9 Paradigm Shifts To Make You a Better Holistic Minimalist And Reduce Waste!

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” Toni Morrison

Underlying this whole idea of “paradigm shifting” is that of reframing our concept of what it means to be “free.” Due to various chapters in humanity’s history a kind of culture has emerged that places freedom on par with consumption. Freedom is equated with monetary and material wealth and the implied “benefits” of that. By contrast, if we want to start living lives that are in line with our true values we need to start seeing “freedom” differently. What if your vision of freedom was a bit more about sharing, a bit more about positive relationships and a bit more about love? When you look at it that way, beneath all this talk about minimalism and creating less waste is a very fundamental shift in thinking that can deeply alter every aspect of your life.

12.1 Start With The Idea That Less Is More

The number one thing you need to do to create less waste and accumulate less in your daily life is simply to realize and accept that you need a lot less of everything than you think you do! Scaling back our consumption habits is part of shifting the paradigm in which many people live today. It’s not only about learning to “live with less.” It’s about reconnecting with the aspects of life that are immaterial and which nourish us even more than the accumulation or consumption of “stuff.” It’s about recognizing that the drive to consume comes often from a place of fear—fear of scarcity, fear of not being or having “enough” or of not being lovable. Consumption is a mechanism by which we try and fill certain voids in our lives which would be better filled by spending time building healthy relationships with ourselves and with those around us. Period.

12.2 To Share Or Not to Share?

“Consume less; share better.” Hervé Kempf

Ok so maybe a lot of us grew up having to share (with our siblings, with playmates…) and thus have a deep seated desire to have total control and ownership over everything we use in our lives. Perhaps we have a fear of not having what we need when we need it. If you feel like that’s a principle by which you want to live your life, that’s your choice. Sharing goods can however be a great way to build a sustainable minimalist lifestyle for yourself!! For example more and more urban dwellers are co-owning vehicles because for the most part living in the city you don’t need a car every day. There are a ton of benefits to sharing a vehicle. It’s cost efficient, means not having to deal with the dilemma of parking regulations and also serves to keep you connected to some of your friends by having shared ownership of something! This is just one example, but the same could be said of shared tools, kitchen appliances or just about anything else that you want to have available but don’t need to use every day.

12.3 What If Fixing Things Was Your First Option?

Just a couple generations ago people seemed to know how to do just about everything. Seen in one light this is usually a case of “necessity” being “the mother of invention.” When you don’t have the option of going out to the local mall and buying a replacement for whatever it is that’s broken, well…you’d better figure out how to fix it! Unfortunately the new attitude of “just replace it” is causing a whole lot of garbage. Plus, not only are all those unfixed things piling up in landfills, we’re also losing a lot of useful skills that we then aren’t able to pass on to the next generation.

Sewing, carpentry, basic mechanics, plumbing…maybe you don’t want to become proficient in all of them, but “figuring out how to figure things out” is the main skill involved in fixing most household issues. Next time something breaks don’t leap to the conclusion that its totally irreparable! Why not see if you can’t “just fix it”? If you don’t know where to start, YouTube abounds with helpful videos guiding you through every step of just about anything you can think of.

12.4 Why You Should Join The DIY Movement

Closely linked to the above, we have the idea of “DIY” or Do It Yourself. The term has become popularized over the last decade, and for good reason. The DIY movement is one way of reclaiming knowledge that used to be commonplace as a result of necessity. Learning how to do things yourself can be an incredibly empowering journey for various reasons. It puts us in direct connection with the things that we use in our everyday lives. It shifts our perspective of ourselves and allows us to see that we are capable of much more than we may believe (i.e. it majorly boosts self-confidence!). It also usually means that we can find ways of creating a lot less waste by making things from scratch using materials that meet our criteria in terms of being sourced locally or sustainably. Plus, doing it yourself can can save you a lot of coin – thrifty minimalists take heed!

12.5 The Older The Better (or “Quality First”)

Some of you may have heard of the term “planned obsolescence.” It’s a term used to talk about products being created to essentially stop working after a certain amount of time. This is basically a strategy that marketers and producers have come up with to ensure that people have to keep buying stuff. Back in the good ol’ days things were made to last. Now most things are built to break.

One way to avoid the frustration and inevitable waste that comes with constantly malfunctioning goods is to make a conscious decision to invest slightly more in everything you buy in order to get quality products (as opposed to finding the cheapest option and then having to pay to fix or replace it in a year or two).

12.6 Practice Giving Without Attachment

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.” Thich Nhat Hanh

There are many beautiful ceremonies and rituals that exist in cultures across the globe around the act of giving. In most cultures that practice earth-based spirituality, hoarding of wealth or goods is not seen as “natural” for lack of a better term. When someone has been blessed with abundance they share that abundance with their entire community because…well it just makes a heck of a lot more sense in the context of any system (society, culture, etc.) based on relationships (which basically every healthy ecosystem is…).

