Downsizing tips from an eco-essentialist

The trinity of downsizing:

SellDonateTrash

Most of the stuff we buy throughout the years will either end up sold, donated or trashed.

It’s sad, but it’s also inevitable.

That’s one of the main reasons why I became a minimalist in for first place.

When I look at the number of things I owned throughout my life, I can’t help but feel guilty..

Guilty because most of it went out the window at one point or another, guilty because there definitely are people who can’t afford half the stuff we buy carelessly

Guilty because consumerism is so ingrained in our modern societies that we hardly question our spending habits.

Minimalism allowed me to shift my mindset completely, so the least I can do is simplify the process by sharing some of my tips with those looking to live mindfully and sustainably.

“But what do I do with all the stuff I own ? It’s already been made, bought and used (for most part)?”

That’s the type of question I usually get.

The answer is quite simple:

Sell: if you need the money and want your most valuable things to have a second life

Donate: if you don’t need the money and want your things to be repurposed and help people in need (Charity, NGOs, Homeless Shelters..)

Trash: everything that can’t be repurposed, sold or recycled. It’s unfortunate but don’t beat yourself up too much, it happens to the best of us.

Where to go from here?

Here’s a short list of things you can turn to if you want to minimize further. Some of these tips hint at frugalism as well.

  • Avoid eating out and getting take outs. Take out foods are usually less healthy and way more expensive than home cooked meals. Learning how and what to cook is a useful skill for a better life, health wise and financially as well
  • Stop “treating yourself” when you can’t even pay off your debt and loans. Focus on the things that truly matter to you, and things that could have a lasting effect. Perhaps you could treat yourself to some cooking or baking classes, that way you won’t have to overspend every time you crave something. Same goes with most skills (yoga, fitness, cooking, handywork..)
  • Stop seeking instant gratification. Instant gratification is one of our era’s worst nightmares. It’s responsible for depression, anxiety, people feeling lost, so on and so forth. Refraining from social media use is one of the best things you could do to heal from this disease, news fasts* are also very effective in that regard
  • Avoid fast fashion AT ALL COSTS. I know it’s convenient and cheap, but what comes easy never lasts. Also, it’s highly destructive to both nature and the humans behind it (btw click on the link if you’re not familiar with this industry, the video’s super dope and it’s only 8 mins long)
  • One grocery trip twice a month should be enough. Meal planning (and prepping) helps a lot as it decreases overspending, and waste, of course
  • Shopping online is better as it allows you to browse similar products to the ones you’re looking for, and find the ones that best fit your needs 
  • Go organic as much as you can. Health is important and bad health is extremely costly !
  • Go for one time purchases. For example, start using linen napkins instead of paper towels
  • This one’s quite personal and something I’m working towards but I always try to favor cash instead of credit/debit cards
  • Minimize unnecessary subscriptions – cloud storage, streaming services, music services, apps, gym, website memberships, meal delivery, monthly installments.. I’m sure we all have subscriptions we hardly ever use

Beside all this, digital minimalism is also something you could look further into:

  • Delete all the apps you don’t use regularly
  • Sift through and delete all the unread/undesired emails in your mailbox. Here’s the real cost of your full mailbox
  • Unsubscribe from all the lists that keep sending you updates, offers and newsletters that you hardly ever read. It may not seem like it but most of that stuff is costly in mental energy (c.f. decision fatigue), carbon emissions and anxiety
  • Organize your photos in folders and delete all copies and similar photos
  • Disable unnecessary notifications, especially the ones on social media. I personally only kept incoming calls and text message, as those are the ones I use the most with my family and friends

Reach out to me or leave me a comment if you have any specific questions, I’m always happy to help 🙂

*A news fast implies opting out of watching the news on TV, listening the radio, reading newspapers, or following the news on social media and other internet outlets.

Minimalism: removing things that remove you from your life

I could write a whole book about the many benefits of minimalism.

Oh wait, I am (it’s an ebook but still).

I talk a lot about minimalism and mindfulness on my podcast.

I truly and wholeheartedly believe this lifestyle can spark a change in the world, help people feel happier, lighter, achieve financial stability, work less and live more.

There are no good arguments against minimalism, just like there are none against veganism.

That said, lately I’ve been exploring a different terminology. I felt as though the term “minimalism” wasn’t impactful enough.

Hear me out.

As shocked and/or rattled as people look when they realize we’re vegan, the same people don’t even flinch when they hear about my (our) minimalist journey and lifestyle.

Most of them think they know what minimalism is, or what it entails.

Most of them obviously don’t.

The word “minimalism” is somewhat self-explanatory, which, IMHO, doesn’t do it justice.

This really got me thinking, so I decided to come up (or explain further) my own work-in-progress minimalism: I call it green or eco-essentialism.

Green or eco for the environment, essentialism because I own the bare minimum, essentials only, no extras.

Let’s dive further into this.

As an eco-essentialist (aka green or eco-minimalist), one of the main focuses of my lifestyle is protecting the environment.

Consuming less leads to cutting down waste and living with a smaller ecological footprint. Simple.

I still own some stuff, but the things I now own and buy (when need be) is 100% environmentally friendly.

I also live frugally, and try to repair and repurpose all my belongings.

