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 2: STOCKTAKING
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 what I call the problem. If you can acknowledge privilege, and let go of perfectionism, you’re giving yourself the best chance at realistic success if you want to achieve a more efficient home, both environmentally as well as functionally. I believe a big part of the desire to overhaul our homes—to be more functional—stems from a longing to live more intentionally. Modern life is busy and it’s stressful and I think many of us don’t feel anchored at times and get swept away in it. We want our homes to be—in a best-case scenario—a kind of haven from everything else that’s going on, It’s about making space in our homes and our lives for the good stuff, but at the very least we don’t want it to be something that adds to our woes. Decluttering is a great tool for that, as it gives you a clearer space to work from, but it also reveals a lot about you! And that’s the fascinating thing about it. So over the next three episodes, I’ll be considering how we go about choosing what we’d benefit from decluttering. The aim is to quantify the value of our possessions and weigh that against our own objectives. By considering what our core values are, and the lives we envision for ourselves we can then consider how we can ensure that that process is as sustainable as possible, and how we can apply that to not only decluttering, but to our waste more generally, as well as looking forward into the post-decluttering phase where I will share how to limit and scrutinize what’s coming into your home.
Today’s topic is stocktaking. It’s about evaluating, And the following two episodes will draw on methods to help you maintain your space from then on. Stocktaking goes a little deeper than decluttering as it’s a moment that requires you to stop and take stock of your life more widely. We can never extricate external factors from our personal lives and our homes. And how you approach the decluttering aspect of that process really depends on defining what your responsibilities are, for instance, things that are essential to your job or to other members of your household, what your values are, discovering your ‘why’, and being really honest about your motivators.
Take a moment to sit and do a visualisation exercise. Jot down what your time at home is like now. And then think about how you want a typical ideal evening or weekend to look. Compare the two. Being realistic really helps here! When I did this I realised housework and throwing together meals last minute had become the norm. It wasn’t the worst thing, but I wanted to enjoy those processes more by being more intentional about them, or lightening the load where relevant. I found my goals to be surprisingly modest. I envisioned a record playing with something nice on the hob, a candle lit, everyone in the house together but quite content doing their individual things. I’ve always found that the busier I get, the simple things that I enjoy, that help me decompress, such as cooking or reading, are the first things to go. I needed to find a way to make sure I could make time for those things as routine rather than just when I was feeling on top of things.
Decluttering helps you to access the time and space needed to perform even very simple tasks, whether it’s being able to grab that record from a small stack rather than rooting through boxes upon boxes, or being able to make a meal without having to clear your counters first. But if there’s one thing I want to be clear about, it’s that minimalism or zero waste isn’t about depriving yourself, if’s about making space in your life for what matters most. By getting your space to work harder for you, it will ultimately give you the time and space you need to meet those goals, whatever they are.
For me, I wanted the smallest of spaces to feel bigger, my life to be about experiences rather than spending time maintaining stuff, and then enjoying the things I did have. I wanted to use more reusables so I needed to make space for that. I wanted to utilise minimalism to support zero waste practices -that was the balance I was looking for. I acknowledged things about myself, like my position as a consumer, and considered ways I could reclaim my power as a buyer who could use very purchase, to paraphrase Anna Lappé
, to vote for the kind of world I wanted, and I also acknowledged my limitations, such as space and finances, and got as creative as I could within my means.
The aim of this episode is to walk you through some of the considerations you’ll need to make when approaching decluttering. Now, decluttering isn’t about using or buying storage, or being more organised. If done throughly it should mean that you don’t really need to be all that organised at all. As Courtney Carver of @bemorewithless
says, ‘organized clutter is still clutter’ and ‘if organizing your stuff worked, you’d be organized by now’. I had a good laugh at that one. And an even bigger laugh when my friend Sara Brigz [@letthatshit__go
]—who has an ever so slightly explicit handle that I’ll leave in the show note—hit the nail on the head when she said ‘the less we own the less we have to dust’.
Whether you enjoy cleaning or not, it definitely makes it easier and saves more time. With that in mind, it’s time to start considering what in your home is always something of a drain on your time, whether from general upkeep or constantly needing to tidy these items because they’ve piled up to an unmanageable extent. For some, it’s kids’ toys, or an overflowing laundry basket, a pantry full of stale herbs and rancid oils from recipes you’ve only made once. For some, it may be papers or the paraphernalia of projects or hobbies. For me, it was books, films, music, and clothes, with a smattering of the other things too. The hardest thing for me was acknowledging that the things that were taking over in my house weren’t traditional clutter, but fairly well-organised collections of things, and therefore things I felt most attached to. How could I tackle this and feel good about it? No one wants to accept that their passions have been something of an albatross around their necks. The answer is in breaking it down into manageable chunks and designing a set of questions to help you evaluate your things, and stack that up against what your values are (and accepting that values and priorities change over time).
For me, I wanted to spend more time experiencing things rather than feeling like I was never on top of things at home. For a busy person, weekends can often become the only time for chores and setting yourself up for the week ahead. And that’s not what I wanted for my life. I’d grown up seeing the adults in my life spending two solid days on laundry, not to mention even more during the week. I mean those things are necessary, but there had to be a better way.
