Around five years into marriage with three toddlers my life felt chaotic. I craved simplicity, but had no idea how to create it. If I got rid of stuff we no longer loved or needed would life be easier? I filled our minivan and made multiple donations to Goodwill. After each trip I would head over to Target for diapers, toilet paper, and toothpaste; but I would always end up with a whole lot more. You understand, right?! So my plan was a bust, lol.
Then I learned about minimalism and I had a huge AHA moment. Minimalism is all about living intentionally.Think about the life you want to live. Let go of anything that holds you back from this life. Keep the stuff you love, that helps you live your best life. AND. Only bring into your life the things that help you accomplish your goals. This is what minimalism is all about - being very intentional. Once I learned this, I understood why my actions weren’t leading to the simplicity I craved. While I was intentionally letting go of stuff, I was mindlessly bringing stuff back in.
Because minimalism is all about living intentionally, it can look different for each person. My goal was to simplify our possessions and improve our finances so we could have the freedom to pursue a more flexible lifestyle. Once I realized this was what I really wanted (and my husband agreed), it was easy to let go of a lot of stuff and be very mindful of what we brought back in.
Most things I decluttered, I sold via Craigslist (now-a-days through Facebook Marketplace). I loved this because I ended up with cash; bettering our finances. Anything I didn’t sell, I donated to Goodwill. But more often than I liked, we had to place stuff in the trash.
Because I was actively placing more things in the trash, it got me thinking. What happens at the landfill? I liked to believe that metals magically made their way to recycling facilities and everything decomposed and turned into soil. I read Rubbish! The Archeology of Garbage and my mind was blown and forever changed. My idealiologic thinking ended and I understood that stuff doesn’t just decompose the way I thought. It was a fascinating read. I totally recommend it.
To make matters worse. I learned that landfills leach dangerous chemicals into our waterways. In order to combat this issue they lined the landfills with a barrier creating an anaerobic burial ground. With no oxygen, even the items that break down easily (like food waste) don’t have a chance to turn back into nutrient rich soil. Instead, it turns into a slimy substance that off gases methane. Methane is a flammable greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere at greater rates than carbon dioxide. In order to control the toxic levels of methane, they burn it off. You may have seen this when driving past a landfill - pipes sticking out of the ground with flames bursting into the air.
This peaked my interest in learning more. I read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and my mind was blown once again. Not only do plastic bags and straws end up in the ocean hurting animals, but our plastics erode over time into microplastics. Marine animals consume these and when someone eats fish, they are very likely consuming a little bit of plastic themselves. Microplastic has become so prevalent in the ocean that a floating island of trash in the middle of the ocean caused by swirling currents was even discovered.
Knowing that our land, waterways, and oceans are all contaminated by our trash (especially plastics), I set out to learn if I could decrease my use of plastics. This led me to find environmentally friendly alternatives to plastics. This can be a daunting exercise. I learned very quickly to just try one thing at a time - rags instead of paper towels, metal straws instead of plastic ones, and package free bar soap. With each experiment I found things I loved. Our trash piles started becoming smaller. And I became happily obsessed with this new eco-friendly lifestyle.
Combining my love for minimalism and eco-friendly living has been awesome. They go together so well because they are both about being intentional with your life. And through this journey I get closer each day and each year to my dream life.
Seven years into being an eco-minimalist family: We have let go of over half our possessions. My husband traded his corporate career for a remote job he loves. We took a huge leap of faith an moved from Wisconsin to Florida where the sun shines every day. My soul feels happy and I’m starting to uncover the simple lifestyle I had always dreamed of.
Just imagine where an eco-minimalist lifestyle could take you. What does your dream life look like? I’d love to know!