Minimalism for the Environment

When I first came across the concept of minimalism, around the year 2009, I wasn’t too impressed. It seemed to me that minimalism was all about getting rid of stuff. Sometimes perfectly good stuff and where that stuff went after leaving the home wasn’t touched on much, so minimalism seemed to me to be supporting a heavier use of landfills. After reading the first book on minimalism that I found, the idea that minimalism was all about housekeeping and de-cluttering was cemented in my mind. I moved on to other things.

You see, back in 2009, my environmentalism was more a field of study and a rallying call behind my activism. I didn’t yet understand that each of us in our daily living creates our legacy. So home upkeep seemed irrelevant to me back then, especially as an unmarried college student.

This year, I began my minimalist journey in earnest and I don’t think I’ll ever see the world the same way again. I was initially lured back into the realm of minimalism by stumbling upon the concept of capsule wardrobing. The idea that I could finally look decent without breaking the bank, filling the laundry basket, and ravaging the Earth held great appeal. I saw a minimalist practice as both personally and environmentally beneficial for the first time. I began to see that less really was more and that there was more to less.

Rather than simply ditching things, minimalism has become a call to rethink my consumptive habits. I am in a process of considering what I really need or love to have in my life. It is a lens that I’ve begun looking through that puts a damper on my desire to collect things for that false sense of security or to keep up with the Jones’. In simplifying my everyday habits, I am content with less and so I buy less.

The things I have around me I have because they help me to be the person I want to be. I know better who I want to be by exploring what is meaningful to me and this exploration is at the heart of minimalism. It is an ongoing and personal process. There is no end point and there is no contest between me and other minimalists.

How Minimalism Has Shaped My New Environmentalism

As I mentioned above, I didn’t see the environmental benefits of minimalism at first. Like many new to the concept of minimalism, I focused on the most visible attributes of the philosophy. It wasn’t until I began exploring another movement, called Zero Waste, that I understood that the practice of sustainable living benefited from a framework, or a hierarchy of decisions. At the peak of the Zero Waste hierarchy, created by Bea Johnson in her Zero Waste Home book and blog, is the first “R”, which stands for “refuse what you do not need”. The second “R” is “reduce what you do need”.

What would have been painfully obvious to a practicing minimalist but took me some time to grasp was that these first two “R”s, are a call to minimalism, because waste is naturally reduced when consumption is reduced.

In fact, whatever the impact you have on the environment, whether your choices are considered wildly harmful to the environment or only mildly so, choices both big and small, that impact is made automatically less harmful be curbing the consumptive level. For example, say you have a Hummer as your family vehicle. You’re not in a position to replace the vehicle right now, but you have become more environmentally conscious. To make the least impact, you decide to combine errands, to carpool, and to simply drive less when activities could be walked or biked to instead. This is clearly not the ideal scenario, but it is a realistic one that improves the situation just by making the decision to consume less.

I now consider minimalism at the top of my environmental hierarchy of decision making. I first look to refuse and reduce the things coming into my home before I look at other issues such as buying second-hand, limiting plastic, avoiding animal products and testing, and so on. The decisions I could make might be endless, but if I am already refusing an object that I decided I don’t need, I no longer have to worry about how ethically it was produced (I’m protesting an unethical or unnecessary product by not handing over my money in the first place).

And, by the way, when I do de-clutter, I’ve learned that I can think minimally and responsibly at the same time. I always think about alternatives to the landfill first.

Learning about minimalism has been a life-altering journey, but by placing my minimalism in the framework of my environmentalism, I have also found that the impact has even broader repercussions than I had thought possible.

The Mins Game (Days 16-19)

As the game wears on, I am finding it more and more challenging. Full disclosure: I have an attic full of unsorted junk that is just now being tapped. After this month, I will probably play the game (without recording it) again in order to address the attic. Should something happen to me, I don’t want anyone to be faced with that catastrophe!

One oddball item showed up this week, a bamboo spoon. Since we have a fire pit and we have no burn bans, I’ve decided that the easiest and greenest method of disposal is actually to burn it.

