When Zero Waste, Frugality and Minimalism Collide

The cause that is close to my heart is Zero Waste environmentalism that will allow our species to live on this planet for centuries to come. But along this journey, there are other movements that really align with my values such as minimalism and frugality.

These different movements have one major theme in common – intentional living. They are all about using what you have, and only consuming when necessary and needed. But, these movements also contradict each other, particularly when it comes to getting rid of an item you are not using. Here are some questions I use to navigate the messy world of decluttering if you are caught between movements.

  1. Can I sell the item?
    Firstly, if you have an item that you do not use, and you are unsure of whether to get rid of it, your first thought should be whether the item is of a quality and condition that someone would pay money for it. If so, I would definitely declutter that item. Not only would this help you with your frugal living, but it will de-clutter your home, and, it will go to a new home, which hopefully stops someone purchasing something new and using more of earth resources.
  2. Can I give the item to someone for free?
    If the item has marks, scratches or defects that might not allow it to be sold, but is still in really great condition, is there someone in your life or community that would be happy to receive the item for free? Sure, this won’t make you any money directly, but a sharing economy is definitely frugal, and hopefully, this will come back to you when you need something. In terms of Zero Waste, where possible, I try to avoid donating these things to a charity shop, because there is no guarantee that they will be resold.
  3. If not, is the item still usable at all?
    If the item is not sellable and not really in a condition to be given away, is it still functional at all? This is an area where I would consider keeping the item if it is something that will be useful in the future. I am talking about things like a second broom that might be a bit tattered, or a second hairbrush that is usable, but not very pretty. If I will be able to use these items, when another item that I have breaks, this is where I contradict my minimalist values because, in the long run, this will stop me from purchasing something new. This helps me to save resources.
  4. If the item isn’t usable, are parts of it recyclable?
    When I say recyclable, I do not just mean in the conventional sense. If you have an old broken juicer, are there parts that can be sold/traded/given away to someone to fix their juicer or make it work more efficiently. Or, can the item be given to repair workshop to help them fix other products? Only then, the parts that are not reusable, are they able to be recycled in an effective way to make other products?
  5. Sadly, sometimes, items that you have do have to go to landfill. And although for us in the Zero Waste or Low Impact community, this is a hard thing to do, it is also an important set. We all need to realize that keeping a broken item that cannot be recycled, reused etc. in our home doesn’t save the item from going to landfill, it simply turns our home into one. And we should get rid of these items!BUT – the best thing we can do as we dispose of these items is to learn. It is to make out next purchase more consciously, whether this means buying second-hand or purchasing a good quality sustainable product. If we learn from these items, this is the best outcome.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these practices because I love to continue learning about the best way to merge my values! Comment below!

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