Shopping Consciously as a Minimalist

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Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

While minimalism is already widely accepted as an eco-friendly way of living, there are still ways you can continue to do your part if you’ve adopted a “less is more” lifestyle. Shopping consciously is one of the easiest and most effective ways to embrace minimalism, while also putting our planet first. As you embrace the minimalist way of life, here are just a few ways you can shop more consciously along the way.

Take Inventory

Before you set out on any sort of shopping excursion, it’s always important to create a home inventory. By definition, minimalists seek to live with the items they need, as opposed to what they might want. This means you should strive to not have a significant amount of duplicate items in your household. While stocking up on canned goods or owning several sets of sneakers might not feel like a big deal in the beginning, buying excess quantities of items you already own can create more waste in the long run due to forgetting what you already have, food expiring before you can eat it, etc. Taking the time to write down a clear and concise inventory of the things you already have is a sure fire way to keep you from buying items you don’t need. 

It’s important to note, though, that not everyone can afford to replace things if they don’t have duplicates. Don’t feel pressured to pare down to the barest of minimums, and it’s ok to keep a backup of something stored in case of emergencies. Instead of focusing on a numerical limit, consider your space the limit. Only keep as many of something you can reasonably fit on the shelf, in the bin, or in your dresser.

Practice Mindful Grocery Shopping

A great way to keep yourself conscious as you shop is by being as mindful as possible as you purchase your groceries. Whether you like to buy your ingredients on a weekly or biweekly basis, be sure to have a plan of action when you enter the store. Having a list helps keep you on track and inspires less shopping spontaneity. Don’t shop on an empty stomach as this can cause you to purchase more than you need.

Consider changing up your diet slightly by adapting to a more environmentally friendly way of eating. Try your hand at practicing recipes that incorporate little to no meat, as the meat market’s carbon footprint is a steadily growing problem. Planning out your meals well in advance will keep you from making unnecessary purchases and it will keep your pantry more organized over time. 

Shopping at local farmers’ markets can also help reduce the carbon footprint of importing food from far away and helps boost the local economy and support small business.

Donate As Much As You Buy

This is essentially the “one in, one out” rule.

Try to make a mental note to donate items from your home just as often as you add new items. If you’re debating buying a new chair or sofa for your living room, first assess which current piece of furniture you know you could do without, unless you are shopping for a space that needs a change in functionality to seat more people or add a guest bed, etc. 

This goes for your clothing as well. For each new item you add to your wardrobe, choose one to get rid of, if your closet is already at capacity. Smaller possessions such as clothes are easy to accidentally stock up on if you aren’t careful to clean out their hiding places regularly. The next time you feel yourself in need of some wardrobe retail therapy, look online for a closet clean out option to help you keep your closet from becoming overwhelming. Donating will help ensure that all of your shopping is a circular process, helping you maintain a minimal life the eco-friendly way. 

Invest in Reusable Products

If you are able to invest in reusable products, it can reduce your overall home inventory as well as your waste. The best place to start when looking to buy more reusable items is with the things you find yourself using and needing most on a day to day basis. From zip lock bags to plastic water bottles, we tend to create the majority of our waste in the kitchen.

If you haven’t already, try reducing your plastic waste by buying a quality reusable water bottle to keep you hydrated throughout the day. Instead of having to continually purchase zip lock bags for your leftovers, look for alternative ways to keep them fresh, like with beeswax wrap. Take the time to consider washable, reusable alternatives the next time you’re hoping to shop more consciously. 

Checking Your Minimalist Privilege

It is extremely important to note that not everyone has the financial means or the ability to follow these recommendations. Sometimes you have to buy in bulk to save your pennies, and the one-in-one-out rule does not apply when you are starting from a point of having less than you truly need in the first place.

Minimalism is a way of life to prioritize the important things over living to excess — and that is whatever you make it.

How Minimalism Can Help You Spend Less

Live more and spend less — that’s the simple idea. It’s no secret that today’s society places value on piling up the possessions and spending more than we need. Ultimately, this can clutter our lives and weigh us down. Minimalism encourages you to make conscious efforts to live simpler and value the things that are a part of your life. 

How it helps your wallet

Naturally, if you are spending less on material goods then your savings will definitely feel the benefits. However, it’s important to note that minimalism isn’t about restricting your budget so much that you feel trapped. It’s about spending your time, money, and energy on things that are important to you. If this means taking a vacation or getting your nails done, then invest your money in experiences that make you happy.

