I’ve got something a bit different to share with you all today. I’ve spent a lot of time on the blog thus far dedicated to telling you about products or brands that I love to use who are also trying to do something good in the world, and I still love doing that. But I wanted to share something a little more personal today, and I guess as time continues to go on I’d like to intersperse the more practical stuff of ‘buy here instead of here’ or ‘look how awesome this idea is’ with some more personal essays about what I’m learning and discovering along the way. I hope you guys enjoy! This has been on my mind for a little while now, and I felt like now would be a good time to share it.
So, the biggest area of discovery for me within my ethical journey so far is that it has really made me reconsider the value of every possession I have. Not just monetary value but what it means to me and what purpose it serves in my life. There are so many material goods in our day to day world that we take for granted or assume are necessary just because it’s the norm that everyone else has them. A good example? Plastic. When I would go food shopping in the pre-ethical days I would put loose fruit and veg in those little plastic bags because everyone else did; I assumed this was some sort of unwritten rule and I never even thought about it. I remember the first time I stopped doing this, as I put my loose fruit on the conveyor belt, apples rolling all over the place, I almost felt embarrassed. But why? I was actually doing a good thing for the environment, but I felt like I’d broken the rules. Like I’d broken some sort of social code, even though this code isn’t a real thing. Since the 5p charge came in for general plastic bags in supermarkets, I’ve really seen a change in peoples relationship to an object that was always just a given. Yeah, bags for life were around and some people were using them, but a lot of people would just get the plastic bag because that’s just what you do isn’t it. Suddenly those bags cost 5p, a teeny tiny amount, but everything changed. The bag suddenly had value, and that value was going to be taken away from its rightful owner. These days, I see people using canvas totes all the time for their shopping, I’ve seen people who’ve left the house go fully out of their way to head back and get their lifelong bags, in the pre-unicorn days I found myself walking home with armfuls of food instead of getting a bag. And all just to avoid 5p. It seems stupid right, but as a culture in the UK we had a perspective shift, and it has impacted our actions. 5p is not a large amount, but value is still value, and value still affects us. And so we’ve rewritten the unwritten rules.
What does this have to do with anything? Well I’m moving house at the moment, so I’ve been packing up all of my possessions. And I can tell you, there’s nothing like boxing up your entire life to make you reevaluate every single thing you own. You have to hold it in your own hands, decide how to categorise it and pack it accordingly. And you know what I’ve done? I’ve gotten rid of 5 boxes worth of stuff. FIVE BOXES. (when I say get rid I mean it’s gone to various charity shops, friends and family don’t you worry. NO landfill) I live in London, where have I even had the space to store all these things?! I’ve lived in my place for two years, and now in preparing to leave it’s been a real eye opener into how easy it is to just accumulate stuff without even realising. We live in a materialistic world, and I wouldn’t even class myself as hugely ‘stuff’ driven anyway! I’ve always put my money into travel over shopping, but still I’ve managed to accumulate things. Of course this has always been the case, but now I’ve had a perspective shift, and I can’t unsee it. I’m determined to move away from this materialistic perspective. I want minimal living and I want every item in my life/home to have an intrinsic value to me. Yes, some of this may be sentimental or aesthetic, but I don’t want to mindlessly accumulate any more.
And so here are the steps I’ve laid out for myself, with absolutely no scientific backing but just ideas from my own brain space, about creating and maintaining minimal living.
I’ve already tackled this in the moving process, but I’ve also tried to be conscientious in what I’ve given away. Things have gone to charity shops yes, but try and spread them around so that each shop has an intake they can deal with and aren’t overrun. Also, as much as possible I’ve tried to give things away to specific people in my life that would make use of them or enjoy them when I just can’t. Books, dvds, jewellery, all kinds of things accumulate. But do you have a friend who would like to read/watch that, or someone who that item would just really suit? Then give it to them if you don’t need or really want it! Don’t hold on to something because ‘ooh maybe some day I’ll want that’. Nope. Be brutal with yourself, because you actually won’t miss it. And you also get the added joy of giving someone a spontaneous present that you really did think about. It makes them and you feel good, why wouldn’t you want that?
Ok this is a biggie for me. So much of the random stuff were gifts people had gotten me for Christmas or birthdays that didn’t really serve a lot of purpose. You know, cutesy things that people see around that are just kind of presents but not really functioning things? Stocking filler stuff. I’m the only granddaughter on my dads side, so I get so much like this for Christmas. But how is my grandma meant to know any better if I don’t help her? Make lists. Find things of similar cost that are eco friendly, ethical or that you’ll actually use. It’s all good to reuse reduce and recycle in your own life but you have to help others get on your level. You can’t just expect them to accommodate you, help them to understand and make them part of it. Some ideas of things that are cute but far more ethical: lush face masks/beauty treatments (recycled and recyclable packaging, expendable product that doesn’t permanently take up residence in your home), experiences over objects (instead of buying me something for £60, why not take me to a theme park? wink wink), vouchers for ethical stores over items but choose what you’ll buy with them with the person who got them for you, tickets to plays/workshops/talks/exhibitions, subscriptions to things (if someone paid for my spotify account that would be a dream come true), lessons for a new skill, things to help you be more ethical (for example nice fabrics and a sewing kit so I can learn to upcycle clothes). Christmas is far away so I have a long time to add more to this…
Is It Necessary?
Now that I’ve downsized my possessions I’m determined not to let them increase again. My perspective changed a long time ago when it came to things like clothes, when I walk past high street stores I don’t even look in now because I ruled them out for myself. I don’t want to go in and just buy random things because they’re cute, if I want an item of clothing I want to think about what I want, find an ethical provider and then make a good informed choice, which means buying something of quality and longevity, something flexible and chic that can be worn with lots of other items. I’m probably never going to be a capsule wardrobe person, but I want to have a wardrobe that is curated instead of mindless, and will therefore be more thoughtful overall, with everything in there being something I really value. The same goes for homeware and anything else. I don’t just want to buy something because I see it and spur of the moment get it, I want to think about and curate my life. Being mindful and minimal of my possessions helps me clear my own mind, I’ve felt that as I’ve downsized, so let’s keep it that way.
The ‘It’s Free’ Lie
Francesca. Get over it. There are so many things I’ve just taken because they were free. I recently got offered a free jacket with my job, past me would’ve thought ‘oh cool free jacket, sign me up!’ New me asked where the jacket came from. The store in question manufactures their clothes in Bangladesh, so I said no. Just because something’s free, that doesn’t mean I’m getting some sort of ‘good deal’ on it, especially if I didn’t need it to begin with. Don’t get crazy excited about having something without paying for it if it’s not something you actually needed or wanted in the first place. Especially if it’s an item you had literally never thought about until the option of a free one came up. Think about it, what will it add to your life? What is its value to you? If it’s something really important to you and you’ve got a chance to have it for free, awesome. If it’s not, GET OVER IT.
These are all of my thoughts for now, I’m sure this list will grow longer as time goes on. But going forward I’m determined to avoid mindless materialism in my life and go for thoughtful minimalism instead. Tidy life, tidy mind. Or at least for me anyway. Do you have any tips for minimal living? Let me know! I sure could use them. Hope you enjoyed this slightly different style and until next time, stay magic y’all.
Hanye Chest (@heltwit)
Fran – moving to Melbourne I did exactly the same!! I had been planning on downsizing and living a minimalist lifestyle but getting a shoebox apartment has meant I had to live by that! *kindred spirits*