I also struggled a bit with the lap top bag, which I kept picturing would be useful for work or school. It has a great design, but in all honesty has sat neglected for years. When I get back to classes, I would prefer a backpack in any case so it was time to let go.

Day 16: (136 items total)

  • 1 plastic upright organizer – garage sale
  • 1 very old bottle of sunscreen – garbage
  • 1 woman’s wallet – garage sale
  • 2 pairs of kids pants, full of holes – garbage
  • 6 coasters – garage sale
  • 1 man’s sock, unmatched and full of holes – garbage
  • 1 unmatched kids sock – garbage
  • 1 busted diaper wipe holder – garbage
  • 1 metal figurine – garage sale
  • 1 Christmas tree ornament – garage sale

Day 17: (153 items total)

  • 1 pair leather shoes – garage sale
  • 2 coasters – garage sale
  • 1 soap dish – garage sale
  • 1 broken fast food toy – garbage
  • 1 worn out black maternity t-shirt (full of holes) – garbage
  • 2 broken mugs – garbage
  • 1 puzzle cube toy – garage sale
  • 1 baby shirt – see if friend wants first
  • 1 half of a baby proofing device, who knows where the other half is? – Garbage
  • 1 half of a plastic egg – garbage
  • 1 old car key and dealer tag – garbage
  • 1 piece of a castle long since tossed – garbage
  • 2 Christmas ornaments – garage sale
  • 1 set of spiral curlers, lightly used – garage sale

Day 18: (171 items total)

  • 1 pair of men’s socks, worn out – garbage
  • 1 old Hawaiian shirt, full of holes – garbage
  • 2 books – garage sale
  • 1 skirt – garage sale
  • 1 pair of pumps – garage sale
  • 4 clothing items in decent shape – garage sale
  • 1 spare potato pealer – garage sale
  • 1 broken bamboo spoon – fire pit
  • 3 wool coasters – garage sale
  • 2 knives – garage sale
  • 1 ceramic zester – garage sale

Day 19: (190 items total)

  • 1 pair of earrings – garage sale
  • 1 old school calendar – recycling
  • 1 tapestry – garage sale
  • 1 jacket – garage sale
  • 1 lap top/ bag – garage sale
  • 1 crochet pattern book – recycling
  • 1 unmatched pillow case – garage sale
  • 1 toy – garage sale
  • 1 boys’ PJ bottoms, full of holes – garbage
  • 1 shirt – garage sale
  • 4 shirts – donate
  • 2 mugs – garage sale
  • 2 plastic baby cutlery – garage sale
  • 1 pair winter gloves – donate

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

The Mins Game (Days 12-15)

De-cluttering Responsibly

When I first discovered minimalism, I initially wrote it off as not environmentally friendly. I, like many new to minimalism, tended to focus on the de-cluttering aspect of minimalism and less on minimalism’s impact on consumption. I was understandably concerned. It seemed as though it didn’t matter how objects, sometimes perfectly functional, left the house. I didn’t want to be feeding landfills. It actually took me a few years from learning about minimalism to taking it seriously as one of my top, eco-minded practices.

In doing the Mins Game, I am aware that not only am I focusing on the most visible aspect of minimalism, but also that I am responsible for how things leave my house.

I’m not able to get up to 30 items out of the house on a daily basis. My lifestyle just doesn’t support that kind of freedom. Most of the items leaving my house are not going to go for much either. This is why I’ve decided on a garage sale for my chief method of disposal. I’ve already set the date and have a good location so I’m pretty sure that some stuff will go.

