PODCAST How To Be A Minimalist [The Sustainable Way] | A Defying Space Podcast
1| The Problem
3| What’s Going Out?
4| What’s Coming In?
INTRO Have you ever wondered how you can make living sustainably more efficient? It’s often the harder way of doing things, let’s be honest. By focusing on the Zero Waste movement alongside Minimalist ideals, I’m going to explore the ways both of these lifestyles support each other, as well as some of the aspects of each that are a little harder to reconcile. So the objective here, in a nutshell, is to explore the idea of a more responsible Minimalism and merge that with a rewarding sustainable lifestyle, but one which doesn’t compromise the sense of wellbeing that the simplicity of Minimalism promotes. There’s a sweet spot that when the two are combined, provide an achievable balance that will essentially alter the way you perceive and interact with the world. Intrigued? Listen on…I’m Nash and this is How To Be A Minimalist (The Sustainable Way).
EPISODE 5: OUTCOMES
Hi everyone, thank you for joining me today. I’m Nash, self-confessed minimalist and sustainability bod behind the @defyingspace
Instagram account. This is the place where I’ll be sharing accessible actionable content to support your own journeys.
By way of an overview, this series is divided into 5 episodes, each representing a step in a journey in which minimalism can help you live more sustainably. They are designed to be listened to in order as what I’m presenting is a systematic way to make both of these compatible but often competing concepts work for you without having a detrimental impact on the environment. Make sure you hit subscribe to be notified of the next episode in the series.
In the last episode, I shared some ways you can stem the flow of anything superfluous coming into your home. It’s the point at which you will have started to feel like you have some control over things. This episode discusses some of the issues around these lifestyles, and also brings together what we’ve learned about combining sustainability and minimalism overall. Despite the occasional disparity between them, they’re a pretty great model for modern living. What I hope I’ve demonstrated is that this particular combination has the potential to provide an accessible and flexible set of positive outcomes for everyone, if approached with an enthusiastic mindset and realistic goals. This, I hope, has been a journey of self-discovery. Finding out who you are, and what your core values are are the most surprising and rewarding parts of taking a project like this on. By getting to the bottom of what makes you you, what lights you up and motivates you, you are giving yourself the best chance of success, meaning that going forward you can put them front and centre of everything you do. Being mindful of all of these things is the foundation for living intentionally. Of being really tuned into the world and the way things are made. Of systems, good and bad and everything in between. And accepting your place as a consumer and using that responsibly. Taking on all of that information can initially feel quite overwhelming, but you will become more discerning overall and it will become second nature to you as you learn and practice more.
So many of the lessons in this podcast are about acknowledging the imperfections and the hardships we go through, our disadvantages as well as our privilege. By facing up to them, only then can we move forward and work with them rather than fighting against them or ignoring them completely. It’s about holding yourself accountable, but also being kind to yourself. It’s about seeing the world in all its nuance. Accept that habit change takes time and that it’s normal and okay to feel overwhelmed, but use that to feel empowered rather than powerless. Feel the responsibility and use it gently to inspire others.
I spoke earlier in the series about the internet democratising things, such as information, access to ethical companies or second-hand goods and competitive prices. It’s given us ways of connecting with people from far and wide. The means to make this podcast! But communications technology hasn’t simplified our lives in the way we thought it might. Instead of giving many of us more free time, it’s meant squeezing more in. There’s more work to do, more balls in the air to juggle. It’s why more and more of us are turning to mindfulness and slow living and yes, even minimalism to tune out the noise and start living more intentionally. Burnout is a very real issue for many these days. Attendeeism has become the dominant workplace culture, where putting the hours in is more important even than the quality of the work you output. Leisure time is scarce, yet also coupled with Fear Of Missing Out. Many of us too have become what Emma Gannon
calls a multi-hyphenate, taking on multiple jobs, or freelancing for a portion of our time, something that many of us have embraced in response to a precarious job market as well as being an outlet for testing out the viability of passion projects. All of this is to say, now more than ever, we are expected to be all things to all people. And Minimalism is somewhere between an antidote and a facilitator to that. Having a more efficient home is the least we can do for ourselves to improve the quality of our lives from the ground up. That clarity will give you breathing space and allow you to focus on where your attention needs to be, giving you the confidence to discard what is not serving you, whether that is material possessions or other life choices that have been weighing heavy on you. It’s amazing—but not surprising— how quickly things like our ethics or morals can go out of the window once we get too busy. And we need to make room for those things.
