Minimalism has become a ‘buzz word’ often linked to sustainability. The minimalist lifestyle is based around the philosophy that ‘less is more’ and freeing yourself from unnecessary possessions, purchases and utilities will allow you to live happier. Less cluttered lives apparently allow for life to be rich in experiences.
How does minimalism link to sustainability? Should we be adopting the principles?
Adopting a lifestyle that intentionally minimises possessions will naturally reduce consumption. Minimalism is more than decluttering. It is intentionally choosing to live without certain items. For example, minimalists will not buy new clothes or even purchase ‘party clothing,’ instead borrowing, or hiring dresses for those occasional weddings; the modern day world wrongly requires a brand new outfit.
Starting to list examples opens a can of worms. The list goes on and you can find some very interesting You Tube videos to get a clearer picture of: ‘things I don’t buy as a minimalist.’
Essentially, minimalism is about gradually reconsidering everything that you buy or consume, whether daily or occasionally.
- Do you really need them?
- Could you purchase something once, that would replace all those multiple purchases?
- Do you buy something because you always have, or because everyone else does?
- Can you live without a new arm chair?
- Could you reward your kids with experiences, rather than cheap collectable cars and toys they’ll grow out of?
Minimalism definitely reduces consumption which blesses both the environment and the bank. One of the biggest causes of waste is the idea that it’s good to renew items we own, leaving perfectly good ones redundant. Simultaneously, our consumption of disposable items is filling landfills daily. Buying loads of new toys for our children may seem kind but when they grow old, what happens to the heap of plastic? I know when I grew up, many of my toys were second hand but now consumerism has changed this.
Downfalls of Minimalism
However, as I’ve researched minimalism and begun to adopt some of the principles, I do have some disagreements. Whilst I support the refusal to consume, with minimalism comes a ‘declutter’ movement. To become a minimalist, we have to rid of a lot of possessions. Marie Kondo is famous for her decluttering programs on Netflix. Her ethos embodies the minimalist principles, stating that we must get rid of whatever doesn’t, ‘spark joy,’ – decluttering will make you happier.
Here’s the problem: we pull out all of our possessions and start to realise that 80% of what we own, is meaningless to us or completely useless. We feel guilty and decide to live without them. Where do these objects go?
Please don’t say, ‘the charity shops,’ because whilst charity shops are great for sustainability, if we as society continue to inundate them, without adopting the principles of actually buying things second hand, these shops will become land fills themselves. We can’t expect charity shops to just shift our junk for us. Give to charity by all means, but also consider other uses.
Perhaps, the process of becoming minimalist is a selfish one. We selfishly feel guilty about the items in our possession, and instantly ‘get rid.’ It would be much harder to accept that you have more than enough; living responsibly should mean intentionally deciding to keep, reuse or up cycle the objects we aquire.
I would also argue that minimalism doesn’t allow you to possess occasional use items which I massively struggle with. For example, I recently went completely paperless now doing everything (including reading books and digitalising all notebooks) on an iPad but I still enjoy painting. I don’t need to paint – I could do a Digital painting. But I occasionally feel like pulling out a sketchbook and painting. Why should I get rid of the drawer filled with artist materials?
I have 6 dearly loved children’s novels on my bookshelf that I will probably never read again. But in the future (if I have children) I’d love to share these and I feel its more responsible to clutter my own life by keeping hold of them, than give them away and later repurchase them.
The Truth About Minimalist Philosophy
Besides sustainability, I also want to warn you about the philosophy of minimalism. Yes in theory, having less does allow you to be more grateful and able to control finances. But as with anything, having less stuff can not make us happy forever – just as consuming more can’t. Long term happiness is not dependent on adopting a set of rules about what we own. Minimalism even bans sentimental objects which I would argue to some degree is healthy – those who have boxes and boxes of things they have attachment to, really should part with some of it. But to not keep anything, would also be a little sad. Memories are life-giving!
What then, should we adopt?
In conclusion, as I’ve attempted to do my research and adopt some minimalist principles, I think that looking ahead, a minimalist attitude towards consumption is incredibly beneficial. However, the process of decluttering can be dangerous unless we responsibly rehome what we remove.