But contrary to popular opinion, decluttering doesn’t mean getting rid of everything you love…but it does mean being open to questioning whether it’s serving you, and worthy of your time in upkeep and storage. One of the most controversial aspects that got people talking in the last few years were claims that decluttering guru Marie Kondo
wanted everyone to get rid of their books! Everyone and their mother seemed to weigh in on this, and its the greatest misunderstanding of the minimalist lifestyle. If something really does light you up, keep it! Enjoy it! But I have a little anecdote here, as you may find yourselves in a similarly surprising situation once you start this process: I have a master’s degree in literature. Can you imagine how many books I had? As someone who could never imagine parting with any of it, the fact that I actually managed to reduce my collection by 70% astounded me. I did the same with my record and film collections. Does this mean I didn’t love these things enough in the first place? Not exactly.a I did, once. And I was still very fond of much of it, but I was a different person now with different priorities. I wanted my space and my time back and a few extra feet in which to raise my family.
Have you ever heard the decluttering idea that it’s useful to think of your possessions as renting space in your home? That was the gamechanger for me. I could always use a library, or a streaming service if I had an itch I needed scratching. A couple of pounds for an evening in with a movie I loved and previously owned, I could repurchase or rent from iTunes, in part paid for by selling my physical copy, and it was no longer a physical item I needed to be responsible for.
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 Open Up: The Power Of Talking About Money
by Alex Holder
. I’ve come to feel that our relationship with money is inextricably linked to our sustainability journeys; how we consume and what we fund means it’s become an ethical conversation, and this book really got me interested in how money represents a lot more than just what’s in our pockets.
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 Alex’s book there too!
So how did I decide what stayed and what went? For anyone that’s realised that checklists have become something of a popular thing—sidenote: there’s great video
by Matt D’avella
where he interviews Greg McKeown
author of Essentialism
, in which they discuss the unprecedented reduction of complications and mortality rates regarding their implementation in surgical settings. The humble checklist is an amazing tool for this purpose. And for our purpose. I urge you to come up with your own questions, but I’d like to share mine: I took my cue from the famous William Morris quote (Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful). I tend to take that a step further by needing things to be both useful AND beautiful.
I created two lists, one for decluttering, which I’ll share now, and one for new objects coming into my home, which I’ll share in episode four.
Do I use it?
Do I want it?
If I don’t use it, why do I want it?
Can I access it in a way with a smaller, or indeed no, footprint? (footprint meaning space taken up by an object).
This was eye-opening! Could it be that I wanted to keep all my books, films, and records on display to make me look both learned and cultured? I suppose it was a way of proving myself. It was such a big part of my identity it felt weird to consider letting any of this go. And I’m not saying that it’s A BAD THING per se; it’s nice to be surrounded by things that have shaped us. But in something of an about-turn I realised through decluttering that I took greater pleasure in having a really curated collection that sort of distilled the essence of what made me me. When it came to books I decided I wanted to only keep those that were regularly used—those that had a practical purpose—so reference books like cookery books, or how-to guides relating to my hobbies. I kept novels I knew id go back to or that really meant something to me. I kept some academic books that id either been mentioned in or that may come in useful if I ever did a doctorate, and last of all, I kept my collection of graphic novels, a genre of books that I not only love, but that really are so much better in physical form due to the pictorial nature of them. Anything else I could get on my Kindle, and as podcasts and audiobooks were a lot more convenient as a new parent, I could get access to so much content and have it take up just a few millimeters of e-reader space on my bookshelf. And yes, I renewed my local library membership too!
I used the same set of questions for my other main areas: records, DVDs, books. For instance, I decided that DVDs and CDs were obsolete and decided to instead have a small curated collection of vinyl. I was really getting to the crux of why I enjoyed the things that I enjoyed. I discovered that I liked the sound of certain genres of music better on that format—jazz, blues, country, 60s and 70s singer-songwriters—and for anything else, I used digital streaming services. Films were a similar thing except I didn’t feel the need to keep a physical copy. Again I used streaming services, but the important thing was that I got a membership for the local cinema.
I’d placed experiences over possessions, so this was a way of ensuring it felt exciting, and that I was embarking on enriching my life, really understanding who I was and what I valued, as well as making my home more efficient. The cost of an occasional download or a streaming services subscription or annual membership was not an additional cost. It was a straight swap for me as I was no longer buying objects. And having funds from selling my objects was a good way to get that started too.
I also decided to operate a capsule wardrobe. I tackled digital clutter, junk mail, my bathroom, and kitchen cupboards. There is detailed material on all these areas in my forthcoming e-learning course which you can hear about first by joining the mailing list via my website defyingpsace.com — but needless to say, sustainability is such a huge factor for me, it was important for me to, as Sarah of @sustainable.suburbs
puts it, declutter responsibly. So where did it all go? For me, this was both a quick AND slow process. For anything I’d decided I didn’t use and didn’t want from my flowchart style checklist, the minimalist in me needed to actually discard items in order to get my home functioning the way I needed a tiny space to, and the environmentalist was bent on using what I had before replacing things. That’s the key to how I made my decisions: use. So for things I wasn’t using, they were never going to get used up.
How do you ensure that the things you are discarding are dealt with in a responsible way? There is no “away” when we discard things, but taking responsibility for where they go is a way to ensure things are kept in use for as long as possible and reduce the demand for newly produced items. What are the options available to you? And how can you make this process as pain-free as possible?
Next time we’ll be considering everything leaving our homes, not only regarding decluttering but also the unavoidable potential waste we create living our everyday lives. It’s why minimalism is such an important part of my sustainability journey. I experienced a dramatic cognitive shift from altering my space: I felt calmer and things started to come into focus. There was a domino effect, and all aspects of my life came under scrutiny; when you’re considering everything that’s coming into your home (and also leaving it), you become aware of everything, from the trash you output, to the food in your cupboards, and the formulations of your products. It also made me question whether I needed some things at all, because once decluttering and stocktaking is complete, you’ll want to keep things that way.
Join me next time for more on How To Be A Minimalist (The Sustainable Way).
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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