How to make it work 

Minimalist living can help you feel freed from the things holding you back. Start with small things and work your way up to living with less. Take inventory of the stuff you have and start decluttering, donating, or selling things you don’t need. 

For more inspiration on how to start a minimalist lifestyle, check out these 10 TED Talks on minimalism to help you spend less (from Mint.)

 minimalism-ted-talks

The Simple Bundle: 17 Minimalist ebooks available this weekend only!

I write more about social issues, trauma recovery, and self care these days than my original days of decluttering and minimizing my space, but I’m still a minimalist at heart and in practice so I am thrilled to share with you an absolute steal of a deal if you’re an aspiring minimalist!

The Simple Bundle is available this Labor Day weekend only, August 31 – September 2, 2019. And it’s only $37 for a $225 total value of 17 ebooks and online courses! Check out the offerings below:

  1. Joshua Becker — Clutterfree with Kids eBook

  2. The Minimalists — Essential eBook

  3. Patrick Rhone — Enough eBook

  4. Francine Jay — Miss Minimalist eBook

  5. No Sidebar — 30 Days to a Simpler Life Email Course

  6. Courtney Carver — Microbusiness Email Course

  7. Erica Layne — 9 Hard Truths about Clutter You Need to Hear eBook

  8. Tsh Oxenreider — One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler

  9. Pia Edberg — The Cozy Life eBook

  10. Anthony Ongaro — Break The Twitch eBook

  11. Sandy Kreps — Fresh Start eBook

  12. Colin Wright — Considerations eBook

  13. Simplify Magazine — The Declutter Issue

  14. Kathy Gottberg — RightSizing: Reinventing Retirement eBook

  15. Courtney Livingston — The Smart Girl’s Guide To Surviving Her Twenties eBook

  16. Allie Casazza — The Ultimate Guide to An Uncluttered Life

  17. Minimalism Co. — The Minimalism Challenge eBook

Simplify your life and your space by building consistent habits around a minimalist mindset. While there’s no single how-to that’s perfect for everyone, I am sure there’s at least one resource in this bundle that’s just what you need!

Here’s the link again if you want to buy: The Simple Bundle 

Read more from me!

Interested in supporting Born Again Minimalist? You can sign up as a supporter on my Patreon page for $1 per month, follow me on Medium and clap for my stories, follow and engage with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and buy my book!

8 Guilt-free tips to minimize Christmas spending

12-11 Christmas

I was already a few purchases into my holiday season when a friend of mine said she’d really enjoy a no-spend or buy-nothing Christmas. She envisioned swaps of artwork, clothing, and books between friends who could give freely from what they already had without adding to the stress and pressure of the holiday shopping season.

I budgeted around $400 for holiday gifts, but I probably won’t end up spending that much at all since I shifted my focus to giving experiences and artwork rather than purchased goods (though the unicorn calendar was a great buy and I stand by it).

Here are some ways you can reduce or eliminate your holiday spend without feeling like you’re downsizing the holiday cheer factor.

  1. Give your time. When I asked a friend what she wanted for Christmas this year, she thought about it and said that she’d love a day we spend together more than anything I could wrap up and give to her. Pencil a friend onto your calendar for a day of movies, hanging out, or even going out to window shop and try on the most hilarious Goodwill outfit you can find.
  2. Create something. One of my hobbies is painting, and I plan on creating art for many of the people on my list this year. It’s something that means a lot to both me and the recipient, since I create something personalized and inspired for each person on my gift list. You could also write letters or poetry, draw something, make homemade bath products, or sew something for your recipient.
  3. Cook something. So technically you’ll have to buy ingredients, but baking some cookies or cooking someone’s favorite meal for them is a great way to put your time and energy into showing your love for them.
  4. Regift. If you got some gifts last year that are still hanging around, new or barely used, give them to someone on your list who will love them and have a good home for them. And if you can’t bear to regift, then admit to yourself that you’re not using them and send them to the local charity store.
  5. Host a party. Instead of shopping for a personalized and unique gift for everyone on your list, you can opt to host a holiday party instead! You can focus your time and energy on preparing a delicious meal and ask everyone to bring their favorite dessert for a mouthwatering pot-luck of treats.

If you’re a dedicated gifter who just wants to reduce the budget instead of shoestring it entirely, try the following ideas!

  1. Try the “four things” holiday gift. Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. This is a great way to give gifts to the kids in the family so all bases are covered, while maintaining a frugal gift budget.
  2. Shop local. Buy from local crafters and shops instead of Amazon Priming everything* or shopping big box stores. Check your city’s calendar for local craft shows, which are all over the place leading up to the holidays!
  3. Shop handmade. ETSY ALL THE THINGS*.