I think most of us are familiar with the feeling of just trying to keep our heads above water, whether that’s from our responsibilities, workload, financial strain. And its why I advocate for minimalism. It’s not posturing about having less when others don’t have a choice. It’s about only taking what you need. It’s about having a low impact on the earth’s resources. It’s about saving money, supporting circular economies, and being mindful about who or what you support financially. Spending less in one area of your life can mean redistributing your own wealth to support another area that means a lot to you.
Give up the fast fashion, and go for quality preloved items at a fraction of the price, or buy fewer ethically made items. Accept your limitations in some of these areas, but even just being aware of the issues even if you’re not quite in a place to tackle them yet is hugely empowering. Reclaim your power as a consumer. If location or budgeting are issues, continue to use what is available to you, but use your voice for free, and challenge those companies to do better using social media and customer services. And talk to your local vendors about alternatives they may not be aware of (though take into account they too have costs to keep down). And just as important as giving constructive criticism is to use your voice to give praise to companies and individuals who are doing a great job. Shout about them on social media and recommend them. Talk about sustainable swaps you’ve made in general conversation. Normalizing these things—and not being pushy I think here is key—is a great way to get those around you intrigued and excited about trying things themselves. And broaden the scope of the benefits beyond our own motivators. Reusable coffee cups saving you money? That may inspire someone who isn’t necessarily environmentally focussed for instance. And if you really struggle to have those conversations, you are always welcome to send friends and family my way over at instagram.com/defyingspace.
I’d like to make a brief intermission to tell you about my ko-fi.com
page. It’s a platform that gives you an imaginative way to support your favourite content creators. I came across the site through another creator and I thought it was the loveliest idea. I’ve often felt I’ve gotten so much value from accounts and creators I’ve been moved to want to make a gesture back. And this feels like the way to do that. If you’d like to support my podcast and my content, head over to my website
and find the ko-fi.com
field on my homepage. Alternatively, go to ko-fi.com/defyingspace
. Thank you for your support.
One of the most exciting parts of sustainability for me is that it has motivated me to learn new skills, which has lead to not only the beginnings of self-sufficiency, something I’m fascinated by, but also general self-improvement! An initial hesitancy can often be a lack of imagination that holds us back from trying things out. It took me years to learn crochet because all I’d ever known was the chintzy garish monstrosities beloved of many a crafter. Seeing the beautiful simple neutral designs by @debrosse_nyc
is proof you can incorporate an element of handmade into your minimalism. You can stuff cushions with old clothes and make draft excluders. The same goes for visible mending. It doesn’t have to be jazzy! if you take your time to research it, you’ll inevitably find a colourway or stitch that works, perhaps an off-white or beige neutral in some black jeans using the Japanese Sashiko method? I actually utilised some gold thread on a navy top once and thinking about it now, it was a little the Japanese art of Kintsugi, a method of repairing the cracks in ceramics in gold, celebrating imperfection with the intention of making an item more beautiful and even more valuable than it was before.
One person who blends so many of these ideas really well is Allison of @nonlocal.joy
. She has what I call a natural home. She has a keen eye for vintage and preloved items which she has turned into a business called @nonlocal.thrift
! I think of Allison as a bit of an alchemist. She has a well-stocked pantry and makes lots of interesting DIYs and is a wizard with meal-planning and food prep. I think it’s clear to see where Allison’s passions lie, which gives us an idea of the way the spaces in our home may shift to reflect our own interests as we discover more about ourselves. She may not be a traditional minimalist, but the things in her home are intentional and play on a very neutral white-based colour palette. You’ll find raffia baskets and clay pots, midcentury cabinets, but the focus is really on sustainable materials. It’s a great example of how you can incorporate a clean calm eco-friendly home without sacrificing style, personality, and a sense of order. Or, another way of looking at it is having a minimalist home without sacrificing your eco-credentials!
