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 3: WHAT’S GOING OUT?
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 discussed methods of evaluating the things in our homes. Through taking stock of our possessions, in the context of the external aspects of our lives—alongside defining what our values and motivators are—we put ourselves in good stead for creating a solid foundation from which to work from. By being honest with ourselves, and considering limitations, we can take a realistic approach towards building a life of intention. This starts with decluttering responsibly; it sets a bar for everything going forward, and is the first step in what @sustainably_claire
recently stated was her most important sustainable swap, her mindset. By being mindful about what we discard now, we are ideally placed to ensure that what we bring into our homes from now on is done with an item’s lifecycle in mind: the longevity, the quality, its recyclability or resale value, how it degrades and so on. Thinking about this now with what you already have, will ensure a better more environmentally aware decision-making process in the future.
The question I’m answering today is, What’s Going Out? What’s leaving our homes? This question can be broadly divided into two parts for our purposes, the first relating to responsible decluttering, and the mindfulness required to rehome things rather than simply discard, and doing so without creating a burden of stuff for someone else. The second relates to the fairly unavoidable waste we create, which relates to items of regular consumption, such a food, toiletries, and household goods. Now is a good time to think about what your goals are; having a clear idea of what you want to achieve will make things a lot easier in what is essentially the trickiest part of this process if done sustainably. These are some things to consider (now for me, it was a combination of all of these, but it may be more singular for you, but these relate to how we prioritize three key factors): time, space, and money. If you need space quickly, or you’re short on time, you may need to accept that your best option is to let things go for little or no financial gain. If you see it as an opportunity to make some extra money, however, you’ll need to accept it’s a more time-intensive process. For most of us, we are happy to part with some things by donating to a good cause, and the good news is that this can be done quite quickly. But similarly, there will be high-value items we may want to sell instead. Having a financial goal can also be great motivation, and saving for something through selling is an effective way of doing that. Once you have decided on your ideal ratio between time, space, and money for this project, it’s time to begin looking at the options.
In the last episode, I spoke about reducing large collections of things such as books, clothing, and various media so that’s where we’ll start, and later we will address things that don’t immediately come under the bracket of what we think of traditionally as possesions. If we go back to the 5Rs of zero waste Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Rot, being that we’ve decided to discard, we’re now at the reuse/recycle juncture. Essentially, the goal is to avoid landfill, so the following set of questions should help:
Can I realistically reuse this?
If not, can someone else?
If it’s unusable, can it be recycled responsibly?
I say realistically as there is always a danger of falling into the hoarder-ish mentally of either keeping things for the what-ifs that never come or keeping things that you don’t really like all that much meaning you don’t reach for them, which defeats the point.
The two big decluttering showdowns in my life were when I initially embarked on minimalism, and then when I was expecting my child. The initial rush of inspiration or an impending life event are ideal motivators, so use that to your advantage and break the back of it as soon as possible. In order to get off to a flying start, I advise you to let go of as much as you can without selling items, making an easy win on space and time, therefore giving you the impetus to carry on. Approach this systematically, and it will be a positive experience where you feel the benefits fairly quickly. So what follows is a lot of practical advice. So donate as much as you can, and then recycle what you can if it is no longer useable. And be more imaginative than you might have been in the past! Charity shops are a great option but they are often overrun. Shelters, community groups, and schools are great places to make enquiries. A free box outside your home for books and such is another popular idea—@pollybarks
started a free little pantry outside her home which is a riff on that—so take a look in the show notes for more about that. Crafty homesteader friends are also always on the lookout for textiles or jars, so ask around. Many brands and shops now offer takeback schemes, so that’s worth searching. And remember, if you have good recycling services and you have exhausted the other options, you will have done your best, and it’s nothing to feel guilty about, because we’re working in an imperfect system. And by the next episode, by limiting and being considerate of what’s coming into your home, you should be in a position where you are producing little waste at all from then on.
Thanks to the internet, decluttering responsibly has never been easier. Some aspects take time, but this mostly depends on what your expectations and other commitments are. Using the Freecycle app is a great way to find homes for things, especially if they’re not in perfect condition and wouldn’t be worth reselling, but may be a salvageable project for someone who can put the time and effort in. These are UK-centric suggestions but the next step is to use apps like Envirofone, Zapper and Music Magpie for tech, books, CDs, and DVDs. Again, there’s not a huge payout on offer, but if you can offload say 100 books for £50, or the same for your other media, it’s still money in your pocket for that streaming service or membership that your future self will use in place of these items. These apps work by either barcode scanning via your mobile device or by database matching the make, model, and condition of your tech. A free prepaid label and a local drop off option get you a lot of space fast.