The problem with garage sales is that there is no guarantee that items put up for sale will leave the property at the close of the sale. Therefore, I’ve decided that unless otherwise indicated, I will check to see if books and DVDs are wanted at the library and then put out front with a FREE sign on it, if not. In my neighborhood, most everything gets taken from the curb. For clothes that don’t sell, I will put them in a clothing drop off site for donation. Anything else will get curbed directly with a FREE sign. This will be my strategy so that when I get rid of things, they will stay gotten rid of. 🙂

Day 12: (78 items total from the start of the game)

On day 12, I got rid of:

  • 5 maternity garments that I can’t picture myself wearing. I’m going to try and sell them to the local used kids’ store that sells maternity clothes. Whatever doesn’t sell will go through my usual system.
  • 5 regular clothes
  • 1 book on French slang, too old to still be useful
  • 1 ceramic bowl

I’m doing my best not to include the garbage items that keep popping up – old receipts, packaging waste and the like. I may have to resort to these down the road, but for now I’m just recycling or tossing what I come across. Did I mention that I have a lot of clutter?

Day 13: (91 items total)

  • 4 clothes items
  • 1 shirt (I’ll see if my sister-in-law wants it before sending it through my system described above.)
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 pair of shoes
  • 1 toy
  • 2 Runner’s World magazines (I’ll see if my running friend wants these first.)
  • 3 DVDs

Day 14: (105 items total)

  • 3 garments too worn out for use. I put these in the garbage.
  • 1 ceramic Beatles “yellow submarine” mug
  • 2 dresses I’m going to offer my sister-in-law and her younger sister first.
  • 1 white blouse
  • 7 pieces of intimates, still in very good condition

Day 15: (120 items total)

  • 2 DVDs that I think my siblings might like to have.
  • 3 ceramic dishes
  • 1 mega block to join the others in the garage sale collection
  • 2 ceramic containers for tea that I’ve been holding onto for ages.
  • 1 Teflon rice cooker that works (we replaced ours with a stainless steel one)
  • 1 stuffed animal
  • 2 champagne flutes
  • 1 bath robe
  • 1 worn cardigan
  • 1 plastic wreathe that is too sun damaged and shedding. Garbage.


I’m satisfied that most of the things leaving my house have a chance to a good home. They didn’t have one here as they sat cluttered up and unused for far too long. How about you? If you’ve done major de-cluttering, what system did you put into place to get rid of things responsibly? Let us know in the comments below!

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

The Mins Game (Days 10, 11, and Birthday Musings)

Birthday Musings

On the 10th, we celebrated my birthday. I feel very blessed with stuff and I don’t have a need for much more than what I already have. Truth be told, if I suffer at all, it is from “affluenza” that is, from too much stuff.

Convincing others that you really just want the pleasure of their company for your birthday is a bit of a chore and fights against the social grain. Therefore, I devised an ingenious plan: I would combine my birthday party with a mini-baby-shower (be wary of using the term “baby shower” if you wish to do something similar because the purpose of a baby shower is to shower parents with baby gear). I asked for things on a baby registry – things I already wanted or needed for my baby-to-be.

We had two other families over, so this already naturally limited the number of gifts I would have to contend with. 50% success rate as far as registry compliance. 🙂

We had a really wonderful time and left the activities I had planned behind in exchange for sitting in the yard and chatting. A really pleasant day with well-matched company.

One family also brought several boxes of hand-me-down clothing. Free, pre-loved, and gender specific (I know I’m having a girl). While I first shuddered at the number of boxes entering my home, the clothing really wasn’t as superfluous as I initially imagined. The mom had organized the clothes by size categories (babies grow so rapidly through the first year) and I discovered that we actually struck gold. I’ve decided to split some of this gold with a friend who is also expecting a girl because I have a capsule baby wardrobe plan and need very little. Since she is due in the summer, this was especially good as I was able to give the newborn summer clothes to a good home.

Day 10: Misc.

  • 5 additional books (garage sale, curb for free if they don’t get sold)
  • Toothbrush holder – We will soon be a family of five and the four holes seem too cramped, plus, I hate cleaning it. We’ll use a mason jelly jar instead and swap out on a weekly basis. Then I can just put the old jar in the dishwasher.
  • bathroom container – This comes from a matching set whose pieces are getting replaced. I really had no purpose for it so I will attempt to sell it in my garage sale.
  • Ceramic mug – broken, I’m throwing this out
  • foil engraving kit – not a craft I’m interested in, sell in garage sale
  • ugly baby plate – enough said, sell in garage sale

Day 11: 11 Old Textbooks and Wedding Books

I have a strong tendency to hoard books. Even outdated books, even ones intended for reference when an Internet connection would suffice. I’m going to put them into the garage sale, then if they don’t go, check to see if the library wants them, failing that, I will curb them with a free sign, and lastly I will recycle them.