If you’ve made it this far, you’ll know that it’s not about all-white walls and black rollnecks. It can be, and I admit to being a little way that inclined myself! But you can still have a capsule wardrobe if you love Liberty prints
, you can have a large collection of clothes if that is your purpose and joy in your life. And I’m going to say something quite controversial here. I think if you’re an aesthetic maximalist, that is to say someone that enjoys bold colours, patterns and lots of textures, as long as this is not coupled with flagrant overconsumption, you’re also a minimalist! The key to all this is intention, knowing what you love, and embracing it. The art of colour-blocking and pattern clashing is pretty amazing if done with the aforementioned intention, and is not just a haphazard chaotic jumble. Minimalism allows you to amplify the things you love…isn’t that the point after all? So long as you are ultimately in control, and considerate of others and the environment…its all good. Just be tuned into that. Don’t let collecting turn into hoarding. And be open to reviewing and letting things go periodically, reponsibility, of course. And actually, you may find that your tastes and how you function may be at odds with each other. I actually love a clean aesthetic, but I also love historic homes, but I wouldn’t want to live in one or be responsible for the upkeep.
So how does minimalism combine with sustainability to change us, and our lives for the better? Well, I have a confession. I’m a naturally messy person who craves perfect order. and living in a small space, with no storage means there’s nowhere to hide from your mess! And just having less stuff means tidying is minimal. It’s a kind of cleaning hack for messy people? A tidy house really is a tidy mind for me.
And mental health is a huge part of this for me. So using the new breed of digital tools and apps available have really helped take the mental load off more generally. Sometimes we need to be reminded to take the time that we so desperately crave. Setting reminders helps us stay on track and to take breaks! It sounds like a bit of an oxymoron but schedule in that downtime. Take device breaks if you need to. Start bullet-journalling
to track your habits or to meal plan. And keep track of things like finances. Working out what changes you can afford to make is crucial, and the other side of that is being able to see any savings you are making. Join an ethical bank like Monzo
and use some of their pioneering ideas like savings pots, and use the coin jar function that rounds up pennies up to the pound to save what could be called digital spare change, much like the rainy day funds we’d see people saving in giant bottles…or was that just an 80s thing? Save for future purchases, or if you are able to, donate to a charity of your choice. A great blog from Monzo on saving little and often is linked in the show notes
, as well as some information on Bullet Journalling
. And only do things where you don’t feel it’s just giving yourself another job to do. Just do the ones that help you achieve better efficiency and give you that all-important headspace that you can devote to other things. Speaking of which, Headspace
is another great mindfulness tool to clear your head, enabling you to stay on track and make better choices.
Other benefits I’ve noticed from combining these lifestyles is that I now value experiences over things. It is surely a great win for keeping your home in order as well as increasing leisure time. Date cards are a wonderful gift for family and friends. A trip to the cinema or a cafe can be made really special this way. And supporting local businesses and local people is a good use of your money.
And at home, shifting towards reusables is all about changing our habits and our mindset. Look after what you have and learn how best to maintain things. Designate places for things. After all, as Benjamin Franklin said, a minute spent in organising is an hour earned. Youll notice that these changes in habit, this redistribution of your time and money, can mean that by investing a little of both where you can, you can and will save in the long term.
Use the Sustainable Living Map to discover your motivators. acknowledge your position as a consumer, that the modern world is full of imperfect systems that if you can’t outright reject, you can challenge, or even work within them to bring about real positive change no matter how small. Use the set of Ethical Conundrum questions to triage consumer decisions. Do the visualization exercises to discover what you realistically want a typical day to look like, and make it achievable. Small wins will get you where you want to be. Make checklists, and even utilise visual aids to keep you on track. Think Pinterest
boards for a jolt of inspiration. Or to really get a sense of how future purchases will work within your home by being able to see everything together, meaning better decisions.
