The topics of low/zero waste and minimalism always pique my interest. An influencer called Sustainably Vegan introduced me to the term “low waste” instead of a more common term of “zero waste”. She likes to use this term because “less” is more attainable than “zero”, and many people do not have the same access to “zero waste” stores or fancy water bottles. It is a more inclusive term that I personally like as well. I have this belief that if one person at a time makes positive choices and realizes the power of their dollar, it can create a much larger positive change.
I remember when I was in high school and first started to get interested in ways that I could change what I buy and how I live my life that could help heal the Earth. I read a book, which I unfortunately cannot remember the title of, which covered a number of ways to have a more sustainable home- from floor materials to homemade cleaning products. I was dreamily writing notes from this book, and getting really excited about these simple changes I could make, especially when I was older and had my own living space. Well, now I’m living in my own space, and over the years I have made it a home that I’m proud of. I know that it can be hard and seem daunting starting from ground zero, but even one or two small changes to your lifestyle could make a difference! How? Because it takes one person at a time making small changes for real change to happen.
So, I’ve listed a number of things to think about- a list of options, if you will- things I have decided to change in my life that were done for the purpose of not only reducing my waste, but also keeping my home more simple and minimal. Let me know if this is interesting to you, or helpful, or if you have any suggestions!
Let’s start with some simple changes…
Here are my to-go items that I usually keep in the car so that I don’t forget them at home. I used my utensil set for over half of the PCT, because I bought it in Mount Shasta (a town that was close to the trail). I had been wanting a bamboo utensil kit like this for a while, and finally got one for myself. It is so light and easy to bring along anywhere, which is great for reducing plastic utensils. I also love my coffee cup, which has actually gotten me coffee at a discounted rate many times! Lastly, I’ve got a trunk full of tote bags and washed and dried produce bags ready for whenever I need them.
A famous TV show called Tidying Up with Mari Kondo got me reinvigorated to go through my things last winter. So, I watched the show at the same time as gathering all of my clothes and putting them into one big pile, as she advises to do. I tried to figure out what “sparked joy”, and then I refolded.
Minimalism and low/zero waste is a journey, not a competition. It takes time to find what works for you and to figure out what is essential to your own health and well-being.
I have been so inspired by minimalism the past few months. I generally consider myself an organized person to begin with, but I did have my closet and a few areas of boxed clutter that needed to be sifted through. It takes time, but it feels so good to let go of things that no longer have a function or you simply don’t feel as much attachment to anymore.
I have also started a running training program that my friend (also a personal trainer) created for me. We will be running the Rainier Ragnar in August. So far it helped me get more ready for my annual tradition of doing the Shamrock Run in Portland, but it has also gotten me a little more familiar with things I need to work on with my form.
I am feeling a bit more established in Olympia, especially since starting volunteering at GRuB (an educational community farm). I have what I need, and I can see staying here for longer. I have a feeling of fulfillment from bare necessities.
After a walk in the woods, these three topics came up in my mind. I noticed that they all shared a theme of clarity and being attuned. Once you sift through the static, the fog, the clutter, you can find underlying tendencies. I think it’s interesting that in the two definitions that come up for “attune”, there is “make receptive or aware” and “accustom or acclimatize”. It’s like the definition is set up in helpful steps: awareness, then adjustment.
The first step to solving an issue is to acknowledge and accept a tendency. It doesn’t do you any good to see the tendency, then deny it or to beat yourself up about it. Simply noticing a possible problem and being honest with yourself brings you closer to finding tools to help you when it comes up in the future.
Seeing tendencies using minimalism: When I sorted through my box of stuff in the closet, I noticed that I held onto a lot of sentimental things, especially if they were gifts. From there, I could ask myself if the gift was still relevant to my life or if the person would even care that I had kept it for years. I also found a lot of things that were simply remnants of who I used to be and what I used to care about. I was able to move on from a lot of those things.
Some other examples are when I go for a run with a clear mind, I am more able to notice what habits my body has. Are my shoulders stabilized? Am I running evenly on both feet? Are my feet flipping out behind me? On a similar note, when I still my body and only focus on my breath in meditation, I can notice thought patterns that constantly surface. Sometimes I’m planning. Sometimes I’m remembering events. Sometimes I’m being a perfectionist about my breathing or posture.
When looking at the seasons, we go through a bare winter, all the leaves have shed, we may even get the blank slate of snow. At that point, we can get attuned to what’s going on inside and perhaps adjust. Once spring comes, we are more able to grow, to build, to branch out, to blossom.