I've flirted with the idea of minimalism on and off for years. I've only got so far, because every time I've had a mass sort out and got rid of half of my belongings, the remaining items seemed to have had a covert orgy and bred offspring. Those remaining five pairs of shoes turned into ten, and gave birth to a baby handbag and a matching scarf. But then again, that is just my way of avoiding responsibility for what I know really happened. Which is usually this: I am restless and discontent. To remedy this feeling I go for a walk. I walk into town, into the shops and buy things I don't need to distract myself. Hands up who does this? And this week on the news, they are practically begging us to start doing it again:
GOVERNMENT: We need everyone to go into their offices to work again.
PEOPLE: Why? Is it safe now?
GOVERNMENT: No, not exactly, we just need you to go and buy stuff from the shops near where you work so the entire economic system doesn't crash.
PEOPLE: Can't I just spend more in Morrisons on my weekly shop?
GOVERNMENT: No, that's not helping all of the unnecessary shops to sell their unnecessary goods and services.
PEOPLE: So, those good and services are only necessary to prop up a system that got us into this situation in this first place? Then why would we tr-
GOVERNMENT: Stop thinking and spend money!
The insanity of our current situation. But what to do about it? On a macro scale, who knows? Other than resist being forced back into a system of operating which is not serving the vast majority of us anymore. This week, I heard that Boris Johnson's government are ploughing ahead with some private high speed rail project in order to create more jobs in the U.K. I understand the need to create work for the growing masses of unemployed, but this project highlights the way in which our governments won't so easily let go of the way the world used to be. They are quick to usher us into 'business as usual,' rather than using the pause nature just forced on us, to do some real reflection about the direction we want to be heading in for the future. Now, I only have a vague idea, but I sure as hell know I don't want to be headed that way on a high speed train.
When most of us are avoiding travel where possible, trying to work from home online, pushing on ahead to create solutions for the world we just left behind, seems futile and also fundamentally lacking in consciousness. I know there are plenty of activists who are protesting this rail network, but as usual, the people we elected to lead us aren't listening to them. Like many at the moment, I feel angry and frustrated that the vast majority of our world leaders seem to be rich white men, lacking in empathy and in these important positions not as servants, but self-serving and working to cement the world in their own narcissistic image. I don't know what to do about this problem. It's just too large for my head to work with. So, I like to focus my efforts to change the world by starting closer to home.
This morning I started really thinking about all the things I don't need. Here is a list of ten I came up with this morning:
1. Make up (society tells us we need it. Some of us even feel terrible without it- but would we if we hadn't been made to feel worthless or not attractive enough without it in the first place?
2. Razors how many of you out there have gone without shaving during lockdown? How much fun was it? I've seen friends with grizzly ZZ top beards and some pretty funky moustaches. Damn, I'm on a mission to grow my leg hair for winter. Extra warmth! People get pretty angry about hair and shaving. They think it's their place to tell people to shave. It's not.
3. A bag for every outfit Sure it's nice to have, but if the bag has been made by a Bangladeshi worker who hasn't been paid, then I'm out thanks.
4. Throwaway clothing I'm looking at you, Primark. Exhibit A. Clothes so cheap you wear them once. Clothes so cheap because they were made unethically. I don't need a wardrobe update every season thanks.
5. Shower gels in plastic bottles You can get really nice bars of soap these days that keep you clean and don't add to the environmental plastic problem.
6. Butter or spread in plastic tubs- They sell them in foil paper, which makes less environmental waste.
7. Anything in plastic that comes in an alternative: e.g deodorant, shopping bags, milk, (not shampoo bars because those don't work very well yet) there are plenty of things that have environmentally happier alternatives.
8. A new phone before the last one dies. Phone contracts are the worst for this. Upgrades when your last phone is perfectly functional. Cue boxes full of old phones and phone cables doing nothing but taking up space.
9. Multiples. We're not talking shopping multipacks here, but clothes. Why do I need four pairs of blue jeans? Two, sure. But four is unnecessary. Twenty five pairs of shoes? That is unnecessary.
10. Ornaments, knick knacks, trinkets. By definition, surplus to requirements. These are nice to have sometimes, but I always seem to end up with so many they clutter my space.
I wanted to share my evolution around my behaviour as a consumer, as I am actively working to change my habits. In my growing awareness, I'm finding that my life feels generally more streamlined and less cluttered when I avoid buying things that I don't really need. When I get restless, I turn towards creation or enjoying music or art instead of going out on that pointless walk to the shops. I also make sure some days I face the other way from town and walk out into the greenery of the countryside and keep walking for a good few hours, which makes me feel a lot better than coming home with bags full of junk I don't need and don't even really want.