Kickstarting the Goal
In my own life over the years I have made conscious resolutions and I’ll list some of these for you. I hope to continue to build on this and reduce consumption. The goal is to not buy anything new for a very long time (hopefully for 2021 but I don’t want to pressure myself to keep this).
I do this reasonably, not to feel ‘happy,’ and without feeling pressured. Some of these are things I have succeeded in, whilst others are aims I hope to adopt from now on.
- Clothes* – I rarely buy clothes. I store ones I’m not loving and bring them out again a season or two later. Those that I don’t love, I sell or put away for when I get that ‘I want new clothes’ feeling. I do give some to the occasional charity shop and I also buy from charity shops or swap things with friends. I have now got way too many clothes and so have told myself that I will not be adding anything until at least 2022. From then on it will be one in one out, when things wear out.
- Feminine Hygiene – I haven’t bought a tampon in almost 4 years. Menstrual cups are the way forward people – cleaner, zero waste and it saves you £25 a month.
- Disposable cloths – no kitchen roll, dish sponges or cleaning cloths. I bought 2 reusable dish clothes and 3 cleaning cloths. I wash them and reuse. Easy.
- Notebooks – just no. I don’t need to feel nice about a pretty wad of paper that can’t be recycled easily. I use Bamboo ‘Paper’ on the iPad for handwritten notes (which feels like a notebook) and keep multiple notepads all on a nice ‘shelf.’
- Books – I buy kindle, or (because I love paper books) charity shop books / swap with friends. Any new books I’m gifted, I always pass on.
- Old school work – whatever was necessary, I scanned and stored on my laptop. Then I recycled all paper, and passed the folders on to people who needed them / other students / charity shops.
- Gifts / rewards – I never treat myself with a purchase or possession. If I want to celebrate, I do so over dinner with a friend, or I buy myself flowers. I also only ask for gifts at Christmas that I need or have wanted for more than 3 months. Otherwise, I ask for a dinner voucher or nothing at all. Any birthday money gets stored for a few months and used to do something nice with a friend.
- Artwork – I love artwork. For me, this is my joy. I do regularly paint and hang artwork. But now I’ve run out of wall space, I still paint. Instead of hoarding it all, I enjoy it for a moment, before then gifting it. It brings a lot of joy to someone when you gift them something like that!
- Old electricals – I recently fixed something that was destined for the bin, just by reading up online. It made me realise how much we bin and deem to be worthless when after a repair, I managed to rehome it. I felt good after persevering to fix it too!
- Running shoes – this is my issue! I run 10-15miles a week and so get through shoes like crazy. They are no good for running but can still be used for walking and other low maintenance activities. I can’t keep collecting my runs. I guess with everything, reduced consumption is about balance and for me new running shoes are a necessity. All I can do is try to recycle the materials and buy less of other things.
These are just a few ideas, to give a clearer picture. I’m by no means perfect, or a minimalist! But I do encourage you to start to reduce your consumption. Question everything you dispose of, and question everything you buy.
What are you resolving to reduce?
*for more on clothes and sustainability, check out my previous blog: sustainable struggles. But, do read with gracious eyes – I wrote this long before my ‘charity shop dump’ realisation.
Has the BLM movement diminished good done by missionaries?
Disclaimers: a) I don’t for one second think that we should dismiss the BLM movement, b) what I’m indicating is that we could be in danger of dismissing something just as incredible if we don’t realise how wonderful mission is, c) I want to challenge people, not condemn, d) I know there are deep rooted issues with some missionaries and the BAME community. I don’t mean to ignore these. If you’d like to discuss this, please do comment below or contact.
Recently so many eyes have been opened to injustices, racial blindspots and inequality. But have we forgotten sustainable mission?
I have been so excited to see so many people use this strange season of pandemic to educate themselves. Suddenly the church is reading books on racism, discovering how slavery is more complex than the coffee they drink and responding to the needs of their local communities. I genuinely can’t quite explain how AMAZING this is.