I’ve talked about this time and again on my podcast, but consuming less helps reduce the harmful impact of mindless consumerism on our planet. This makes my eco-essentialism a pro-environment and anti-consumption mindset and philosophy above anything else.

From shopping second hand and eco-friendly to investing in quality products (that last longer), my new shopping habits (close to nonexistent) help me reduce my carbon footprint significantly.

Mindful shopping and making sure I don’t bring any unnecessary things into my life is the first thing on my mind when I’m out looking for new things to buy.

Having the preservation of the planet in mind, eco-essentialists like myself follow a vegan lifestyle (and a plant-based diet) as the two (veganism and eco-essentialism) go hand in hand.

My other focus as an eco-essentialist is to experience the world without getting tied down to a permanent place and financial burdens.

Instead of embracing materialism, I believe creating memories of my experiences is one of the two most important aspects of my life, the other one being giving to charity and NPOs.

As a lifelong traveler, I’ve always had trouble finding the right amount of things to pack up, so I always ended packing way more than I needed.

Since embracing this lifestyle (and perhaps even before), I’ve noticed how traveling with fewer distractions allowed me to be more present and get the best out of each and every experience.

For some nomad minimalists, minimalism is just a practical way of moving around. For me, it’s challengingly fun to experience how little I (and now WE) can live with.

How about mindful-eco-essentialism?

Hang on, what’s that again?

Mindful-eco-essentialists worry about more than just the environment, we worry about peace of mind too.

That’s the other focus of this lifestyle.

Owning fewer things automatically reduce mental clutter, which is the number one cause of stress and anxiety.

Besides, owning less reduces distractions and gives you the ability to focus on self-reflection (hence this post), self-love and personal development (once again, hence this post).

As a mindful-eco-essentialist, my aim for fewer possessions and more headspace, for being present in the moment with my thoughts, my loved ones, my feelings and emotions helps me increase my quality of life in a significant manner.

It also helps me pursue an intentional and meaningful life.

I’m constantly working on shaping a better version of myself, pursuing excellence (a religious principle in my case) and adding value to other people’s lives.

I started my mindful-eco-essentialist journey to escape the suffocation of stressful and expensive lifestyles. By cutting down expenses, I rapidly gained more freedom and peace of mind.

So all in all, as I learned more about minimalism, I embraced other attributes of it and made it my own.

I cut down on literally everything.

I owned 51 pairs of shoes at some point. It’s a lot ! I now own 4, 1 of which is a pair of football cleats.

Furthermore, and as far as digital essentialism goes, I used to spend hours on Social Media every day ! Posting, tweeting, commenting.

I now spend an hour/day tops. I only use SM for work and promotion.

Stepping away from Social Media was a major turning point in my life, evil eye and all.

In short:

Cutting down on “stuff” helped me become more mindful about self-care and my core values as well.

Mindful-eco-essentialism, aka minimalism, has become a powerful tool in my journey of developing a better me. 

IMHO, learning how to be mindful of our possessions and reducing physical and mental clutter helps us become better humans.

Here’s a short list of my favorite minimalists:

  • Leo Babauta from Zen Habits 
  • The minimalists
  • Sorelle Amore
  • Colin Write
  • Youheum from Heal your Living (personal fave)
  • and of course Matt D’Avella

The most valuable lessons I’ve learned since becoming a minimalist 

Minimalism made me reevaluate what time means to me and how much of it is wasted doing essentially nonsense. 

Minimalism makes you wonder, do I enjoy spending all my free time cleaning and doing maintenance? Do I like spending so much time in stores? Do I enjoy working so many hours and/or side jobs to pay for stuff that is mostly wants or impulse buys instead of needs?

The beauty of minimalism is that it doesn’t force us to do anything, it’s all about the freedom to choose and the power that comes from making decisions based on awareness instead of being ruled by unconscious impulses and societal conditioning (hello neuromarketing).

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, but having fewer dishes or less clothes doesn’t allow it to pile up. If you want a clean plate or outfit, you have to keep them clean.

About that, here’s a short and yet perfect story on how to deal with laundry, by Matt d’Avella.

To take this a step further, since becoming a minimalist, I noticed that I now need less self-discipline, since there is no other option than to wash whatever is dirty, and since there isn’t much to maintain and keep up with.

This could be summed up in an extremely simple reasoning: minimizing entails having less work to do.

How ? A simple equation:

Less stuff = less work = less stress

When my go-to isn’t buying more or calling anyone for help, I become more resourceful and creative with what I have. 

The other amazing thing about minimalism is that the momentum of enthusiasm created by downsizing/organizing one area of your physical life carries over into others.  You want to experience the thrill of accomplishment again and again.

Moreover, as a minimalist, I’ve stopped ignoring my problems, and instead started focusing on them, and minimizing them.

Less stuff also means less decisions, which undoubtedly leads to less decision fatigue.

Once you do not use up your decision making power in non-essential things (such as what to wear or which cup to use) you have more energy in making more important decisions.

A personal uniform could be the answer for some, not necessarily something that works for me though ^^

Last but not least, I think minimalism promotes self-mastery.

Minimalism helps you question everything and consider how temporary the ecstasy of (insert thing) will be. 

I think that’s deep.