My house is already looking so much better! I have already gotten rid of 66 items so far as part of the Mins Game.

Until next time, keep that talk walking!


The Mins Game (Days 5-9)

This week was filled with activity. It forced me to group the culling for days 5-9 all onto a single day. This is not really how the mins game is meant to go down, but it is better than not doing it at all.

Day 5. Random Stuff

  • I got rid of a sock monkey with a run (the kids don’t like it anyway), this will go into the garage sale first because it could still find a home.
  • A 2015 calendar. I don’t know why I still had it. This went to the recycling.
  • Dr. Dolittle DVD to the garage sale pile.
  • Graduation frame I still have in a box. Clearly, I don’t need it.
  • A bird puzzle game to the garage sale pile.

This collection does not really point to any habits that I need to get rid of except for the oh so general habit of collecting clutter and not making quicker decisions about things. That’s why I’m in the mess that I’m in!

Day 6. Crochet and Knitting Patterns and Booklets

I enjoy crocheting and sometimes knitting, but when I go about a project, I will look up something very specific from the start. I tend to look for patterns that call to me from online or in a craft store. I almost never touch the dated patterns that I’ve collected. For day 6, I got rid of 6 old paper patterns and booklets. I’m putting them in the recycling because they are so tatty I don’t think they have value to anyone anymore.

Day 7: Novels

Since having kids, I don’t really have time to read for pleasure anymore. Most of my reading is non-fiction for work or personal development. If I do get the time in the future, I could easily borrow something from my local library or download something to my iPad. My husband almost never reads either and my kids are too young for most of the novels I’ve been housing.

Therefore, most novels don’t need to live here. I will keep my favorites (and my husband’s favorites) and the one’s I want to share with my kids in a few years.

These novels are actually in really good condition. I’ll probably start with the garage sale for convenience sake, but those that don’t get sold, I will either try to sell on Amazon/eBay or donate to the library.

Day 8: Kids’ Coloring Books

The kids inherited a large number of pre-loved coloring books, but they don’t even look at them. Instead, they shove them aside in the search for the ones we purchased for them based on their interests. The pile had actually outgrown the coloring module which used to be able to fit the books and crayons together.

Therefore, I’m culling the collection by 8 so that the coloring books fit in the box with the crayons again. These I will put out for free or at a very low price at the garage sale.

Day 9: 9 Used Spools of Crochet Cotton

I inherited a bunch of crafting supplies recently. Among them, 9 partial spools of crochet cotton. Some spools have quite a bit of crochet thread left, some have small amounts. I may try to off-load this first in my garage sale and then at a meeting of the library’s crafting club.

The thing is, none of the colors speak to me and I tend to enjoy purchasing materials when I begin a new project as part of the creative process.


So, I’m still doing the mins game even though this is a very crazy time of the year for me. I’m already seeing an improvement in my home and in my minimalist skills.

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

The Mins Game (Days 3 & 4)

The mins game has actually illuminated more for me than I thought it would. I haven’t just been getting rid of stuff, but learning a little about why I have the stuff that I don’t want in the first place. So here are two more contributions and the insights that lie with them.

(The total is up to: 10 items.)

Day 3: Three Tank Tops

I held onto 2 very large tank tops in the event of pregnancy, but now that I’m pregnant, I realize that this “just in case” was an excuse not to make an informed decision. On some level, I must have known that black and white are not my colors. In fact, I invested in some used maternity tops more to my liking since becoming pregnant. Tank tops that fit nicely into my pregnancy capsule wardrobe. Today, I’m saying goodbye to these unwanted tops.

I have another tank top that I was saving for after pregnancy as it is my usual size. It is a pale blue and white striped mariner inspired top. Also not quite my style. So, I’ll be putting these tank tops in my garage sale and donating them to the Salvation Army if they don’t get sold.

