What's poppin' you good people! We are Priscilla and Pat the Emperor penguins..true royalty right here! Where we live, waaay down south in Antarctica, it can get reeeaaally chilly, like -40 °C! Now you might think we need lots of clothes and jackets to survive these harsh conditions but guess what, we're the ultimate minimalists and own zero items. We have our warm and waterproof feathers as well as some blubber to keep us insulated and we loooove to use simple and effective solutions like huddling together for extra warmth, it really does work!
We're here to convince you that living with less is absolutely possible and so very important for the future of our planet. If you haven't yet seen it, watch this pretty cool documentary about us: March of the Penguins. But before you waddle off, listen up to how a minimalist mindset could help you live simply, just like us!
Minimalism is the perfect antidote to our consumerist culture of 'more', which can often lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed out by the amount of stuff we've accumulated. This definitely applies to us! We first came across the lifestyle concept when watching the film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, which has become very popular and watched by millions of people. It motivated us to re-evaluate our lifestyle and the possessions we had accumulated over the years.
What is minimalism?
While there is no one universal definition, we define it as: A mindset to live responsibly with only the possessions you really need and value, by freeing yourself from the non-essential distractions and compulsive consumption habits of modern day life.
The advantages of minimising possessions and reducing consumption are wide-ranging and differ depending on everyone's unique set of circumstances and livelihoods. Summarised below are the main benefits that we have found to be true and which seem to resonate with many other people pursuing a minimalist approach.
Where do I start?
A good resource to begin the journey towards minimalism, is the well-known book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which includes a step-by-step approach on how to confront belongings and start decluttering. The main criteria for deciding whether to keep or let go of any given item is "does it spark joy" which for the most part results in keeping only things you actually love (and in some cases need). There are of course some exceptions, such as document organisation, for which the book offers practical and simple solutions. By decluttering and only keeping the essentials and items we enjoy, we free ourselves from the burden and stress of owning and being surrounded by too much stuff. It's a satisfying and liberating experience once you are done!
The book the The Paradox of Choice talks about the paralysis rather than the liberation of too much choice in modern, affluent western societies. The book offers some excellent tips on how to reduce decision fatigue and how to deal with the constant overwhelming stress of too much choice which drives unhappiness and dissatisfaction. The corresponding TED talk by the author Barry Schwartz provides and excellent overview.
Personally, we still have a way to go toward fully embracing minimalism and living clutter-free. However, the core principles of being satisfied with less and resisting the vicious circle of compulsive consumerism have allowed us to appreciate what we already have much more and reduce our consumption significantly. Minimalism has enabled us to spend more valuable time doing the things we enjoy with family and friends and less time on unfulfilling activities such as researching and looking for things to buy on websites.
Mindful & ethical consumption
Where do the products we consume actually come from? How are they made and where do the profits end up? Historically the answers to such questions have not been easily accessible or purposely hidden from the consumer. Nowadays, with the ever increasing availability of information and the quest for transparency, it's becoming easier to shed light on the truth. We as consumers must take responsibility to understand the ethics and fairness as well as the ecological impact of our purchases before we buy a product or service. The short film, The Story of Stuff provides an eye-opening overview on the lifecycle of material goods.
An example is clothing, one of the areas where people consume and waste the most. The film The True Cost opened up our eyes to the dark side of the fashion industry and the shameful exploitation of the underpaid textile workers, many of whom are young mothers, working 14-hour days in unsafe and inhumane conditions, rarely seeing their children and families. The toxic pollution created by fabric dyes and leather tanning agents, which leak into the waterways, causes serious illnesses and mortality among the most vulnerable communities. We decided that no 'bargain' t-shirt, dress, jumper or bag from the fast-fashion industry is worth this terrible inequality and now, when we do purchase clothing, it's mainly second hand or from brands that produce in ethical, sustainable, and fair ways.
There are more and more alternatives to newly purchased fast fashion items and most excuses for continuing to buy them (mainly cost and convenience) can be invalidated. Buying second hand is generally much more affordable than buying new and ethical brands are becoming more widespread and accessible. There are many fair fashion platforms and advocates such as Fashion Revolution, dariadaria, and Safia Minney to draw inspiration from. So the next time you are tempted to buy something new, check out your local second hand markets, swap between friends and family and repair/refashion what you already own!
Minimalism & waste reduction
One aspect of minimalism not talked about often, is the degree of conflict that exists between reducing possessions and waste reduction, at least in the initial stage when we are eager to get rid of stuff.
The important message to remember is not to just throw things "away" and forget about them. All waste has to go somewhere and throwing everything into a waste bin is not the solution. Landfills are toxic and hazardous sites where waste remains buried for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years, causing serious environmental issues such as air pollution and land contamination.
We MUST radically change the way we view waste in our society by becoming aware and individually accountable for our personal waste. By following the principles of the 7Rs (visit Terrence the Turtle in the Reduce Waste section) when minimising our possessions, it's entirely possible to reduce responsibly and significantly lower our ecological footprint.
Much of our waste can be reused or repurposed creatively before being discarded. By adopting the mindset of both minimalism and conscious waste reduction into our daily lives, we can begin to reduce our consumption, clean up the planet and implement a new philosophy that mimics the natural recycling processes we see in nature. We owe it to our own health, all the wildlife on earth and to the future generations to ensure they have clean land, sea, air, fresh water and wildlife around for generations to come.
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