Happy New Year!
So the New Year is upon us and it’s the season for resolutions! Personally, I’m not very good at resolutions. They quickly peter out within the first month. But I’m really good at experiments. In 2013, I did The Photo-A-Day Project. In 2015, I did The Closet Project. And now 2017 is going to be the Year of Mindful Consumption.
One of the core aspects of The Tiny Life is deliberate and intentional consumption. This is not about not buying anything or trying to survive solely off the land. (Even though I really appreciate the idea of homesteading and self-sustainability, I am not in a position right now to try it.) We need to consume in order to live; there’s no getting away from that. It’s about understanding the environmental and human impact of the objects, food and resources we consume in our daily lives and spending and using only what we need in a respectful and ethical manner. As a society, we are becoming more and more aware of the larger, hidden cost of cheap and disposable items – the human and animal lives it harms, the degradation to our environment it causes, and the stress and financial burden that this totally needless STUFF creates in our personal lives.
Soldier Boy and I have been working on the long and emotional process of decluttering for a couple of years now and we’ve been trying to be more environmentally friendly in our choices. We’ve done things like switching chemical cleaners for natural ones, using cloth towels for cleanups instead of paper towels, and trying to buy products and food from companies and small businesses that use ethical practices, are local and/or that give back to their community.
But this year, I’m kicking the mindful consumption challenge up a notch. This year, I’m questioning everything I consume. Because “Mindless consumption always turns into excessive consumption.” (Joshua Becker, becomingminimalist.com) Do I really need the lights on? (This might seem a ridiculous question but I’ve had a lifelong uneasiness about darkness indoors and it’s been a long-running battle with Soldier Boy about my leaving lights on. Too many horror movies as a child, I guess.) Can I use something reusable instead of something disposable to clean up that mess? Can I repair this broken/ripped/damaged thing instead of disposing of it and buying a new one? Can I just do without?
Even as aware as we already are, this next step is going to be a big one. This is where it gets serious. This is where we actually DO what we have learned. It’s going to be tough because we live in a culture that puts an incredible amount of pressure on us to consume, to buy, to keep up. It’s everywhere – practically inescapable. Even though the two of us don’t have TV, we don’t buy magazines, we don’t generally ever go shopping just to “go shopping”, we are a product of this culture and when something that we are using or wearing starts to falter, our first thought tends to be, “Well, we’ll just get a new one.” And often, in our house, we have a very good reason to get a new one. But what if we didn’t get a new one? What would happen? How would my life change? Or would it? Doesn’t this idea of not consuming lead to a natural decluttering? If we just don’t replace things, we will eventually end up with less stuff. And the stuff we end up with will be the stuff that is important, useful and beautiful. It will be all the stuff that actually means something.
A by-product of this experiment will be to see if we actually save any money. In the past four months we were hit with huge vet bills and car repairs. It was a streak of bad luck, nothing more. But in order to get our credit cards under control again, we do have to scale back on our spending. We have to make financially smarter choices as well as more ethical ones.
For more information on consuming intentionally and mindfully, you can watch a very interesting documentary called The Minimalists (it’s on Netflix right now). To help me keep focused on my goal, I’ve started with the strategies listed in this post 9 Intentional Ways to Challenge Consumerism in Your Life. Also, this is an interesting article about what you may be supporting by shopping at cheap clothing retailers: The Hidden Cost of Made-in-America Retail Bargains. I also found this page – The Mindful Consumption Challenge – that has several good strategies and articles posted on mindful consumption. There is lots of information out there on the cost of our garbage and the damage disposable items do to our world. Just listen carefully to current events and you’ll see how our choices affect our world. (Remember the Joe Fresh factory disaster? What about the fact that Nestlé continues to use child labour? Not to mention that they are outbidding small towns for control of their own water. The stories are everywhere.) Forbes has a list of the 10 Biggest Socially Irresponsible Industries. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that fossil fuels, agriculture and the clothing industry are the worst so it’s important that our choices don’t contribute to these industries any more than we have to. (Featured image from Mindful Monday: Be Mindful of Your Consumption Today.)
I will be keeping note of my progress in my hand-written journal but I will periodically post my reflections on a separate page on this blog. If you are interested in following my journey, you will find the tab at the top of the home page.
So this is it. 2017. The Year of Mindful Consumption. How will you make your 2017 meaningful?