What small changes could you make this year to be a little more ethical and mindful of your purchases? I must admit, this recent trend in minimalism certainly helps, but when many people start their more minimalistic way of living by de-cluttering (read - throwing out all of the perfectly good possessions they already have), and starting their new minimalist lives (read - buying new things which are more streamlined and simplistic in their Scandinavian design), I get a bit annoyed by it all.
Don't get me wrong, I am all for a life of minimal possessions, but for me this centers less on the aesthetic of my home and the clearing of my headspace, and more on the influence this minimalism can have on the practice of ethical purchasing and greatly reducing how many resources we actually consume in our lives. In the spirit of that sentiment, here is the change I have set myself for the year;
Every time I find myself thinking "Oh I need this, or that. New undies, a new saucepan, a bucket, a scarf, new winter shoes". Anything at all really. I put it on a list with a date next to it. I then see if I can manage for the next month without it. Do I already have something that will work just as well? Do I really need that thing? In the space of that month, who knows what else I will find to use, or find I can actually do without. At the end of that month I look at my list again - have I found a substitute that I already had, did I actually manage without that item? If so, can It perhaps wait another month?
I have gone for 3 years now without buying new winter shoes. At the beginning of winter I start thinking about getting some. I apply my one month rule and by mid winter I realise I am halfway through winter and the pair I have are just fine. Besides, winter is half over now, why bother buying more when it will be spring soon. And so 3 years have passed with the same shoes.
If not though, if I really did find life quite hard without that saucepan or bucket or pair of shoes, then i'll move to plan B; can I borrow it, make it, or can I find it secondhand? When it comes to clothes or all things sewn I am more than happy to try my hand at the making. Many other things though are out of my making league, and so, to the op shops or gumtree I go to see if I can buy my things pre-loved.
I find that on this journey, around 80% of my purchases are over by this point. I have either discovered that I can continue on just fine without the item or I have borrowed it, or found it second hand. If however after all of that, I discover I really do have the need for this thing in my life, then my last stop on the journey of more mindful purchasing is to look around for companies who produce what I am after, locally and/or ethically and using sustainable materials. Yes it is often more expensive to purchase things that are produced this way but you know what, if 80% of my purchasing needs have been fulfilled by making do with what I have, borrowing or purchasing second hand, then for those few items I really do need to buy new, I can afford to pay that higher price to get something produced fairly, and something that will stand the test of time.
So this is the task I have set myself, and like anything, it is one that I find easier to follow the more I practice. Again, like anything, the challenges we set ourselves on this quest for consuming less are as unique and different as we are. I would love to hear how you are changing your behaviour and your habits to be a bit more mindful of your purchases. As with many things, we get our best ideas when we hear of other peoples inspiring tips and journeys, so please share yours below and see if you can inspire another person to make some small changes!
Ps. this wonderful pyramid was designed by Sarah Lazarovic. For more information, check out her wonderful website.