Now that you have donated, recycled responsibly, and utilised a few easy sales apps you should be at a point where you’re feeling pleased with your progress, which will give you the confidence to tackle the trickier aspects. Now it’s time to consider dipping your toe into the world of face-to-face sales! I think most of us would have a knee-jerk reaction to avoid this, but having done it myself, it’s really not as terrifying as it seems. The reason I suggest this route before selling online is because in the space of a day you can dramatically reduce your possessions further. But again, do what’s right for you, and accept that the process may be slower. And while it’s good to step outside of your comfort zone, my advice is don’t put yourself in situations you feel anxious or unsafe and look at options where you feel most comfortable. I sold items in a local mums’ Facebook group, meeting buyers during the day at a busy corner near my home, making sure someone knew where I was. And I also did a few car boot sales with friends (the Battersea one in London has a great reputation and is well organised. Making a day of it with flasks of hot coffee and snacks is great fun, and having a friend or two there is especially handy if there’s a bit of a rush at your stall, or for loo breaks, and you should all come away a few pennies better off. You will need to price things more cheaply than you would online, but again, think of your overall goal of making the sales and getting space quickly. You don’t want to be coming back home with as much as you set off with! It’s a great way to sell books, CDs, and DVDs as selling these individually online is rarely worth it, which is why using the bulk sending apps I suggested are also preferable. They’re also perfect for bulky items you’d struggle to post! Another way to deal with larger items is through classifieds like Gumtree or Craiglist. It can be a little frustrating, but for every time-waster, there are 3 happy customers, and that’s a great thing to see first hand.
If you have any high ticket or specialist items, things like designer or vintage clothing, or furniture, sports equipment or musical instruments, find a dealer or consignment shop. This is more likely to be a smaller section of your possessions, keeping that process fairly manageable. But selling things is where the online world really comes into its own. You reach a much wider audience, but taking photos and listing takes time. Consider the buyer demographic on each platform. Is eBay or Depop or Selfridges Vestaire Collective
more suitable for your clothes? Doing a little research now will save you wasted time. Think of this as a gradual project and manage expectations. Consider whether you’d like to price your items competitively for a quick sale, and be realistic about the time you can dedicate to posting and packing things.
Keep any items you are selling in a designated space, some boxes in the corner of a room so they don’t find their way back into circulation. This will help you disassociate from them and set boundaries. It also leaves you a clear idea of the space you now have, or will soon have. And if some items don’t sell, go back to square one and consider donating those items instead or lowering the price.
I have much more detailed information and guides on the different types of selling and donating options in my forthcoming online course, so head over to defyingpsace.com to join my mailing list for details on that.
ADVERT I’d like to make a brief intermission to tell you about one of my favourite minimalist solutions! And that’s Audible.
It’s been the way to ‘read a book’ while not having a seat on the train. It’s been a way to expand my knowledge and skillset while my son naps next to me. And it’s been the perfect way to do two things at once as so many new parents need to do. Listen to a book while cooking, doing household chores, or taking a rare moment to relax in the bath.
The last audiobook I listened to was Rootbound
by Alice Vincent
. Alice, in her own words, gardens from her urban balcony 40ft up, and writes about it. When I discovered Alice through Instagram, I realised how similar we were: both writers making a bit of green space for ourselves against the odds. It transpires we actually live just a few streets away from each other in South London, but instead of a balcony, I’ve been attic gardening. Reading her story is an inspiration and is giving me confidence in my own path. Books can be totally lifechanging, but if I had to wait for time to sit down to read a book I wouldn’t get anywhere. Thank goodness for Audible.
As an audible affiliate, I am offering a 30-day free trial of the 1 book monthly membership. I can also offer you the discounted membership at 50% off at just 3.99 for 3 months. go to deyingspace.com and click on the podcast tab to access these offers. There will be a link to Alice’s book there too!
As you‘ve been considering objects leaving your home, your thoughts will inevitably turn to the more transient items in your possession. This is where I realised my minimalism journey had started to inform what was becoming a sustainability journey, and that’s where I came across the Zero Waste movement. Where was my food and personal care packaging going? I set some ground rules for the initial declutter, with one eye on any potential for reuse. An initial first sweep tackling the low hanging fruit once again will get you in a good position, such as checking for out-of-date items.