Rather than holding on to things because you might need them tomorrow, consider giving away what you don’t need! Giving is a way of strengthening social connections in a way that almost guarantees you will also be on the receiving end at some point. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that this doesn’t mean you’ll one day receive from the exact same people you gave to in the past. This can cause us to see anytime we “give” to someone as an “investment” with a future “return.” Having this kind of attitude when giving can often sour the whole thing because it leaves people feeling pressure to give back. You need to shift your perspective to see the cycle of giving and receiving on a much larger scale and practice giving without attachment.

12.7 Learn To Ask For What You Need

In direct relationship with the principle of giving without attachment is being able to ask for what we need. “How is this related to being a minimalist?” you may ask. Well, as with giving stuff away, being able to ask for what we need is pretty key in avoiding going out and buying new stuff! If you aren’t able to reach out to other people around you and tell them what you need, you obviously won’t get it!

Asking for things from people often means letting go of pride and of our whole upbringing within a “debt” oriented system. As mentioned above, there’s something very healthy about getting back to a balanced place where you’re able to give and receive without seeing things from the limited perspective of direct “investment and return.” Think big picture. Act from a place where you ask for what you need when you need it and you give what you have to give when someone else needs it. Simple, right? Yet somehow this isn’t common practice in most modern day societies.

12.8 Trading

Another way of organizing this whole giving and receiving thing, and thus avoiding unnecessary accumulation and waste, is through trades. Be it goods or services, we all have something to offer. Trading on a local and interpersonal scale is a huge part of building healthy communities because it cultivates “interdependence.” This obviously goes counter to the individualist idea that not needing anyone ever is a model you should strive for. But it’s been said over and over again by every minimalist guru out there…valuing relationships and experiences over objects is the way to go!

12.9 Go Local and Focus on Fresh.

“Is it really worth the environmental consequences to send a mango, or a mini skirt, on a three-thousand-mile journey?” Francine Jay

It can’t be emphasized enough how important buying local can be. Number one you cut way down on the amount of international transportation you are funding through your consumption habits. These days almost everything we buy comes from far away unless we are conscious of choosing products that are made locally. Of course depending on where you live your local options may be limited, but often if you do a bit of research you’ll be surprised by what you can find!

Buying local strengthens the local economy and allows your neighboring farmers or artisans to make a living. In terms of food, you’ll also be getting much fresher and often better quality goods without conservation agents and irradiation necessary for long-distance transportation. Whenever possible, focus on fresh foods so that you can also take up less space storing food long term (which also cuts down on waste, as you’re less likely to forget things in the back of your cavernous fridge or pantry!).

12.10 Everything Has Multiple Uses

Think about how to give second, third and fourth lives to the things you own! A really basic example is repurposing clothes you would otherwise chuck…like making cutoff shorts out of jeans with totally destroyed knees (though hey, maybe that’s your style anyways!). If you’re not the crafty type, there are still usually ways to make things live on after their seeming end of usefulness, even if it means giving stuff to someone else who’s a bit more enthusiastic about repurposing stuff.

There’s also something to be said for having tools that serve multiple uses rather than having a separate thing for every task. One currently popular example of this is the use of mason jars for both canning and food storage and as the new hip water or coffee container. This principle is basically an invitation to get creative! Think about the various different ways you could reuse something as it ages, or choose things you buy for their multiple use potential.

12.11 Action Point Summary – Here’s What You Need to do Now!

“We are not what we own; we are what we do, what we think and who we love.” Francine Jay

The above quote basically sums up everything we’ve been trying to say in this article. If you want to work towards living in a way that reflects that understanding of things, here are the principles you need to follow in point form…

  1. Less is more. Practice consuming less every day. Remind yourself of this key principle on the regular. Make it your daily mantra, right up there with “simplify, simplify, simplify…”
  2. Share. Make a list of all the things you need every now and then, but not regularly enough to justify owning them, and then see who in your network might also benefit from co-owning the same thing(s).
  3. Try fixing it first! Don’t just accept the modern attitude of “if it breaks, replace it.” To be a holistic minimalist you need to learn to go beyond the easy throw away solutions. And if you can’t fix it, someone can!
  4. Do it yourself. Save money and learn valuable skills by taking on some of the things you’d usually call on outside help for. Make a project of it with a friend who also wants to learn how to build a bookshelf or fix a washing machine.
  5. Quality first. Before buying anything, figure out if it’s made to last, or to break. You can actually avoid a lot of principle #3 by doing this.
  6. Give freely. This is a big one, but well worth the effort! An easy way to start, and of decreasing clutter at the same time, is by giving away something you really, really love, but don’t use…
  7. Ask for what you need. Before going out and buying something, reach out to your network and see if someone has one to give or trade away!
  8. Trade. Start building a network of friends acquaintances you can barter with for goods and services. This is one of the best ways to strengthen relationships and avoid constantly buying new stuff!
  9. Go local. Figure out the best places to support local producers and make those your main shopping destinations, be it for food or other.
  10. Use thing for multiple purposes. Look around your space. What do you own that serves a purpose that you could actually something else you own for? How much stuff can you get rid of just by using certain items for several things instead of having different things for every purpose?

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