*Some people have no reasonable options but to purchase from large sellers like Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, etc., due to finances, schedule constraints, physical ability, etc. Your own mental and physical wellbeing is more important than shopping local or small.

Are you planning on a “less is more” holiday this year? Tell me your gifting plans!

PS. If you’re in the Cleveland, Ohio area, don’t miss your chance to buy tickets for the Jolobokaflod fundraiser for the nonprofit Reading Room CLE on December 21! The Reading Room promotes literacy in the Cleveland area through a nonprofit bookstore that supports educational and artistic programming.

Cut back on waste by using the whole buffalo

Yesterday was Earth Day. I missed getting this post done in time for it but it’s a great Earth Day concept I share with you today – the concept of reducing waste. I firmly approve of the notion that the native American Indians “used the whole buffalo” when they hunted. A buffalo provided many useful things, including:

  • Meat: for food
  • Bones: for ceremonial uses, weapons, tools
  • Hooves: for glue, rattles
  • Hair: for ornamental use, ropes
  • Hide: for clothing, shelter, blankets, bags (could be tanned into tough leather or left soft)
  • Organs: for food, brain used for tanning leather
  • Sinew: for thread
  • Tail: for whips, ceremonial uses
  • Poop: for fueling fires

While I am not hunting buffalo, I do try to use a similar mentality in my life as a minimalist to reduce my impact on the environment and to reduce the amount of things I need in my home. I hate waste. Throwing away food that has gone bad upsets me – especially if it’s meat or dairy, because those items impacted the life of another living creature. Sorry plants, I get sad when you go off too, but you can’t look at me with sad eyes. Except the potatoes. Sorry about the eyes.

Anyway. Here are some ways I reduce waste in my home:

  • Buy in re-usable containers. I buy some brands over others because they are packaged in glass wide-mouthed jars. I re-use the heck out of glass jars!
  • Avoid plastic wrap. I hate things in plastic wrap. I hate using “biodegradable plastic” produce bags, because I’m just not sure if they’re lying to me. The only thing worse than plastic wrap over a container of produce (looking at you, mushrooms) is plastic wrap over a styrofoam container of produce. Styrofoam. Humbug!
  • Re-use food items. Leftover mashed potatoes become potato pancakes. Bones from making broth are re-used two or three times. One whole chicken can make several days’ worth of meals. Food scraps are put in the compost pile.
  • Garden. Growing food in a garden means you don’t have to drive to the store to buy produce packaged in containers!

Just for fun, and because people love recipes, here’s how I “Whole Buffalo” a chicken.

“Whole Buffalo” Chicken Recipe:

  1. Obtain a whole chicken.
  2. Remove giblets.
  3. Rinse chicken.
  4. Put chicken in crockpot.
  5. Add spices – salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, rosemary, whatever you want.
  6. Cook on low, 8 hours.

Congratulations, you now have a cooked chicken!

Make some meals with it! Like:

  • Chicken quesadillas
  • Chicken salad
  • Chicken breast with pasta or quinoa salad
  • Chicken and rice
  • Chicken soup
  • White chicken chili
  • Buffalo chicken dip (hey, THE WHOLE BUFFALO!)

BUT WAIT. Keep those bones and the broth from the crockpot. Put the bones in with the juices from cooking the chicken. Fill the crockpot up with filtered water. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar and some pink salt. You can add herbs or veggies if you like. Cook it on low for 8-48 hours, adding water as it cooks off.

This is bone broth. It’s awesome. Cook it for a shorter length of time (~8-12 hours) to achieve a gelatin-rich broth (it will look like chicken jello when it’s cooled. Don’t be grossed out. It’s magical). Cook for a longer length of time (~24-48 hours) to achieve a collagen-rich broth. You can preserve broth by canning or freezing. My goal this summer is to learn how to can and preserve.

If you cook for a shorter length of time, you can re-use the bones once or twice, they are good to use again until they crumble when you pinch them. Those are pretty tapped out. You can throw them out, OR… grind the cooked bones up into bone meal and feed them to your pets! The added calcium helps them with their teeth and bones. However, you should not feed cats any bones that have been cooked with garlic or onions, as these vegetables are toxic to cats.

And that’s how I buffalo a chicken.

What do you buffalo?