However, in the frenzy of exposure there have been disappointments too. There are still shortcomings. For example, I 100% support the BLM movement and have spent time reading, advocating and also attending conference meetings where I can listen to BAME students challenge systems. But I also know that (like in all campaigns and movements) anger can work it’s way in. I know that fast learning over gradual committed research developments can not always be sustainable.
I am passionate about social justice. I am driven to advocate for victims of fast fashion or modern day slavery. I desire to see an inclusive society. I believe the church too has to look at it’s history and be challenged to address failures or unsustainabilities, yes. However I am also passionate about overseas missions and it has been a shame to see how this important ministry has begun to dwindle even more.
On a side note, I have found myself sitting in this disappointment a lot longer than ‘as of 2020.’ My purpose for this post is not to discourage or dwell on the bad but I must express how more and more churches are forgetting about the nations. We have become more focused on our individual salvation which is not necessarily a bad thing. But, the bible is clear on our faith being both personal, and communal. Our calling to love others is both a radical, local calling, and also a worldwide prayerful love.
Sustainable missionaries have been at the forefront of relational cross-cultural exchange for years. They have done a lot of good in bringing light and sustainable development to the world. Yet they have over the years come under scrutiny as colonial, faith-pushing, ‘west is best’ crusaders.
Yes there have been (and still are) failing, imperfect missionaries. In the past the church did proclaim God in a harmful way that is now being criticised. Historic missionaries did get tied up in colonialism and slavery. I fully believe the church does have to own up to this and sincerely apologise for the massive damage it has caused to many nations. There is still a lot of work to be done.
However, many missionaries and charities all over the world today have already walked through the blindspots. Most missionaries today live out their faith in a graceful, empathetic, sustainable way and it’s a beautiful thing.
I believe God tells us in the bible to go to all nations and proclaim our faith, not because we are superior or want control, but because cultural exchange is powerful for both accounts. There are skills that we have and can use to impart to others, and skills we can also gain from others. We have differing perspectives which are vital for challenging, refining and also encouraging.
The bible is not just for white westerners. The bible is God’s word given to all races and black lives matter to God. I wholeheartedly believe that God also wants to use POC missionaries and bless the UK with diverse culture, anti-racism and leaders who participate in healthy, sustainable exchange.
It’s not just all about Brits going to develop other nations. We should be empowering our BAME British nationals to empower us and change us. We should embrace immigration and welcome people from both minority groups and other nations all the more. They have a voice and God-given gifts that we are to embrace. Sustainable mission works both ways.
Who’s Doing It?
‘Good missionaries,’ are doing incredible work all over the world. They are training those without skills to live, work and prosper. They are providing good education to equip children to achieve their potential and then one day become the teachers. Some are meeting with leaders and praying for them. In dangerous places, missionaries are providing mental health support or releasing prisoners. These organisations are employing locals and we are seeing a decrease in the number of White British missionaries – they are moving in the right direction!
We still need to reawaken to the fact that the world is broken. There are developing nations. There are places where girls are forced into FGM. Others are deprived of the hope and freedom that Jesus offers, because they live in a community where ‘Jesus’ isn’t known or allowed to be spoken without a death sentence.
Using our privilege to support – not self-impose
As a church we need to allow God to stir us to have respect for our sustainable missionaries. We need to be stirred to pray for them, encourage them, share financially with them if need be. This doesn’t mean we take our eyes off the UK needs around us, or all suddenly jump at a ‘2 week short-term white saviour trip’ which should never be encouraged and only serves ourselves. It means we partner with the people already doing it. We start talking about and exchanging more than our own self-healing. We learn from their community, share with them and if called, go with them in a culturally appropriate manner.
Missionaries are not on a pedestal. They are ordinary people, living ordinary mundane lives in another country. They simply live every day as we would, led to love and see gradual change. Missionaries are there to empower locals, not override them.
Are you aware of overseas missions? Are you praying for sustainable mission work?
Let’s start loving mission again. Take a look at these good, sustainable, faith-based mission organisations who are leading in bringing more than just faith, but abundant life to all nations. Sign up to their newsletters. Watch their appeal videos. Pray for their workers. Give financially. Let them inspire you to live as a missionary where you are.
