As a “growing minimalist,” I’m becoming more and more conscious of what I bring into my personal space on a regular basis. In turn, it has made me more aware of money — what I spend, what I save, where my dollars are actually going. Discerning the best choices for budget, sustainability, and my ultimate happiness has been a learning curve.
But there are still plenty of areas in my life that don’t necessarily fall under the minimalist ideal.
Over the course of the next year, I hope to improve on where I’m still being wasteful, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be cutting everything out of my life cold turkey.
I will never not own physical books. A love of books was deeply rooted in my childhood; the feel of a book in my hand, that soft snap of a turning page, the smell of ink takes me right back to the days when I could sit for hours uninterrupted and get lost in a story. Books are my happy place. Since the heart of minimalism is surrounding yourself with things you love, I don’t feel guilty for buying my beloved paperbacks.
However, I’ve thrown a ridiculous amount of money into books… Books I loved; hated; felt pressured to buy because everyone was talking about them. Books that still sit on my shelves, years later, untouched.
Solution: Over the past year and a half, I donated/sold a little less than half my books. Creating a new mindset towards books is key for me. My stipulation is to read one unread book on my shelf before buying a new one, and then only buying a new book if I intend to read it right away. Accumulating books that serve no purpose but to sit, unread and unloved, is not only wasteful but fills my room with restless vibes.
Anyone else a stationary addict? A fresh notebook is on par with a new book; a beautiful cover, soft, thick pages, and a flat spine are my true loves. However, I have a habit of collecting notebooks and a) never using them, or b) filling half the pages before moving on.
Solution: I tend to avoid using a nice notebook because I want to make sure it’s used for something special. (Yes, I’m one of those notebook fanatics.) So, I intend to use up every notebook I currently own. When the time comes to buy a new notebook out of necessity, I’ll be forced to use it right away. This way I am associating functionality with something I’ve always used to treat myself, increasing my practice of gratitude and reducing a wasteful habit.
3. HAIR PRODUCTS
I’m slowly transitioning my toiletries to non-toxic and zero waste. One area I’m still lax on is hair care. Over the past two years I’ve consistently dyed my hair, used shampoos that are sulfate-free but not necessarily toxic-free, and, due to a pixie cut I had been maintaining, bought more hair products than usual.
Solution: I’ve grown to love experimenting with my hair style and color. But I also know this is an area of waste and toxicity. I’ve already made a first step and cancelled an appointment to color my hair before the holidays; it pained me, but I’m really happy I did it (and so is my bank account, FYI). If I do dye my hair in the future, I plan to try out some all-natural Henna brands. Thankfully, my momma blessed me with great hair, so now that my hair is longer I don’t need extra product. But I hope to find a completely non-toxic shampoo — I’ve been eyeing shampoo bars.
4. FEMININE PRODUCTS
Yup, this is here. About 3.8 billion people menstruate. So, listen up.
My research on menstrual products has horrified me. Everyone — including men — should be aware of the dangerous toxins women expose themselves to on a monthly basis. The toxins found in plastic tampons and pads contribute to hormone disruption, cancer risk, immune and digestive disorders, and can affect fertility (and this is what we wear during a monthly process for the purpose of carrying babies…).
It’s also estimated women use around 15,000 period products in their lifetime, and some of those products don’t decompose — and if they do, it can take up to 800 years. That pad you used on your very first period? Yeah, that thing is still out there.
Solution: Menstrual products are expensive and high contributors of toxic waste and environmental damage (check out this awesome graphic from DivaCup). People are waking up and developing amazing products such as cloth pads, menstrual cups, and period underwear that cut down on waste and toxins; and they just so happen to fit in well with a minimalist lifestyle. I aim to be completely toxic- and waste-free in this area by the end of 2019.
