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What Do Zero Waste and Minimalism Have in Common?

What Do Zero Waste and Minimalism Have in Common?

Minimalism

Last Updated on September 11, 2020

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know my motto is, “It’s not about perfection, it’s about making better choices.”

My unofficial motto is probably, “Why dirty another dish?” Which we talked about in our smoothie post last week.

what do zero waste and minimalism have in common? #zerowaste #minimalism #sustainable #eco #gogreen

In case you missed it –you can freeze smoothies! But, this post isn’t about smoothies. It’s about minimalism.

What is minimalism?

Crazy – there’s no real definition.

I haven’t always been attuned to simplifying. Organization was something I craved, but I was very sentimental. A sentimental minimalist.

I adopted that name for myself several years ago. I love the idea of empty spaces but always felt disconnected because of my insane sentimental connection with things.

I did a lot of research on minimalism and was disheartened. I found most things to be very, very critical. “Oh, you have three shirts!?

You’re not a minimalist.”  “You own a TV!? You’re not a minimalist!” It became a numbers game. You can only have two spoons, three shirts, one book, and a plate.

I’ll always have too many wooden spoons, too many mason jars, and too many clothes. At the time, I had over 200 dresses ALONE. I would never be a minimalist.

But, minimalism isn’t about numbers – it’s about enough.

What’s enough?

Only you can decide. It’s individual. It’s much like my perception of zero waste. You’re never going to be perfect!

And, that’s OK.

We need to stop idealizing perfection. Because, even those beautiful, perfect pictures don’t always show reality. It’s one of the reasons, I wanted to start a blog. It’s one of the reasons I love my name!

I’m GOING zero waste. And, I will always be in the process of going. I will always be improving. I will never be perfect.

I want to be super transparent with you because I don’t want you to hold yourself up to an unrealistic expectation. It’s why I write posts about “What I Recycle,” and how to “Reduce Your Waste When You Don’t Have Bulk Options.”

It’s why I want to write posts about even smaller steps like, “What to do when you forget your reusable bags,” Or “How to Cut your Meat by 50%.”

I think we’re all just doing the best we can to make this place a little less wasteful. And, a part of zero waste is taking care of our things.

Minimalism and zero waste go hand in hand; because their core principles align.

core principles:

refuse

Refuse what you don’t need. We have to stop impulse shopping. In the heat of the moment, there’s pressure to buy something.

The first step is to remove yourself from the pressure. Don’t make any purchase immediately. Let 2-3 weeks pass and then ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you need it?
  • Will you use it more than once a week?
  • Does it serve more than one purpose?
  • Is it unique?
  • Will it enrich your life?                                                                                 

reduce

Clutter places unnecessary stress on our subconscious or conscious depending on your personality type. Organization isn’t the answer.

The answer is letting go of unnecessary stuff. Focus on the stuff you truly love, and donate the rest.

By having less stuff you have more time to focus on the stuff that matters. It’d be pretty impossible to keep up repairs on all 200 dresses.

But, by whittling that number down you can focus more on the ones you truly love.

You can make sure that you can focus your attention on keeping those items in the best shape possible.

repair

Now that your space if full of items you love, you’ll want to take care of them. You’ll want to make sure they stay in great shape!

You’re investing instead of buying into a throwaway culture. You’re no longer impulsively shopping; you’re curating.

This isn’t a short process. It takes a long time. I’ve been on this journey for over two years and I’m still not “complete.”

I don’t know if I’ll ever be complete. But, I am definitely getting there. Cleaning out, simplifying, and finding your “enough” is a journey.

In the future, I want to talk more about “enough,” about decluttering, and about simplifying life. My blog has become very “How to,” and while I love that aspect of it, I want room to address these important topics too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. Would you like reading more posts about minimalism and simplifying your life?

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  1. "You can only have two spoons, three shirts, one book, and a plate."

    REAL minimalists only have one spoon, and they wear an Apple watch, which doubles as a shirt, book, and plate.

    I kid. As much as I love the concept of minimalism, like you, I find that it gets REALLY prescriptive and gatekeeper-y fast. Finding my "enough" is taking time, and will take forever if I don’t stop shopping for fun…

    "Would you like reading more posts about minimalism and simplifying your life?"

    Definitely! I’m also curious about how your thought processes and perspectives changed between being a person with 200 dresses and today. When/how did you first consider changing your ways? How did you train yourself not to acquire so much stuff? Clothes are the biggest issue for me; having moved overseas three years ago and moved to a new apartment six months ago, I’m not tempted to stock up on much… clothes, though!

