We live in an era of trendy minimalism. The less stuff we have, the better. It’s an elite status symbol to “Marie-Kondo” your home. After all, the love of possessions might be the downfall of our modern society.
I almost agree.
You can call it “materialism,” “consumerism” or just plain old fashion “hoarding,” but either way, the Western lifestyle that culminates in the gross amassing of stuff probably doesn’t lead to true happiness.
Theoretically, the key is to detach from our possessions and downsize. Trust me, I love a good purge. I definitely own too much junk and it can feel fantastic to organize and haul out the rejects in jumbo-sized trash bags!
The hypothesis is that the love of material goods leads to the dark side, and if we didn’t love the material world, we could become post-consumerism Jedi.
That hypothesis is off the mark. The answer to consumerism is not a total detachment from the material. The answer is learning to actually love and appreciate the things we have right now.
Nobody really loves anything anymore; we love the act of possessing. We don’t love the things we have, we just love having things. That thrill I feel when I buy a new book? It wears off. Then I need to buy a new one to recreate that rush of dopamine. Like a kid who only likes shiny, new toys, we quickly lose interest in our new possessions.
Perhaps the trick to true minimalism is to buy thoughtfully, tend carefully and reuse creatively. By taking better care of our stuff, we can reduce our environmental footprint.
Think before you buy
Loving what you have begins with what you choose to buy. Fast fashion doesn’t last because it’s not meant to. Many cheap clothing brands are meant to be worn for a season and tossed in the garbage. Consider purchasing clothing that is made to last — you might spend more upfront, but the product doesn’t fall apart after the third wear. If it’s out of your price range, try buying second-hand online from the comfort of your couch!
Consider buying clothing from companies dedicated to fair trade and ethical sourcing (like ABLE, a social enterprise). Give a little extra thought into the impact the fashion industry has on the rest of the world. You can use your purchases to make the world a better place.
Don’t toss it, fix it
My gut reaction when something I own is ruined is to throw it away! I’d put that broken end table on the curb, and chances are, it would be gone by sundown! Stained shirt? Chunk it in the trash.
But there is a better way. With a few simple tricks, you can mend what you have and keep it longer.
Knowing a good tailor (or just a friend with a sewing machine) can keep your clothes wearable for the long-haul. Check the inseam of clothes when you buy them. Can you let out your favorite jeans if you need extra room? Would it be easy to take in the waist of that skirt when you hit your weight goal?
Stains can be removed easily if you have the right tools. You don’t always need expensive cleaners, though they may come in handy. As an art teacher, I have found that dish soap can remove some of the most sinful stains. Rub it in and let it soak before washing. For ink stains, a good dousing of hairspray does the trick. Grease stains can be removed with a baking soda and dish soap combo! Let it air dry after washing and repeat if necessary.
My not-so-handy self has even learned a thing or two about furniture repair. That table with the broken leg? Add new screws and some wood glue. Dining room chairs can easily be revamped by just replacing the seat cover or touching up the paint. Challenge yourself to repair before you replace.
Rethink the Purpose
You can give your possessions a new life by giving them a new use! Old books make great keepsake boxes if you cut out a section of the center pages. I’ve seen old fences turned into headboards, jars into light fixtures and bottles into yard decorations.
It's also helpful to remind myself that not everything has to be beautiful to be functional. We may fall into the trap of buying something new because we have gotten bored with the old. Challenge yourself to consider whether an item serves a purpose! “Outdated” doesn’t mean “sidelined.”
Sometimes, we have no choice but to toss things in the trash. So consider how you throw something away before you just chunk it. More items are recyclable than you might think (even carpet!). Depending on your location, you may be able to find a non-profit that refurbishes old material into household goods. I feel better about giving away my stuff when I know it's not just going to rot in a landfill.
Trendy minimalism doesn’t work, because it focuses on throwing away our excess. It doesn’t get to the root cause of our excessive shopping. Small changes though, can make an impact. If we slowly change our shopping habits, maybe we can love what we already have and give a little more love to planet earth.