Organisations to Follow:
BMS World Mission – I recommend their ‘Engage’ Magazine and ‘Operation Chad’ appeal. They have been working to sustainably transform 1 million lives by 2020, and lots of their work involves training and empowering local churches to themselves serve in their own cultural context.
Mercy Ships – these provide incredible healthcare and also train locals in healthcare professions too.
Open Doors – offering aid to persecuted believers and advocating for them.
IJM – this organisation works to free those enslaved all over the world
Sustainable struggles are driving me mad! Six months ago I set myself the goal of reducing my environmental impact. This included being more conscious of fashion choices and trying to choose sustainable or ethical brands. However high street fashion makes this almost impossible!
Why the heck do we need sustainable fashion?
I recently found out that fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world – what?! Not that I was aware of this when I decided to change they way I use fashion. Essentially, when I went to Guinea, I had one 24kg bag in which to pack everything I needed. Firstly, all of the mosquito nets, bedding and water treatment equipment took up half of this and secondly, anything I took was bound to come back ruined by orange dust. I had shut down my blog temporarily and essentially put style on hold…
When I came back, yes I was excited to have fun styling clothes again (I do have a fashion blog after all) but something felt different. After living in basics for months, I’d forgotten about so many of my clothes. I had so many that I actually felt overwhelmed!
The “crazy” minimalist?
I decided that I didn’t need half the stuff in my wardrobe so I gave everything that I’d forgotten I had, to charity. Following this I recycled anything that didn’t fit me properly. It felt amazing! Why? I was left with things that I loved and I had room to buy a couple of really good quality items.
Living in a third world country makes you incredibly aware of pollution. There are no waste-processing sites. You either bury your rubbish, burn your rubbish, or leave it at the side of the road. You just can’t ignore the devastating impact that your waste has upon the environment. Inevitably this compelled me to start reducing my impact. With fashion being a big contributor, I had to change some things.
Ever since I’ve seriously been struggling! It’s so hard! Here are a few struggles I am facing…
Sustainable Struggle one: looking ridiculously hippie
When I thought about Eco-friendly fashion, I used to think of ‘hippie’ clothing, ‘gap-yah’ students and anything far from stylish… I mean, I do possess a very jazzy cardigan now but since then, I’ve learnt that it can be a lot more stylish and casual too! But, finding more casual items is a challenge.
Sustainable Struggle two: you just can’t win!
After recycling a lot of old clothes (to charity shops) that I didn’t want, I decided that I would only buy clothes that were made from environmentally friendly materials. Also, I was determined to ensure that they were from ethically fair backgrounds ie, they were made in the UK, or fair-trade – not ‘made in Bangladesh’ for example.
Watch this really useful video to understand what I mean by eco-friendly materials!
Anyway, back to the point.
It’s been six months now and it has been a slow journey. Why? The high street has not caught onto this movement! Almost everything is made from polyester and if you do find a 100% cotton, it’s been made in Vietnam… I’ve struggled to stick to my goals and often had to compromise.
I have however been shopping more frequently in charity shops – I found a brilliant Denim Jacket in Oxfam! Of course you don’t need to worry about labels here because all the clothing has been recycled so you are reusing a material that would otherwise become waste.
Gradually I have been reducing my wardrobe to a more capsule size. I have found that having a few items that I love, along with the important basics, still allows me style things creatively.
Sustainable Struggle three: there’s rarely anything my size in charity shops
With the seasons changing and after having missed Autumn/Winter last year, I’ve been in desperate need of warmer clothing. I have succeeded on the “less is more” front by only purchasing one dress and two knitted tops to go with the two skirts, jeans, jackets and abundance of basics that I have. However, yet again, I HAD TO COMPROMISE! I failed to find anything suitable in charity shops – most shops have very few items in size 8.
The dress and knitted tops were 100% cotton but there was no indication of where they were made!
Sustainable Struggle four: their branding sucks!