Fuzzy Legs

I started shaving my legs when I was nine.  Mom did it, and I wanted to do it, because it’s something girls do.  So I began shaving.  Poorly.  At one point, my dad had to continue my education on how to shave my legs (I am pretty sure I was running the plastic edge of the razor over my legs and wondering why the hair was still there).  In sixth grade, I pressed so hard with my razor that I tore off a chunk of skin on my knee.  Constant nicks and cuts were painful and annoying.

Shaving is hard work.

Eventually, I got the hang of it and then had to deal with the necessity of buying razors and shaving cream.  Even then, I didn’t really shave very often, once a week tops.  I shaved when I wore skirts and shorts.  I did not shave in the winter (because pants, and warmth!)

My ex-husband was grossed out by it, but the way I saw it, they were my legs and not his and why should I decorate myself for anyone else’s benefit if I didn’t like doing it? I’ve had an ex-boyfriend (and even an ex-girlfriend) who didn’t mind when I had fuzzy legs.  My cat doesn’t mind.  I don’t mind.

My sister calls them my “hairy man legs.”  And so do I, sometimes, but I am trying to get away from that… because they aren’t hairy man legs.  They’re hairy woman legs.  Hair is not an inherently masculine bodily feature, and we shouldn’t make it that way.  Having body hair does not make me less of a woman.

The horror! Human legs with hair on them!

The horror! Human legs with hair on them!

I still feel (mentally) uncomfortable sometimes, because the expectation in society is that women should be soft, hairless, touchable creatures.  There is an immense pressure on women to have a perfect body, and the images streamed into our brains tell us that perfect is slim and smooth (with large, perky breasts).  I reject that notion of perfect for the idea that maybe, just maybe, our bodies are inherently perfect and we don’t need to spend the majority of our lives changing them to make them perfect.  Humans are mammals.  Mammals have hair.  The only reason we feel compelled to shave our bodies is because someone told us it looked prettier that way.

This is not an indictment of shaving.  If you want to shave your legs because you like how it feels or looks, then by all means shave! Sometimes I, too, enjoy the feeling of silky hairless skin on clean sheets in the summer time.  I also appreciate the razor because it gives me the gift of well groomed facial hair on men.

downey

LOOK AT IT.

I don’t think we should all just throw away our razors, though I do think we should all reconsider the reusable razor with changeable metal blades instead of those plastic monstrosities.  But I do think we should really think about why we shave.  If I remove my body hair, it’s because I want to.  I don’t do it for anyone else.  Plus, now I don’t have to buy razors and shaving cream!

 

legs

Let’s also just take a moment to think about how ridiculous commercials for razors and shaving cream are.  Women shaving already-smooth legs?  As read on  Dear Blank, Please Blank, “if you want to impress us, shave a gorilla.”

Who, me?  (I took this photo!)

Who, me? (I took this photo!)

Do you shave?

What’s in a label?

I’m not talking about food labels.  I’m talking about people labels.  Life’s little hashtags that allow people to put us into boxes in their organized waffle-brains.  I’m going to discuss a few areas of life in which those of us out of the mainstream are viewed as weird, strange, or abnormal.

Food habits:

I am vegan once I leave the house.  At home, I eat local pasture-raised eggs, zero dairy, and zero meat.  I am vaguely considering adding the occasional meat product, but only ethically-raised meat.  I avoid GMOs and buy organic groceries.  I’m preparing to cut gluten from my diet after realizing that when I eat it, it makes me hurt.  I am learning to listen to my body.

Raise your hands if you just thought something like “That sounds like a bunch of froo-froo hippie crap” or similar. Veganism is not the norm. It’s more common than in years prior, but it still gets questions.  On top of that, try adding a gluten-free diet!  People just freak out. “What are you going to eat?!” “Uh, vegetables. Try them, they are good for you, and they don’t come in a box.”

Before I go to a restaurant, I have to look up the menu online and see if anything is vegan.  I also try to avoid soy and corn because of GMOs.  Now that I’m going gluten free, eating out will be nearly impossible.  Hooray, challenges!  They make us stronger, right? Right?  Whatever, I’m going to Chipotle (and ignoring the soybean oil because even I have to have a line somewhere.  I have also been known to demolish corn chips at Mexican restaurants.  I’m not perfect, okay?).

Here’s an example of how my ordering usually goes:

Hi, sorry, mine’s going to be annoying, I’m a craaazy vegan!  I’ll have the spaghetti (listed in the menu as spaghetti and meatballs, with cheese), without any meatballs or cheese – just noodles and sauce.  And the garlic toast, and do you know if any of the salad dressings are vegan?  Okay, no salad, I just won’t worry about it.