Take any medicines to your pharmacist so that they are disposed of safely. I’ll use the example of bathroom items. If you have anything unopened that you know you won’t use, such as testers or gifted items, donate them to a refuge centre or see if there is a Beauty Banks
collection in your area, or give them to an interested friend. I’m sure I’m not alone when I admit to having had several types of face cream, oils or serums on the go at any one time. So as something of a challenge, use what you have before buying anything more! It’s really tempting to get fresh new eco-friendly products or a kit of reusables for refills, but it is absolutely amazing how much money you can save by simply using all the products you already have. And it’s also a strangely satisfying process. The same goes for cleaning products. It also means you can take the time to gradually research ethical products to replace them with and it not be overwhelming. Because all of this, after all, is a learning curve.
Now, this is where sustainability and minimalism have the potential to clash, so being mindful of what you intend to reuse is important. Being honest with yourself as to what kind of minimalist you might be is useful here. The options areaesthetic minimalist, sustainable minimalist, thrifty minimalist, experiential minimalist, essential minimalist, and mindful minimalist
. Try the quiz from @asmalllife
to find out where you fall on the scale! Within these types thrifty and sustainable minimalists are most at risk of succumbing to excess, so saving things needs to be done with realistic intention to avoid things piling up. I have traits of all 6 types of minimalist, but the one that I relate most to is the one that gets the worst rap…the aesthetic minimalist! But to me, this is the one that is the key to everything for me. Creating a peaceful space that I find beautiful means I take pride in it motivates me to take care of it, and also the one that turns down the visual noise and allows me to focus on the things that matter. Your home doesn’t need to look a certain way to call yourself a minimalist. and I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with curating your space if you’re not causing harm to the environment or others! Beauty and ethics aren’t mutually exclusive. So, for aesthetic sustainable minimalists like myself, or for those with limited space—I am actually both of these things—I did my best to balance practicality with personal preference.
So when you’re decluttering, first consider the aesthetic you’d like to achieve, if at all, and then take a look to consider what can be reused. I like both beauty and usefulness to be at the heart of things in my home. I found myself drawn to glass, especially coloured glass, like blue, green, or amber, kand things with droppers or spray nozzles would be useful. I’d picked materials that I wanted in my home, where branding and labelling were easily removed, and that would actually serve a purpose for refills or DIY products I’d actually purchase or make, or that looked attractive if I was to gift something. But here’s where balance comes in, there’s a caveat within that where convenience trumps aesthetics. I quickly realised that using glass out shopping wasn’t the safest or lightest option, so I decided to reserve a few plastic bottles from things I was using up that I could mark with a Sharpie for refills and I could decant them into nice durable glass containers at home. I keep them hidden away in a wooden crate with my other reusables that I grab when I’m going out the door (a good tip if you’re always likely to forget!). I kept only what I needed, and of that, the sturdiest and easiest to clean, and responsibly recycled the rest. Look after your plastic and it’ll look after you! And avoid it in the future if you are able to.
Now I know I talk about glass jars a lot, after all, they’re pretty emblematic of the movement! But I think its a really good example of how we might get overrun pretty quickly if we’re trying to live low-waste and save as much as we can from recycling and landfill. So I’ll use this example but it can be applied to many different things.
I don’t keep every jar, but I’ll keep a variety of sizes to fulfill different needs, and I’ll take the time to decide on certain ones I like and decide to collect those. They vary greatly and can be really quite beautiful. So reserve what you like and recycle the rest ,or offer them to a refill shop for other customers, or to schools, or Freecycle them. In the autumn I like to keep a few extra for gifting at Christmas. Linked in the show notes are gifts-in-jars ideas from @nakedlarder
, @sustainable.suburbs @wandering_wild_home@chelseahennard @plantedinthewoods
The lesson is to use fresh eyes with what you have and get creative, but most importantly realistic with if and how you will use things and how much space you have to store things. There is a risk of falling into a hoarders trap imagining you’ll repurpose everything, so be sensible. I can keep a foot-long crate of them and that’s it. There are so many things that leave our homes that have the potential to have an impact on the environment, from the microplastics in our clothing, the detergents that are so often harmful to aquatic life. So next time we’ll address what’s coming into our homes in order that we can be confident that what’s then leaving it is as innocuous and low impact as possible. By doing so, there should only be minimal maintenance involved going forward, so join me next time for the best ways to navigate this, where I will provide you with key mindset habits and tools to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success.
OUTRO If you’re enjoying this podcast, 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.
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