Why is this so hard? I feel like a suffragette sometimes just trying to search through clothes labels! Why can’t brands just add the information the the price tag?
Recently I have discovered that both M&S and Monki have sustainable ranges including 100% organic cotton denim and recycled cotton basics. But again they don’t openly advertise this – I merely just happened to stumble upon them.
Other brands (often found on ASOS or Etsy) that focus on environmentally friendly fashion can’t be found on the highstreet and are just way too expensive! If it’s going to break the bank, it’s just not going to take off.
It’s going to take a while!
So here I am, still trying to love fashion and love the environment. I have come so far in six months but definitely have further to go! I have even resorted to making my own clothes (check out the fair-trade outfits I designed and had a tailor make for me in Guinea), but honestly, it’s stressful and not everybody’s solution.
Does anyone have any tips? Although I shall not be buying anything for a few months now!
Welcome back to Distinctivemode! Today I’m sharing my newfound love for West African Wax fabric. Whilst living in Guinea, I came across so many bright and colourful fabrics that were sold at market stalls, to then be taken to a local tailor and made into all sorts of things. Whilst I did have some more culturally appropriate outfits made to wear in country, I visited my tailor just before I left with some of my own western designs.
One of the most popular fabrics is this blue material with motifs. In fact, it comes in all different colours and most Guineans own something in this fabric. Blue is my favourite so I purchased a fair bit of it! The first thing I designed? A scalloped pencil skirt with buttons. Originally I’d hoped for it to be made in the locally dyed indigo fabric however the tailor got a little muddled so I was surprised to say the least… But once I’d styled it with a white v-neck t-shirt, I fell in love with it!
Speaking of locally dyed indigo, you can’t step foot in the market without spotting hundreds of uniquely printed or tie-dyed sheets of indigo! There are so many patterns all hand crafted. I had a shirt made in one of the tie-dye designs and have hauled piles of different patterns home with plans to create even more – I’ve already made a skirt and am working on a little top to go with it!
The best thing about wearing African fabrics? You can inject a little bit of colour into an outfit and the indigo gives you the opportunity to be more subtle, pairing with denim. I am definitely a convert! Wearing these fabrics is like a home comfort to me now after wearing traditional clothing in Guinea for so long. It’s also completely ethical since you not only pay those who have crafted the indigo, or locals selling imported wax but you have the opportunity to employ a local tailor and support their business.
I also had a dress made and it feels incredible to wear something made to fit! Whenever people comment on it I have the opportunity to share the story of my local tailor friend, relive an experience and inject a bit of culture into someone’s life. It’s a truly distinctive dress – one I designed myself!
Head to Pinterest and browse West African Wax fabrics – it’s an awesome new craze!
This morning I woke up as usual but as soon as I swiped right to turn off my alarm, the words “Manchester Terror Attack” boldly sat staring up from my lock screen. Immediately I awoke from my slumber and came to the realisation that the city I have known for so long, had now been targeted with violence. Reading those three words and shortly after discovering the details, I felt sickened, angered and completely speechless…
Half of my family live in Manchester. My best friend was supposed to go to a concert tomorrow – it could have easily been her. I’ve walked down those very same concert hall steps.
It really, utterly hit home and my heart just cried out for all involved – I honestly wanted to jump in my car, drive to Manchester and start helping those affected. But I knew that wasn’t possible.
All day I felt riddled with anger and upset, as I’m sure thousands have today. But when I came home, I turned to my bible and I randomly came across Psalm 141(NIV). What I discovered was incredibly moving…
This Psalm is a prayer written by David, who also found himself surrounded by a violence (whether physical, emotional or mental I don’t know) caused by someone else. David felt angry and frustrated. His heart also cried out for mercy. I found it incredibly comforting and humbling to read that I was not the only one.
We can’t deny that evil is in this world – after what happened today we can’t help but stand stunned, angry and devastated. But in a similar situation, David (who was just as stunned) turned to prayer and remembered the truth of who God is – despite how he felt.