These three items point to my tendency to hold onto things that really aren’t “me” because I lack confidence in my personal style. Describing my style is an important step in keeping this from happening so often.

Find Your Style Questions

Here are four questions you can answer for yourself, though I’ve given my answer as an example. This exercise may be helpful if you’re like me and have a hard time defining the boundaries of your collection.

  • What do you spend your days doing?

I spend the majority of my time working from home, watching my kids, being outside, and working out. I don’t need a lot of office wear, but comfort and maneuverability are important.

  • What are your colors?

Blue (especially navy, but light blues are also nice), blue jeans (dark wash), browns and tans, greens (mostly dull military and olive), grey, with purples, reds, and pinks as accents. Paisleys and organic patterns if any.

I (almost) never wear: yellows, oranges, bright reds, blacks, whites, stripes, polka dots.

  • What are three words to describe the kind of look you’re going for?

sporty, outdoorsy, earthy boho

  • Describe one typical “uniform”.

Dark wash blue jeans, a belt, a grey tank top, a green button-down shirt with rolled up sleeves, earthy jewelry, hiking boots.

Day 4. Christmas Paraphernalia. 


When I celebrate Christmas with my husband’s family, I tend to get Christmas gear. Usually, it seems to be re-gifts from people who love and want to include me but don’t know much about me. Thus the Christmas-related stuff even though I don’t celebrate the holiday at home.

I haven’t yet discovered a sensitive way to reject these, especially without telling my in-laws that I’m not even Christian. So, here’s 4 more items for the garage sale. Maybe they’ll bring joy to others.

I’m still trying to figure out how to opt out of gift exchanges all together, but I don’t know if this is even possible when trying to keep social bonds strong in the face of cultural norms.

Until next time, keep that talk walking!



The Mins Game (Days 1 & 2)

I’ve decided to take the Minimalists up on their minimalist game-challenge. How does it work? Every day, I will get rid of the same number of items as the day of the month. So, on June 1st, I’ll get rid of 1 item, June 15th, 15 items, and, finally on the 30th, I will get rid of 30 items.

There are two aspects of the game that I will be ignoring: one is the competitive aspect. I can be just as competitive with myself as I am with another and getting someone to play along is hard work! The other is that all the items must leave the house before midnight of that day. This rule is simply unrealistic for my life circumstances. But don’t worry, the items will be leaving my house and I won’t be counting them twice.

The reason I want to do this is that my de-cluttering goals have begun to stagnate and I’ve heard good things about this game jump-starting or refueling a minimalist journey.

Day 1: My Old Konjac Sponge


I’ve been using a konjac sponge to clean and exfoliate the skin on my face for a few years now. It is made from the root of the konjac plant and is vegan and biodegradable. It generally is replaced every three months or so and I was due to replace the one I had.

I figured I would put the sponge in the compost, take the new sponge from the cardboard box and recycle the box (I got Dr. Sponge brand this time around hoping to avoid the non-biodegradable, non-recyclable plastic) but discovered that hidden inside the cardboard was the sponge …wrapped in… plastic.

This means that not only have I gotten rid of the konjac sponge, I’ve decided to discontinue purchasing more as I really want to cut down on my plastic use. For the interests of minimalism, I think I will just use a clean washcloth when I’ve finished with my current sponge.

Day 2: Two Plastic Spatulas

I have been gathering stainless steel cooking utensils for awhile. They are used with our stainless steel and cast iron cookware as we’ve been avoiding Teflon and plastic. We’ve been doing this for a few years now for health reasons. I had already replaced our two plastic spatulas with two stainless steel ones, but they hadn’t been evicted from our home until today.

My plan is to put the plastic ones in our upcoming garage sale (at the end of the month) and if they don’t go, putting them at the curb with a “free” sign, which works wonders in our community.

What Do You Think?

Does this sound like a challenge you’d like to take on? Have you already? Do you think it promotes waste? Or can it be done responsibly? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Until next time, keep that talk walking!