Starting the Year as a “Semi-Minimalist” – Aisling Geraghty’s Journey to Sustainable Living

AffordblyGreen is the lastest blog site on the scene with heads up on green living tips, blogs about local food eating and even pieces about some of Transition’s projects such as our Community Gardens. Mixed up with her own personal experiences, Aisling’s weekly blog posts makes for a detailed and worthwhile read. Definitely watch this space! https://www.affordablygreen.org/

Aisling Writes:

What is minimalism?

You may be picturing a cold, characterless, white room with a wooden futon, empty bookcases and expensively simple home gadgets, but don’t be apprehensive. Try not to get caught up in stereotypes of pricey and innovative interior design. Minimalism isn’t a concept of rigid confinements, it is an umbrella term for many people who recognise the freedom of having less. For some people, the idea of “less” is an abundance to others, but it isn’t a competition. Minimalism is an ongoing way of life by which one attempts to improve their outlook by recognising that there is a void within them that cannot be filled with external materials. Basically, this entry is going to burrow into some of the reasons it might be time to get rid of some of your stuff and why you might want to stop acquiring more possessions.

As students, we are pretty intrigued to discover ways we could save money, and as you are reading my blog, I am guessing you also want to reduce your carbon footprint. Living in a materialistic world, the majority of us have become accustomed to receiving little spells of dopamine as we purchase a new wavy garm or a funky decoration for our living room. We may throw around phrases like “money can’t buy you happiness” but still get caught up in the rat race of pursuing economic reward. Meanwhile, our planet, physical and mental health is taking a back seat. You may not be a hoarder (no judgement if you are… I’ve been there), but most of us unconsciously hold on to possessions or are inclined to purchasing things that serve little or no purpose in occupying our space.

Personal benefits of minimalism

1. Everything will be tidier!

No more rushing around looking for your calculator and lab coat, with less stuff, it is harder to lose track of your possessions. A classic principle of minimalizing is owning one copy of the things you need. This concept works within the framework that if you have one copy, you will value you it more and take better care of it. You may find it easier to locate one roll of celotape in your tidy home, than one of three in a cluttered cupboard. You will also waste less time tidying your clothes and piles of stuff.

2. Your mental health will improve

In Fumio Sasaki’s book “Goodbye things”, he writes that our possessions subliminally message us on a day to day basis. He explains that objects that appear inanimate, come to life in our sub-conscious and say things like “clean me”, “read me” or “you never wear me”, and these messages inevitably cause stress. The effects may seem mild, but people who have adopted a minimalist’s mentality report an increased feeling of relaxation and peace in their home environment and in their everyday lives. Additionally, you will have more time to enjoy your space and less anxiety about your money spending.

3. You will care less about what people think

Many of our purchases are for our individual benefit, some are made to project a desired self-image on to others. You may read a lot of interesting books but keeping finished publications on your bookshelf is not necessary to be interesting. If you have an extensive knowledge of music, this will prevail in your character and doesn’t need to be advertised in your clothes, posters or an endless hardcopy collection. I am not criticising anyone who keeps these items, if they give you joy and regular use, no one is to judge. But if you do want to make some reductions, it’s worth asking yourself if any of these objects are reputational. If you find this to be true of some possessions, getting rid of them will be a relief. You will care less about painting a good image of yourself and your internal beauty will triumph.

Personal side note:

I used to cover my walls with an overwhelming collection of postcards, paintings and pictures. When I started down-sizing my bedroom, I realised I couldn’t’ remember where most of them were from. On closer inspection, I saw that the cluttered display was to make it clear to anyone who stepped foot in my room that  “I am an artsy person”. Now I keep a couple of pictures and artworks that I hold dear, that remind me of cherished memories. The environment is a lot less chaotic and much better suited to studying.

4. You will stop spending

Once you are free from the burden of unnecessary items, a natural transformation will occur. You will realise that you don’t need as much stuff. When considering purchasing something new, you will consider the same thought process that you used when you minimalized your possessions and ask yourself “do I really want/need this?”.

The ethical side

The minimalist lifestyle promotes reusing and recycling. If you don’t want it, there may be someone else who would get a lot of joy out of purchasing your second-hand jacket, instead of increasing the demand for the manufacturing of new energy-consuming goods. When a friend of mine and I decided to get rid of some clothes, we ended up exchanging a couple of neglected items. It always makes me smile when I see her wearing clothes that were wasted in my drawers. Here, in St. Andrews there are charity drives for refugees, clothing collections for people undergoing sexual transitions and the famous St. AndRe-use at the end of each year, as well as a number of charity shops in town. Secondly, once we realise that we need less, we will consume less and diminish individual waste. As members of the UK public, we are statistically one of the world’s largest consumer markets. Most of us are lucky to have been born into an environment of surplus supplies, but could our time and money be put to better use than acquiring an excess of stuff we don’t need?

A few personal words

I can’t count the amount of times I have seen a dress or a pair of earrings, and despite telling myself “you really need to save money”, have managed to convince myself, through a web of cunning and clear-cut arguments, why I absolutely must buy them immediately. Other times it feels as if my purchases almost slip under the radar of my consciousness, and before I know it, I am wondering where all my money went. My attempt to embrace a minimalist lifestyle is a journey. I am not perfect, and I still fall prey to my materialistic programming, but I try to ground myself and remember what is important. I see minimalism as an ongoing goal to a happier, more peaceful and healthier world. An easy phrase that helps me stay in line with the truth is “if the last pair of shoes didn’t make you happy, what makes you think this one will?”.

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