    Would you like reading more posts about minimalism and simplifying your life?

    1. This had me laughing so much! I will definitely write a post about the 200 dresses. You can read a little bit about it now with the post I linked on that text. It’s called "The Guilt of Stuff."

  2. Really interesting, as I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve seen lots of questions floating around on Facebook that go like "how many [items] can I have and still be considered minimalist?". Deprivation and arbitrary numbers are not the way to go – totally agree!

    My husband and my "enough" is barely enough to fill a studio apartment, but to hold everyone else to that standard is just silly!

    Wonderful post!

    1. Thanks Polly! This means so much. Yes, my boyfriend is what I like to call a modern baroqist. His enough and my enough are two totally different things. So, there’s still a lot of compromising on what our enough is together. Life is just full of compromise. Lol.

  3. Yes, please. All these articles and books about and from super-efficient minimalists with no extra blanket to cuddle in for warmth on the sofa make me shudder. It’s a question of "what is enough for me", isn’t it?
    I have recently read a lot on zero waste, minimalism, etc and had some very good insights from people like you (thank you for that). I also find that some of these people make me feel inadequate, whether that’s their intention or not. We tried toothpaste without plastic and found it a nuisance, thus reverted to tubes of paste. We tried soap instead of shower gel and shaving cream and sometimes shampoo, and love it – so that’s an easy one and we’ll keep it. I have wondered myself whether to blog about all that but for me it seems too personal and I do not want trolls haunting me. The fact that we still have a waste bin, still buy things rather than reuse other people’s stuff makes me less thank perfect but very human. So, I’ll keep struggling along and like to hear and read from others where they think it’s easy and where they struggle or fail.
    BTW: I buy new clothes because second hand here in Germany and in my little town does not provide me with the size I need. Online second hand seems to be all teenagers trying to sell off their cheap H&M stuff, which I don’t like and which does not fit a woman my size or age. So, I buy stuff from the online shop that has the best philosophy in fair trade and environmental treatment and that’s how I navigate my need and my desire to leave this earth as best I can.

    Cheers and thanks for your lovely videos and posts!

    1. I absolutely understand! You should check out my post about compromising. I talk about toothpaste. Several companies offer recycle programs through terracycle.

      I think what you’re doing about clothing is perfect! We aren’t all one size fits all in any department. You just keep doing you, and know that you’re doing the best you can – which is enough. If everyone in the world did what you’re doing, I bet we’d still see some AMAZING impacts. 🙂

  4. I can’t tell you how perfectly timed this post is.

    I just moved and was going through these thoughts, but the numbers thing just stressed me out! It was like that one day I tried counting calories, didn’t last long, and then I just got chocolate.

    I donated 5 car loads of stuff this year, each time consulting with my boyfriend if he was comfortable with that choice.

    The one thing I struggled with was dishes/cups. I wanted to be minimal, but then I thought about having a party, and not having enough plates/cups and then people resorting to disposables and that obviously didn’t sit well with me. So we use one set regularly and I kept the others for those occasions, I think it was a great compromise.

    Trying to live up to someone else’s standards is never personally sustainable.

    So thank you for your post! I love your relatable blog. It’s real and comforting.

    I am v

    1. Wow. That is an excellent analogy. I might just have to borrow that from you at some point. I absolutely understand. I love to entertain! And, it’s not practical for every day, but the moment you’re in the heat of the moment on Thanksgiving – you’ll need that extra mixing bowl.

      The intentions and ideas of minimalism/limiting our consumerism are MUCH more important than numbering our possessions.

  5. Great post! The other question I ask myself is "Is there something I already have that is good enough?" Seeking perfection, especially over things that don’t really matter, is a huge waste of time, money and a bad lesson for my kids.

    1. So very true! I still make mistakes like this. I fell in love with a beautiful second hand tan sweater that was on sale for $5. I just HAD to have it. Came home and realized I had a tan sweater. UGH. What a waste of $5. Do you know how many chocolate covered almonds I could have bought with $5. Sometimes I need to listen to my own advice. 😉

  6. It is so true ! It’s all about the "going", it’s the interesting and challenging part anyway. Being zero waste needs really strong habits, reflexes, being prepared to refuse or carry your own containers everywhere, and it definitely takes time to set up new habits when the whole world and big firms want you to be blind consumers.