And but less but buy better, think of the lifecycle of a product. Realise that self-sufficiency is a type of convenience. Be aware of your waste. Declutter and recycle responsibly—use @leahstellapayne
‘s great series on the different types of plastic
as a starting point and cross-reference that with your local guidance. Be imaginative with how you reuse or repurpose things. Maybe even take one for the team in your circle and suggest new ways of gifting. Accept that there may be a bit of resistance at first, but you may even find that its something of a relief for all involved.
Use the internet and your libraries. Learn new things. You may find a new passion, things like baking, crafting, even composting…for it is an art! Or even getting into crockpot cookery all add real value to a sustainable home. For me, it’s been about balancing the ethical-decision minefield of sustainable living with the freedom of minimalism. It’s been hard work, but worth it.
Sustainable minimalism is about challenging the notion of convenience and turning it on its head. While we can all agree disposables are not convenient for the planet or our pockets, having revisited many traditional reusables such as safety razors and such, those 50s admen did a really great job convincing us that excellent quality items like this were better off as a throwaway item. Surely it’s more convenient to have something right there that you can use over and over again? perceived convenience, encapsulated at its worst by single-use items, is at the heart of capitalism, but we cannot ignore that convenience, initially marketed to appeal to homemakers to lighten the load, has some interesting implications—it has brought up some important discussions around domestic partnerships, traditional gender roles and the place of household-centered movements. Of the conversations I’ve seen in these spaces, people are asking questions like ‘is zero waste as much of a woman-dominated space, as it appears online?’ ‘are men intrinsically more minimalistic, having not been targeted so aggressively by campaigns that rely on exploiting insecurity for the bottom line?’. See the Claire Rothstein
viral video featuring Cynthia Nixon
, be a lady they said in the show notes. Or is being a woman in the zero waste space less of a domestic question, and more a powerful feminist statement, a rejection of being advertised to? Feminism is having the choice. But we must also recognise that having any choice at all is a privilege. Ensure that your choices are inclusive and that you continue to educate yourself throughout this process. Ask yourself how intersectional these spaces are. Who is represented and who is not. How do your choices affect indigenous communities? What are the implications of banning single-use items for those with health conditions or impairments? Are you ever in danger of losing sight of the humans behind environmental issues? Learn about greenwashing, ecofascism, and modern slavery, period poverty, and food banks. know the issues, let it empower you to make your choices with kindness and compassion.
For me, the two movements are endlessly compatible. Scratch the surface and they will open your eyes to so much about yourself and about the world around you. And on a day-to-day level, the resourcefulness of zero waste combined with maximizing your space’s efficiency, when tweaked to your own situation, provide an achievable balance. Balance is key, and perfection futile. And if you’re looking for an easy to remember phrase to keep you in track, you could do worse than Vivienne Westwood
‘s motto: Buy less, choose well, make it last.
And most of all, I hope that by re-evaluating your choices and becoming more discerning, that the burden of stuff lifts and that your spaces become a haven and not a never-ending to-do list. Minimalism isn’t an austere aesthetic, it’s just paying attention, and being rigorous with your thought processes and choices. To quote Fumio Sasaki
: Minimalism is just the beginning. It’s a tool. Once you’ve gone ahead and minimized, it’s time to find out what those important things are.
Thank you so much for coming on this journey with me. I hope it has added value to your homes and lifestyles, and that this resource is something you will come back to when you need it. Good luck with finding out what those important things are.
OUTRO If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, I’d love to keep in touch. Let me know what you thought of this series by using the contact tab over at defyingspace.com or by joining me on instagram.com/defyingspace.
You may be interested to hear that this series is a companion to an online course and a book. To be notified of their release, you can join my mailing list by visiting defyingspace.com—just pop your email address in the bar on the page. And if they’re already available by the time you’re listening to this, you’ll find them there too.
While you’re there, take a look around! All the show notes and affiliate offers mentioned in these episodes are there.
Subscribe to this podcast if you’d like to hear more, and share it with your friends if you’d like to earn some extra brownie points with them! That’s all for now. Thanks for listening.