Another recent dining experience:

Prior to ordering, I was lamenting the fact that this restaurant had a vegan burger but not a vegan bun.  That just seemed stupid to me.  I wondered aloud if I could just get the burger without the bun.  My dining partner said, “Or you could just deal with it this once.”

The pressure to just stop being a crazy psycho vegan hippie was enough to make me just eat the damn bun.  I got sick, but I lack evidence to say it was really the bun. It might have been the greasy fries.  Sorry, body.

When I introduce myself in situations as a “dirty hippie,” or a “crazy vegan,” or a “crunchy granola freak,” even in jest or to break the mood, I am putting forward a bad image of myself.  Dirty. Crazy. Freak. These are all negative words.

If I don’t eat meat, eggs, or milk at a restaurant, I can ask for the vegan options without making a joke at my own expense to make the server feel better about having to serve me.  I am 100% sure there are pickier customers out there.  When it comes down to it, I’m pretty easy.  Now that gluten is on my chopping block, things will get more complicated (and may result in fewer restaurant outings, sorry friends).

Now if only I can get Chipotle to stop dropping other people’s cheese in the guacamole.  Seriously.  Join me on this brief diversion from my point:

chipotle correct

Correct placement of burrito when placing cheese on top. Directly in front of the cheese container.

chipotle incorrect

Sometimes they move the burrito in front of the guacamole, and then put the cheese on. This results in cheese falling into the guacamole, which makes me a very sassy lactose-intolerant vegan. (All acceptable labels).

Back to my point:

Those of us with dietary restrictions, whether self-imposed or medically necessary, should own them.  Ask your questions and order your meal the way you want it without apology.

Some tips:

  1. Print a list of your dietary restrictions for the chef to read, including cross-contamination concerns (i.e., if you order rice pasta, make a note not to boil it in the wheat pasta water)
  2. Do your homework before you go out.  There are a lot of gluten-free and vegan dining websites that can help you find a diet-restriction-friendly restaurant.  Check out restaurant websites for the online menu and allergen information
  3. Dine with patient, supportive people.  Someone telling you to just deal with it and eat the bun is not going to help the situation.  It is stressful to handle dietary restrictions in your own kitchen, let alone in a restaurant.  Sure, a vegan can compromise on a dubious bun, but if someone had an allergy, they wouldn’t have that freedom.
  4. If you have food allergies, bring your medication/epi-pen just in case.

Personal care

I don’t use commercial shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, or toothpaste.  I smell and look like a normal human!  (I may still be figuring out the deodorant, to be perfectly honest; experiment #1 did not go smoothly… literally).

Consider the following explanations:

  1.  I don’t use shampoo, because I’m a dirty hippie freak.
  2. I don’t use shampoo, because shampoos contain a lot of questionable chemical ingredients and I don’t want them in my body.

I have used both of these explanations.  One of them is detrimental to my cause.  If I want others to consider the implications of slathering themselves with chemical ingredients, I need to frame my explanations with an educational and health-conscious perspective.  I can’t just say, “I’m a dirty hippie,” because (a) I am not dirty and (b) unless YOU want to identify as a dirty hippie (which I am sure you don’t), you won’t even listen to my explanation of why (insert commercial product here) is bad for you.  It’s all about presentation.

Medicine

I think medication is seriously over-prescribed.  I focus on natural healing and nutrition over medication, and I feel much better for it.  I have not gotten sick all winter, and I haven’t had any medications in months and months.  I’m happy with it, and I’m happy to talk to people about it.

Shopping

The minimalist in me doesn’t shop much anyway, and the environmentalist in me wants to shop used.  I do confess that I bought a blender on Amazon for $60 because I couldn’t find a used one that met my criteria.  I’m a really picky eco-minimalist I guess.  My Christmas list included “cloth napkins, from Goodwill is fine” so I really don’t require “new” to be satisfied.  This goes against the grain of so many people’s inclinations that it stands out and gets questions.  Instead of  the tried-and-untrue “Oh, I’m a tree-hugger and MALLS ARE EVIL,” next time I’ll try a little “It’s better for my bank account and the environment to try and buy things used first!”  It might get some better feedback.

Be proud!

If you differ from the mainstream in any way, celebrate it.  Don’t apologize for it.

Be awesome, like this mom whose photo showed up in my Facebook feed:

Not_Me