    1. Yes, it does take time to change habits. But, once you’re in the habit, being wasteful vs. zero waste takes the same amount of time. I try to explain this to people, but they can’t grasp it until they go through it.

  7. I feel the same and I’m always happy (and relieved) when I discover people with the same approach as mine to minimalism & zero waste. Although I have drastically decluttered and reduced the number of things I own in two years, I sometimes feel bad because I still own a lot and I will probably do forever and I struggle with the "minimalist" label. I’m very sentimental about some things, specially books, crystals & stones (those last ones, I collect them in my favorite mountains, rivers & woods). Plus, I really dislike minimalist decor (I mean, the "standard minimalist" home you can find in magazines, so freezing cold for me). I follow a lot of minimalist bloggers that have helped me a lot in my process but I’ve never felt comfortable with owning a strict number of things. I like a lot more the "enough" approach. Anyway, I define myself much more as a person who is going zero waste (I love love love your blog’s name) rather than a minimalist, but they go hand in hand, as you said. I started my zero waste journey like six months ago (before, I recycled & used reusable shopping bags but not much more) & have found that minimalism is entering my life without any effort ever since, while I struggled with it before.

    Also, as a first time commenter here, I would like to express my love and gratitude for your blog. So useful and well-written. Big hug from a fellow "going zero waste" actress from Barcelona.

    1. I’m fine calling myself a minimalist, since it’s my consumer style. But, I’ll always have too many spoons.
      I LOOOOVE the white everything minimalist style, but my entire house is second hand. It’s really difficult to find that style second hand. So, my house does not meet that aesthetic at all. Which is fine because Justin really hates the all white aesthetic. It all worked out. 😉
      Thank you for commenting, and I’m giving you a big hug back! I hope to visit your beautiful city at some point in my life, maybe you can give me a few zero waste recommendations.

  8. Minimalism has definitely forced me to be more thoughtful, and if anything that is how I define it, to thoughtfully consume. I do my best to purchase second hand where I can find it, then to consider sustainably sourced, and if I must then I will purchase conventionally. I have stressed myself out so much trying to find the most environmentally friendly way to do things, and at one point I kept a list of every item I threw out or wasn’t able to compost, and that was so disheartening! I live in an area where I will likely not ever be able to be 100% zero waste, but focusing on that goal and on the things that I am able to do has lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. Finding your blog and seeing that you approach zero waste in the same way is refreshing and helps me to feel fortified in my resolve to continue to do the best I can.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. This is great! I love the description of yourself as a "sentimental minimalist." It’s crazy how hard some things are to get rid of because of the memories they evoke. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with these things. You’re right about it being a journey and you can learn a lot about yourself "curating" your perfect amount of stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I would like to ask a few more questions about how to realistically achieve zero waste and minimalism, especially in the kitchen. I live overseas and REGULARLY have other families to eat a meal. We also host a small group every week where where I have 15-20 (with the kids) that eat snacks. It’s not formal but we need plates, forks, and of course cups. I don’t want to resort to disposibles since there are no fancy compostable ones available. Glass and jelly jars don’t stack well, which leaves plastic cups, (which I also don’t have enough of) and then washing out disposibles which is what I’m doing now, and only throwing them away when they are squashed. Any tips or hints for hosting a crowd, without cluttering up the cupboards? Thanks

    1. Also, for the cups and silverware dilema, i keep all mine in quart jar boxes. Each box hold 18 jars/cups and it helps keep them contained and stored away nicely when they arent in use. You could do something similar with silverware! When i first moved into my now husbands apartment, it had very little storage space in the kitchen (only the cupboards and cabinets above and below the sink) but we have a tiny area for a table too, so i put up 3 floor to ceiling bookshelves to maximize our storage space. Its a little more crowded now because of it, but now everything is much easier to get at when needed and is not just piled in the corner in the boxes they were purchased in originally.

    2. It sounds like you need those dishes since you entertain often. Minimalism isn’t a strict set of numbers it’s about living with what you need. You could always ask people to bring dishes with them too since this sounds like a regular group. I also don’t think having 15-20 dishes sounds like a lot. I have a set of 12.

  11. Hi, I just wanted to say that I find your posts very useful I am new to this so I am trying to learn as much as I can, I have always recycled and lived minimally but I feel is time to do more , I just wanted to say that my toddler has noticed he is only 4 but he asked me which bin he should put his yogurt pot in.