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You may have heard the term minimalism or zero-waste recently in pop culture. Although a little different, both ways of living can have some super positive influences on your life and once one method is adopted, the other typically follows. But what exactly is minimalism and zero-waste, and why do people do it? 

Photo Courtesy to UWM Post

The idea behind minimalism is to live a life free of clutter and material goods, and only surviving off of the basics. The concept is: if you get rid of worldly possessions, your life becomes richer in experience, interactions, relationships, and more. It makes sense, right? But how exactly does one go about living minimally? One of the huge key elements of minimalism is keep only what you use every single day, and only keep it if you love it and it is valuable to you. For example, when you open up your hallway closet, are there more than one or two fall/winter jackets hanging in there? Pick the one that you feel the most comfortable in and that’s the warmest, or the one your mom gave you for Christmas last year. Now every time you wear it, you are going to appreciate it for the jacket that it is, because it’s the only one you’ve got. It sounds strange, but once you start purging things from your life, the freeing and lightweight feeling that comes from it is so addictive you’ll find yourself shedding bags full of material goods. 

It works with things other than jackets and clothes, too. Think about dishware. Why have multiple plates and bowls and lots of silverware? If you have three roommates including yourself, why not have three bowls, three plates, three spoons, and so on. Now the dishes will never pile up and you can save cabinet space for things like yummy spices and aromatic teas. It’s a fool-proof method! It also really helps with zero-waste living if you have one reusable water bottle (glass or metal preferably) and a reusable travel mug that you can fill up on coffee or tea whenever you hit the midday Starbucks. Some places even give discounts if you bring your own reusable container! No more taking out the recycling every other day because your paper bin is filling too quickly with old Starbucks cups. Old glass spaghetti and pickle jars also work well for water-bottles and coffee mugs as well as drinking glasses! 

Other benefits from minimalism include clarity of mind (ever feel relieved after you clean your room? Yeah, that feeling), extra money to save, more time (fewer outfits = more time in the mornings), things become easier to find and the few possessions you do own gain much more sentimental value, happiness, confidence, better health (less stress can produce amazing effects!), and so much more. It’s hard to really pinpoint all of the benefits of minimalism until you actually see the changes for yourself.

Photo Courtesy to Tiny Buddha

Don’t know where to start? Take some time to go through your closet; if you haven’t worn something in the last month, it goes in the donate pile. If you have more than three old t-shirts– it’s time to part with that one you won at bingo with your grandma a few years back. Do you really need two pairs of black leggings and three of the exact same bra? Next, go through your bathroom products and get rid of the ones you’ve stopped using or you don’t use on the daily… there’s no need to have them sitting around for decoration. If there’s anything unopened, you can give it to your local homeless shelter, and they’ll be glad for the extra materials. 

Remember– don’t get mad at yourself if you can’t get rid of as much as you hoped to. Minimalism takes time and if you begin to purge things slowly, they will eventually add up. It’s not about looking cool or trying to survive off of the bare essentials; it’s about loving what you own and only owning what you need, as well as wasting less and giving more. 

Happy minimalism! 

Maddie is a senior at UNCW majoring in English Literature with a Professional Writing Certificate and minoring in Women's Gender Studies.
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