The art of minimalism has been around for centuries. Many throughout the years have espoused the idea of owning less, thereby wasting less, and living a life based on accomplishment, emotions, and interactions—not things. In today’s world of capitalist excess, the notion of minimalism has essentially disappeared for most people. In this strange minimal existence, the idea is to possess less than 100 things at any time. Most humans realize—along with anyone who has ever hired a moving truck—that this is a shockingly, almost impossible, number to embrace. The majority of folks have 100 items just in storage alone. But what if the idea of minimalism could be resurrected as a way to face our waste-ridden lives and help the planet? Perhaps it would be more appealing—and perhaps even possible.
Being a minimalist doesn’t require you to live in off the grid in an animal-skin yurt or store your entire wardrobe in one hemp bag. Being a minimalist is a mindset. It’s about living with less while still finding tremendous peace and happiness. In this world of combusting phones, would this really be such a bad thing? Being a minimalist means ridding yourself of excess in favor of focusing on what’s really important. Is it possible that our personal joy could be related to something grander than how many shoes we own? Even more importantly, by embracing the idea of less everything, we may empower ourselves to find a healthy way of living for both the world and ourselves. Because when we have less, especially of those things we don’t really need, we waste less and frankly, have to worry about less. In that way, being a minimalist is not about deprivation, it’s about freedom—the freedom to rid ourselves of the worry, guilt, and burden of too much stuff.
In the world of waste management, we are always trying to find solutions to a problem that just keeps growing. The art of minimalism has the ability to address this effort at the very root of the problem. Rather than considering how exactly we can handle the massive amounts of sheer garbage we are generating every day, we might begin to think about it on a more conceptual and personal level. How can we stop owning and consuming all these things in the first place? Minimalism provides an answer to this. By freeing ourselves from the trappings of the consumer culture, we give ourselves a gift unlike any other—liberation from the toxicity of too much everything.
As we all know, what sits at the heart of any waste management solution is consciousness. If we are not aware of what we do, how can we change it? Being mindful and noticing our own behavior (and how it affects the planet) are key to being an eco-conscious and responsible human. Minimalism fits quite conveniently into this model, as it allows us to make decisions more deliberately. Thinking about what you really need before acting lends itself to owning and using less, as the answer is often one we don’t expect. Of course, there will always be things we just want because we want them, and that’s okay. Being minimal doesn’t mean saying no to everything and embracing of life without. It just means giving each decision to buy clothes, decorations, or packaged food the right amount of energy. Think before doing, and the world will be a better place.
Those who have embraced the notion find they have more time, money, creativity, and joy, all while cultivating a clear mission in life filled with real purpose. When looking at a landfill, it’s easy to see broken-down efforts of happiness from the past—broken toys, old books, and discarded furniture. These deteriorating items are the emblems of a life lived and then discarded. Is it possible the same life could have been lived just as well without so much trash left behind? In this way, the search for happiness and comfort must happen not through things, but through the process of life itself. What is necessary and what is not? That essential question could quite possibly be the only one capable of saving future generations from the wasteful mistakes of their forefathers.