I have been trying to live more minimalist/ zero-waste for almost two years now and I love it. During that time, I have been following a bunch of Instagram accounts and realizing that there is dangerous aesthetics when it comes to both zero-waste living and a minimalist lifestyle. It all looks so clean, put together, and instagram-perfect. While that is not a bad thing, it’s also not necessarily the purpose of the whole movement. The trap many people who try out minimalism or zero-waste living encounter (me included) is that they want it all to look amazing and to go well together. The need for nice aesthetics might end up costing you more than what you bargained for.
Let me explain:
The concept of minimalism is to reduce your material possessions and only keep the items that bring you joy, are meaningful or useful to you. If you google minimalism, you will stumble across a bunch of white, almost empty apartments or rooms with a slick looking table, matching chair, maybe a plant on top of the table, little to no decoration and a bed with white sheets in the corner and three black T-shirts in the wardrobe. I might be exaggerating a bit, but you know exactly what I am talking about.
First of all, it’s great to declutter. Most of us have way too much stuff. Yet, you don’t need to get rid of everything to become a minimalist. If you love books and read them all, you can have a bookshelf full of them, for example. It’s about what you like. It’s not a contest about who has the least amount of stuff. You might end up decluttering too much and then having to buy things again.
When some people discover minimalism, they want their place to look picture-perfect. This can lead to buying new matching furniture and other items and throwing out fully functional old items. You don’t need to buy expensive new stuff to make everything look pretty if you have the same items at home and they are still in great working condition. Of course, if you want your place to look a certain way, go ahead and do it as you have to feel comfortable there. But if you liked your old stuff before, why suddenly replace it with more stuff that is exactly the same. You just end up spending more money instead of enjoying what you still have until you actually need something new.
A big trap when you move to a zero-waste lifestyle is everything surrounding plastic. Suddenly, you want to get rid of every plastic container and item you have in your house and replace it with reusable boxes and glass containers. What happens next? You go ahead and throw out the plastic items and buy a bunch of items that look good together or are more “zero-waste.” Now look at the waste you have created. I bet most of the plastic containers you threw out where still in great condition and you could have used them until they actually broke. Use up the stuff you have at home. At least they were of use and fulfilled a purpose before you had to get rid of them.
You should also be careful not to fall into the trap of buying zero-waste items you don’t even need. Foldable cutlery, for example. It can be useful but do you actually need it? Won’t a regular fork and knife not fit into your bag? If you usually don’t drink out of a straw at home, why do you suddenly need a set of foldable straws or glass straws? I personally love my glass straws, but I also use them all the time. 😉 But if you usually don’t drink out of a straw, will you actually start once you have a new set of glass straws? If you buy items in the store and they come in a jar (plastic or jam) you can keep it and repurpose it as a storage container instead of buying some fancy new box.
Brands enable this behavior
Obviously, brands want to sell as much as possible. Many of them have caught on to the shift to minimalism and low-waste life and the aesthetics of it. So now you can buy a bunch of go-together, pretty items; sometimes they are also plastic-free or low-waste. While this is technically not a bad thing and of course, plastic-free products are better than other products, you probably only need half of the items, if any. Furthermore, many of these companies will slap an impressive price tag on those fancy products and try to convince you that you cannot live without them.
Take travel, for example. Many travel accessory companies will sell you the most expensive, but sleek-looking suitcases with the matching carry-on and toiletry bag. Don’t get me wrong, paying more for items if the quality is right is often better than spending little money but having to buy a replacement a few months later. This is especially true for suitcases in my experience. I also own quite an expensive, fancy-looking suitcase but it’s been lasting me a long time. But when it comes to things like the toiletry bag, I don’t see the point in it matching your suitcase in style. Who will even see them together other than you? Some suitcase brands will charge you $70 or more for such a bag just because it’s the same brand and style. Now you’ve got a pretty looking, expensive bag, but when you fly somewhere and it’s in your hand luggage you will have to put it in a see-through bag anyway.
That’s the issue with aesthetics in a minimalist/zero-waste lifestyle. You’ll spend a bunch of money on matching, new products for a fresh start as part of your new way of living and you’ll end up paying more than you need and buying more items you probably decluttered before anyway and won’t need again.
All that glitters is not gold.
If you are looking for some easy zero-waste and minimalist gift ideas, check out my article on that here.
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