In vs 3-4 David acknowledges that violence is a very real thing – daily, people are doing evil all over the world. David acknowledges that this indeed is sickening, poisoning and dreadful. He recognises that these evil things are devised from corrupt, lost and broken hearts that do not know what goodness really is – that being the goodness of God. He responds by looking to God, declaring His goodness and praying for rescue. By doing so he turns his focus from the violence (not a blind eye – he still acknowledges it but refuses to dwell on it) and surrenders the situation to God, knowing that God can bring rescue.
Then in vs 4-5, David prays for protection. He is humbled by the violence, realising that He cannot keep himself safe. He chooses to rely upon God, and acknowledges the daily traps that entangle him, giving them to God. In the same way may I challenge us today to acknowledge the traps surrounding the Manchester Terror Attack:
- Terrorism causing fear – lets pray over our country, and the protection against fear so that we may rebuild a confident society, not allowing fear to cause worry or racial speculation.
- Blame: pray for protection against Islamic or Religious societies so they may not be trapped by prejudice labels regarding terrorism – sadly today I had to tweet somebody who wrongly and racially claimed that “religion has caused this hate.”
- Trauma: pray for protection against trauma, that all involved may be healed physically, restored emotionally and allowed to completely recover psychologically, not trapped by fear or trauma in the future.
Next, in vs 6-7 David cries out in mercy. Today’s events were sickening. As mentioned before, when I awoke today, my heart dropped and all I felt was compassion and hurt for all involved. Perhaps I couldn’t actively go and help, but like David, I could pray – I could cry out for mercy on behalf of those involved. Many injured may not know Christ and so as a follower of Jesus, my responsibility was to pray for them and ask the Holy Spirit bring comfort on behalf of them. I’m not talking about a quick, #prayformanchester tweet or arrow prayer. I’m talking about an invested, heartfelt faith-can-move-mountains prayer. Spend time praying and crying out to God for these people – prayer after all, is powerful.
When we look at vs9-11, we read that unfortunately, there will be people today who stand proud of what has gone on – how inhumane! Firstly whilst the psalm says that they will be, “thrown into the fire,” we must remember that these are David’s words, not God’s. Undoubtedly David, like many (including myself) today, was angry and craved justice. But unlike David, we have the truth of the New Testament. Jesus has died and rose victorious to take away sin, so all may be forgiven. I am not saying that the man who carried out the attack last night was right – he was very, very wrong. However, Jesus has already dealt with all wrongdoing. We don’t have the power to punish or judge this man (especially since he has died) but God does, and has already, dealt with it – we don’t know the outcome of this but we can trust that God is in control. Now, we must focus on applying the “all may be forgiven” aspect, not forgetting that what he did was wrong, but in our hearts coming to terms with it and moving on. This allows us to turn the tables, counteract the violence and have peace in our hearts.
World peace starts with inner peace and the first step is forgiveness. It’s hard and we don’t want to forgive right now – but the result will be worth it in time.
Finally, in vs 12-13, David finished his prayer with a great hope. He reminds himself that God is good and declares this over all of the violence. Right now it’s hard to see all the suffering and believe that God is good. But he is. Due to freewill, God can’t stop people from doing evil. He didn’t cause this pain, and he is rebuilding already through the work of emergency services and other aids. His presence is real and current – God is walking with the suffering.
We can all experience this goodness today amongst such violence – simply by opening our hearts with, “God, I need you – come and change my life, show me who you really are.”
If we do this, although there will still be hatred, we may enter a relationship with God and encounter his presence so that whilst in the storm, we may know and trust his good, strong and loving power.
This afternoon after reading and thinking about Psalm 141, I sat and prayed through all of these points. As I prayed for God to free and protect, I saw an image of a mouse trap clenched closed. But then the glorious light of Christ shone upon it, and set it wide open – free! In this moment, my heart suddenly felt peaceful. Suddenly I felt able to forgive and all my anger disappeared. I felt comforted knowing that the situation was now in God’s hands and that he is carrying those involved.
My prayer is that you may also know this freeing power in your heart.
Pray for Manchester – cry out for mercy and invite God in. Live freely set apart from all the violence in this world, simultaneously praying for, walking with and acting on behalf of those who are suffering.