First, we want to go back in time for a moment and see what history can tell us about finding happiness and about wealth distribution. For centuries, humanity has contemplated and discussed how to achieve happiness and fulfillment in life. A few thousand years ago, Aristotle claimed that maintaining a balance between two excesses will get us there. Buddha had a similar approach, adding that a mindful and reflective way of life is most fulfilling. Today, most people agree that finding a purpose is what makes our lives meaningful and therefore grants us happiness. All these ideas have a true core and will certainly improve anyone’s life if applied correctly. They are the foundation, around which we can create a life we want to look back on, as we grow older. Yet, they are only the basics. We’re left with the question: How can we apply these principles to all areas of this complex modern life?
There are two important observations to make. Firstly, while the percentage of exploited individuals has shrunk, the group of exploiters has grown proportionally, and we are in one way or another, members of the latter. Secondly, and here is what it boils down to; our resources are not only distributed unequally, but they are also limited. If we want to live truly sustainably, we will need to rethink how much “stuff” we actually need in our lives. This might already be the first step towards happiness, as downsizing will allow us to make our actions align with our values of sustainability and fairness.
Apart from the economic situation, which will on the long run require us to change the way we think about making purchases, there are multiple personal benefits, which derive from subscribing to a more minimalist lifestyle.
Life is one unpredictable ride and often we are swept off our feet by a sudden change or a new experience. Maybe the first time we feel a sort of sufficiency is when traveling or suddenly a family member gets sick and we come to the realisation that we have spent a lot of time and energy on things that don’t really matter. Can you relate?
Here’s exactly where downsizing and happiness touch. Fewer possessions mean: we have to put less effort and worries in taking care of them and in their maintenance. This in term gives us more time to focus on things that are really relevant to us, like growing our relationships with friends and family, as well as self-fulfillment. We are not as tempted to invest our time in material things but can spend it pursuing the purpose we have given our lives. And purpose makes us happy, right?
Now don’t think downsizing goes entirely without emotion. It’s not an easy process. However, it may be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Ready for less clutter and more happiness?
Here are some tips on how you can get started on incorporating minimalism in your life:
Getting rid of stuff
- When clearing out wardrobes, drawers, and shelves, ask yourself this simple question, with every item you encounter: Is this adding value to my life? Or in the words of Marie Kondo: Is this sparking joy? It is you, who decides how much leeway you allow yourself. Downsizing does not mean throwing out decoration or books you love just because you haven’t touched them in a while. Just keep in mind: we cannot prepare for all eventualities. Let go of what weighs you down instead of serving you a purpose.
2. One technique, to help you assess what you really want to keep, is packing all your belongings in boxes and then you take out only the things that you need over the following 4 weeks. Everything that’s still packed up after that time can be subject to consideration.D
3. Don’t simply throw out stuff. Sell it on a flea market or give it away to a charity. This way you can turn the excess into something useful.
4. Become more organised. A tidy home and workspace help us to keep focus and maintain a clear mind. The fewer distractions there are, the more our creativity can fill the space.
6. Invest in quality items. Part of conscious consumerism means: putting thought into our purchases. Rather own 10 good shirts that last you for a long time, than throwing out 3 each year and purchasing 5 new. A way to circumvent the “out of style trap” is to buy more timeless pieces. You are more likely to still like your timeless quality clothes, years after you got them. Additionally, there are always ways to play around with them, like adding a colorful scarf and therefore giving it a new twist.
Timeless pieces can help cutting down your wardrobe.
8. Practice upcycling at home. Often there is no need to go to the store and buy new items for your house and garden. Whenever you are about to throw something out ask yourself: Is there a way to give a new purpose to this? Pinterest is a great platform where you can find inspiration for almost everything you want to build. An idea to pimp your garden is, for example, homemade hydroponic system from reused plastic bottles.
9. If you want to go big on the idea of minimalism and sufficiency, you should have a look at the tiny house trend. After downsizing in belongings, more and more people consciously decide to live in a smaller space that still meets all their needs.
10. The more you share with others, the less stuff you will need to buy. Sharing, for instance, self-made food with your neighbors, taking Uber with others, instead of saving for a car, or renting a summer house, rather than getting your own, makes a huge difference. Minimalism can therefore also promote a sense of community and make us better socializers.
For this year’s Women’s Day in South Africa, we want to introduce a woman in sustainability who inspires us daily. After earning a Master’s degree in Development Studies, she joined Greenpop in 2014. When she is not heading up programmes across Sub-Saharan Africa, you can find her spending time with her family, tending to her garden, practising Italian, and searching for the best pizza in the Mother City. Get to know Zoë Gauld-Angelucci!
World Environment Day is organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and has been held annually since 1974. The goal of the day of action is to promote environmental awareness and draw attention to crucial concerns around our planet’s survival, that require active engagement and commitment. Today, the day represents one of the largest global platforms for environmental action, with millions of participants from around the world. Each World Environment Day focuses on a specific issue that reflects urgent problems and challenges of our time, such as climate change, biodiversity loss or pollution.
Composting is surprisingly easy with these 4 steps – you can even do it at home, and don’t need a lot of space.
Greenpop Foundation NPC is a registered non-profit organisation. Registration Number (NPO): 151-411 NPO.