One of my favorite quotes ever is by Robert Fulghum and it reads, “If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience.” When I think of minimalistic living, I think of people wearing the same shirt six out of the seven days of the week. I picture living with one blanket and half a rug that they found on the streets near their home. I picture only one fork, one spoon, and no knife, but somehow getting by when it was time to cook dinner. However, like most things that are different or out of our comfort zones, it seemed much scarier to me than it truly was.
I have always been passionate about the environment. When people ask me, “What is your biggest pet peeve?” I immediately respond with, “When people litter. I cannot stand it when people treat the Earth like absolute garbage beneath their two feet.” Because guess what? Humanity is very privileged.
So, I decided to take matters into my own two feet, so to speak, and I wanted to learn more about what it meant to live a more minimalist and conscious lifestyle. I learned a lot. To be honest, when I began this week challenge I kind of already thought I did a good job. I believed I had already achieved a high level of consciousness when it came to my life and lifestyle choices. I rarely ate out. I always carried a reusable water bottle and I refused to use the Trader Joe’s bags to carry my groceries home each week. Boom. Minimalist me. I was saving the planet one plastic bag at a time.
But, I felt I could do more? And I felt I could learn more? I also wanted to see how other people handled being more aware of what and how much they bought.
That was what being minimalist for a week taught me.
Inconvenience is a privilege and a privilege we all need to shut down very, very quickly.
Throughout my whole week, I had certain goals in mind. I wanted to limit the amount of ‘casual and habitual wastes.’ For example, when I get my coffee, I don’t need to use the plastic stirrers on the condiment bar when they have real, metal spoons to use. When I take off my makeup, I can use a facewash and not makeup removal wipes. When I eat out, I can bring my own silverware and have everyone stare at me in concern and confusion.
Easy as pie.
However, like every challenge, there comes hidden meanings and lessons.
I never realized how attached I was to things and habits.
I never recognized how habitually wasteful I had become. I would wake up and wipe my eyes with a Kleenex. Why? I would go to the coffee shop and not bring my own, perfectly good cup to fill with the medium roast goodness. Why? I would use 7x the amount of toilet paper when I used the restroom. Why? Because it was my routine. It was my habit. I never thought about it until I really thought about it.
What a privilege.
What a privilege to not think about wasting.
I would run the water in the shower for WAY too long to heat up.
I would wash not full loads of laundry just because I wanted to wear my blue top out that night and not my black one.
I would buy literally anything on sale whether I needed it or not.
Because I could.
And because I couldn’t imagine not being able to.
That was my first big lesson: understanding that so much waste is deeply rooted in routine, culture, and habits. It is normal to go to a fast food joint and use their plastic silverware. It is not normal to bring your own. Fun fact, being abnormal does not make you wrong. Change is usually abnormal.
The second lesson came when I started to get mad. I got mad at minimalism being inconvenient to me. I would get frustrated when it was such a burden to carry my own water bottle AND my own coffee cup. I was so annoyed when I had to bring my own bags to put my potatoes instead of using the plastic ones at the store. I had a friend tell me that he hated the cardboard straws because they tasted weird and preferred the plastic ones.
How insane are we!?
Saving the planet should never be an inconvenience.
Living in this country with our first world problems out the wazoo, we should never be allowed to get angry at stores that charge for plastic bags.
We can make a huge difference with the smallest changes.
Minimalism and conscious consumerism taught me that we are very, very blessed. We are so blessed, in fact, that many times we are cursed by it. It turns into a bad blessing because we view making changes in our lives to better everyone’s life as inconvenient. We view saving the oceans as obsolete because we have a routine and goodness it is going to stay that way.
I felt that at times.
I felt annoyed and burdened by my own challenge.
However, I tried to remember why I had wanted to start this challenge in the first place.
I am blessed. I am privileged. I don’t need more things. I don’t need to make more waste. I do a lot of the buying and wasting out of habit, out of status. I don’t do the saving out of privilege and this challenge showed me how terribly ashamed I am of that.
We need to start being more aware of our impact on the planet.
We need to start being aware of our footprint.
We need to stop being inconvenienced by positive environmental changes because guess what?
We have inconvenienced the environment enough.
Now it is our turn to do the tiniest bit of good, and I strongly believe, we will be able to reap amazing rewards.