I’m not talking about subscriptions you buy with money, such as monthly product boxes or Netflix. I’m thinking more along the lines of email subscriptions we constantly buy into. It used to be the holidays were the worst time of year for this, but now it’s a constant bombardment — sign up for newsletters to receive a coupon code, subscriptions to gain access to a free download, promotional emails to always know when the best sale is.
Solution: Stop. This simple action is a must when moving over to minimalism. Trying to cut down on unnecessary budget spending was impossible when I signed up for newsletters, always being drawn in by sales for things I simply didn’t need. If I need a product, I will buy the product, and look for sales then. It may require a little more saving, but who knows — by holding off, I may find I forget about what I “needed” only a couple of weeks ago. Besides, why should I be tempted to spend money on an item I wouldn’t buy full-price in the first place?
6. HOLIDAY TREATS
Speaking of holiday sales, I can get into festive consumerism. Christmas especially puts me in the mood to buy specialty items that look pretty for 30 days and are then packed away — a checkered plaid blanket, a seasonal pillow, the perfect nail polish for Christmas day, a knickknack decoration, etc.
Solution: I did better this year than I have in the past…but I have a sneaking suspicion that’s only because I didn’t have the budget to go crazy. I eyed many a glittery nail polish and holiday mug. But this year has taught me I don’t need the extra glitz to make the holiday special. I’ve enjoyed experiences rather than sales, stretched my mind by creating decor using items I already owned, and concentrated on supporting small businesses for the gifts I did purchase. Focusing on a budget and giving back this season has made me happier and less stressed. I hope to carry out some of these new traditions in the holidays to come.
I am so torn over this category. I have quite a few CD’s, even more DVD’s. Honestly? I love seeing the look of cases lined up. Growing up, we were big TV watchers in my family (who am I kidding, we still are). I’m not sure if it’s a nostalgia thing, or maybe an OCD thing (DVD cases are so straight…so clean…you can color match or order by genre or alphabetical order…it’s just fun, okay?)
But cases do take up a lot of space that could be used for other things — or simply kept clean and open. And in a world where we have Netflix, Prime, Red Box, Spotify, and YouTube, buying physical DVD’s and CD’s is hardly necessary anymore.
Solution: I can’t promise to get rid of all my cases. But I do have a CD holder that would be perfect for storing at least all the CD’s and DVD’s I don’t watch as often as some go-to favorites. My Netflix watch list is even longer than this post, and I’m making it a goal to through that before I buy any more physical DVD’s.
8. LOW QUALITY/UNNECESSARY CLOTHING
In my first post on minimalism I mentioned I was a shopaholic. I’m hit from both sides: I’m a savvy online shopper and I love shopping in-store. Once I was buying so much online I had all the details to my debit card memorized; and while I don’t find myself shopping in-store quite as frequently, it’s very easy to walk out with something. Dropping a minimum $75 on cheap clothing at TJ MAXX during a shopping spree with friends is all too common.
The list of reasons I’ve bought bad quality clothing over the years goes on and on. My feet are small, so anytime the shoe fits, I feel obligated to buy it. Living in a cold climate, amassing 10 jackets/coats is far too easy. I base my buys off of feeling, not durability or functionality. (That graphic t-shirt of Belle when the new Beauty and the Beast movie came out last year? Probably better to smile and walk away rather than bring home. It turned into a sleep shirt, by the way…that I never wear).
Solution: In addition to building a minimalist wardrobe, I want to start buying ethical, sustainable clothing made from non-toxic resources. I won’t sugar-coat it — buying from ethical brands means spending an average of $20 for a basic tee than the common $4.99. The initial cost can hurt for a second, but this practice teaches me money-saving and budget values. I’ll be reducing toxins that come into contact with my skin. And spending $75 on ONE item good for ten+ years rather than on eight that last one year will save me money.
What About You?
I know there are other areas of waste in my life, whether I perceive them yet or not, but these jumped to the front when writing this post. Did you recognize any wasteful areas in your life while reading this post? Let me know in the comments!