Have you ever looked at your home and said, “I just can’t deal with all this stuff?!” Today’s guest, Stephanie Seferian, can definitely relate. As a new mom, she struggled with the amount of baby gear filling her small apartment. So she decided to do something about it and became a minimalist. Now, she teaches about the intersection of minimalism and sustainability on her podcast, Sustainable Minimalists, and on her Mama Minimalist blog. She’s sharing her best tips to becoming a minimalist, and why now is the best time to switch to a decluttered lifestyle.
What is Minimalism, Exactly?
Minimalism is the intentional, conscious choice to pare down whatever’s unnecessary so that you can live more fully with the people who matter and the things that you need.
Although decluttering is part of minimalism, it’s important to note that the overall goals of minimalism are focused on having more time and more mental space. Having less stuff to clean, organize, and look at means that you can be more present with yourself and your family.
Stephanie’s Minimalist Journey
Stephanie turned to minimalism shortly after she became a mother. Despite living in an 800 sq. ft. apartment in Boston, she and her husband had acquired a lot of items before welcoming their daughter into the world. She estimates that their families had gifted them nearly 100 frilly dresses for their baby girl, along with toys and other baby gear.
She had a lot of anxiety over organizing, cleaning, sorting, and storing everything for her daughter. Finally, she logged onto Facebook and joined some minimalist groups. She was motivated to declutter not only the baby gear but all aspects of her home.
Unfortunately, these groups didn’t have any sustainable aspect to them—members talked about sending stuff off to the landfill with pride. That’s why Stephanie created the Sustainable Minimalists podcasts and her blog, Mama Minimalist. She knew that there had to be a better way.
How Minimalism Helps the Environment
It’s possible to be a minimalist without considering any environmental issues. But as Stephanie points out, the act of practicing minimalism is incredibly eco-friendly. Choosing to buy less and bring less into your home already has a positive effect on the environment.
All goods, even those that are certified eco-friendly, harm the planet in some way. The stuff we buy requires natural resources during the manufacturing process. It’s then packaged and sent to a store. Even if you buy a shirt off of a hanger, you are still contributing to the growing pile of plastic packaging left in the stock room, not to mention the cost of shipping it to the store or your home.
By choosing to have less stuff overall, your impact in all of these manners is reduced. You can’t buy your way to sustainability, but you can choose to buy less.
How To Be More Minimalist
Give Gifts With the Recipient in Mind
Shopping for the perfect gift is often about the giver rather than the receiver. It’s natural to want to fulfill our own need to give a lovely item, like one of those frilly baby dresses, rather than a gift that the receiver will truly appreciate.
For new moms, Stephanie recommends giving a hot meal, a session with a housekeeper, or another helpful experience rather than more baby clothes.
Experiential gifts are fantastic no matter who the recipient is! For more tips on experiential giving, check out Good Together’s episode on How to Give Gifts With Less Waste.
Say No When You Want to Say No
We all know that less is more with physical stuff. But Stephanie recommends applying minimalism to your schedule, too. Consider how often you say “yes” to an obligation without thinking through the time commitment, how it will affect your day, and if you even want to go. It can be very empowering to say “no” when you don’t honestly want to participate.
Challenge Yourself to a No-Spend Month
If you’ve never tried minimalism before, this is an excellent way to try it out. During a no-spend month, you spend money only on what you need. This includes your rent, your essential groceries, and your utility bills. Everything else—like your late-night online shopping, take away food from your favorite restaurant, new clothes, etc.—is on hold for the month.
A no-spend month is a great way to not only take stock of your spending habits, but also to see what you truly need. You will find that you have extra time from a lack of shopping, browsing, and package tracking. That means it’s an excellent time to reconnect with life’s simple pleasures, like reading, hobbies that had fallen by the wayside, or playing a board game with your family.
If you want to declutter your home of frivolous items, start in the room with the least emotional things. For most people, that’s the bathroom. No one is sad about disposing of old, gunky nail polish and empty shampoo bottles! Stephanie has some resources on her site, Mama Minimalist, if you need a game plan.
Make Zero Waste, Minimalist Swaps
After you’ve decluttered, you may realize that you would like to swap out some of your essential items for more sustainable versions. For example, instead of using single-use plastic bags, you could buy silicone food bags. Instead of plastic floss, opt for all-natural silk floss. Stephanie has a list of brands that she likes as replacements for single-use items, which you can check out on her website.
There’s No Better Time to Be a Minimalist
The most exciting thing about practicing minimalism is that it is on the cusp of entering the mainstream. There’s no better time to be an environmentalist and take the small, actionable steps we talk about so much here at Brightly. Whether that’s decluttering your home, choosing more sustainable home goods, or giving more thoughtful experiential gifts, now’s the time to make some small changes for a more ethical, sustainable future.