last 3 years, I have probably only bought maybe 10 new items of clothing, it might be less, it might be a couple items more, but I’m not buying new clothes every week or every month. If you already have hundreds of items of clothing, why do you need to buy more? I asked the same question in my blog about a minimalist trip to Cape Town, but do these people not know about doing laundry? And the fact that once you do laundry, you can wear those clothes again?
So yes, I think we can agree that minimalism and sustainability are compatible, but it does take some intention and effort to make sure you see it through. One of the best ways to sustainably buy clothes is to buy second hand. The clothes are already made and exist, therefore, no extra process (other than postage) is going into you owning them. There are so many places to pick up second-hand items, such as charity shops, Ebay, this app called Vinted and probably many more. The next time I’m looking for some khaki green cargo trousers, I’m going to start searching for second hand because I’m sure the perfect ones I’m looking for will be out there somewhere.