By Virginia Thomas-Pickles, GLOBUS contributor
We live in a society that constantly encourages the accumulation of new possessions. From clothes to the latest kitchen gadgets – the adverts on social media and television are endless. Most of us have cupboards overloaded with items or drawers that barely shut because they are completely stuffed with all kinds of things. But do all of these possessions make us happy?
This constant need for new goods is one of the driving forces contributing to the climate crisis. Excess consumption causes extra resources to be exploited unnecessarily, meaning more energy, raw materials and water are needed for the production and transportation of these goods, which ‘worsens climate change and increases air pollution’. Current trends of overconsumption are wasteful as finite resources are being used for goods that, in many cases, will end up in a landfill. The way to rectify this is to reduce your level of consumption. By reducing your consumption, the extent of environmental damage created can be reduced.
A recent survey showed that each year average UK household wastes over £9,000 on goods that they do not use. This includes over £700 on unused clothes and nearly £550 on beauty products. It is easy to forget that all the single purchases we make add up to such large sums of money. Purchasing goods and then not using them is wasteful; both in terms of finite natural resources and the money you are spending.
Studies have shown that ‘the mere accumulation of material goods may fail to increase life satisfaction if it does nothing to strengthen social bonds’. Therefore, spending money on seeing your friends and family may well be more important to your happiness than being surrounded by possessions. By reconsidering your spending, you could well find you are happier when you choose to spend your money on meeting friends and family instead of just purchasing material goods.
Having more money to spend seeing the people you care about sounds good. But how can you make this a reality? This is where minimalism comes in. At the heart of minimalism is the concept of less is more, allowing you to re-evaluate your life and to see what you consider to be important, i.e. it leads you to avoid mindless consumption. This re-evaluation enables you to focus your time and energy on doing the things you deem to be most important, which can increase your sense of fulfilment.
Adopting some of these minimalist traits is simple. You need to begin by questioning whether everything you own is necessary, and whether you will use any of the new purchases you are going to make. By no means does this imply getting rid off of all your possessions, but instead try to consider all the things you ‘already have’ and what additional things you ‘actually’ need.
The following few steps may be helpful when considering your current possessions:
- Declutter! This can sound overwhelming but take it one step at a time. Maybe today begin decluttering that one drawer that barely shuts. Maybe focus on a room a week. Whatever suits you.
- When decluttering, consider if items you are unsure about are needed, or give you happiness. If the answer is no, consider giving it to charity so that someone else can benefit from it.
- Tackling your wardrobe can seem like a huge challenge. One way to determine what you wear regularly is to turn all the coat hangers the other way around in your wardrobe. Once you start wearing one of these items, you can turn the designated coat hanger back the usual way. In a few months’ time, see which coat hangers have not been turned around, and then consider donating these pieces to charity.
After decluttering, you will have a greater idea of what you own and what you need. If you need new goods, maybe try shopping secondhand first. Purchasing secondhand goods helps minimise the production of new items, which in turn helps to limit the climate crisis.
If you cannot find items secondhand, try shopping with more sustainable brands. Ethical companies supplying good quality items may be a bit more expensive, but their products last for a long time so they are cost-effective in the long-run. Try to support local, independent stores wherever you can. They will greatly appreciate your support, and often you can find unique pieces not seen on the high street.
Shopping secondhand is cheaper than buying new goods, and by only buying things you actually need or that make you happy you are likely to buy less. This is where you can save money for seeing friends and family, and doing the things you love.
Our constant need for goods cannot be sustained. We need to change. We can all do our bit to cut down our consumption and donate to charity in the process. And you never know – having a clearer, less cluttered life could well make you happier.