The Minimalism Challenge: The Solution to Over-Consumption

By Charlotte Pototsky, member of the SSC Zero Waste and Youth Committee, with a few edits from SSC Founder, Dr. Ricky Stern

I started 2021 by watching a documentary on Netflix called Less Is Now. It explained the importance of minimalism in every aspect of life. Being more minimalistic means either using the least amount of materials when creating something and/or using reusable objects as often as possible. Right now, our society is bent towards open-ended consumption. We are using resources at an unsustainable rate.

The documentary ended with a challenge: a 30-day minimalism game. On the first day, you get rid of one thing, on the second day, two items, on the third day, three, and so on. I decided to try to take on this challenge. Here’s how it went.

Before I started, I wanted to make sure I had a full and clear understanding of why I was doing a minimalism challenge and how it would benefit the planet. There were many reasons: I wanted a fresh start to the new year. I also wanted to do an early spring cleaning and declutter. But most of all, I wanted to take part in aiding the planet.

Why would this help?  

I have a lot of “stuff” that is just sitting around. By passing things on, those resources can actually be used by someone else who then avoids buying an item first hand. Also, the challenge is appealing to me because I want to shift my mindset to one that is even more intentional and focused on minimalism. This means that once the declutter challenge is over, I will only buy things when absolutely necessary. Already, I have become more aware of effective ways to assess and then discard stuff I don’t really need.

Interestingly, I have become more aware of my living space, as well.  Suddenly, I am asking myself, “where am I going to keep this?’  “Perhaps I don’t need to buy this?” which, in turn, decreases my eco-footprint.

What it was like:

Doing the challenge definitely wasn’t easy. Before I began, I already considered myself an intentional minimalist. I had already decluttered once this year during a quarantine. I thus believed that I didn’t have a lot of junk to get rid of. Over time, I learned to ask myself “Is this really valuable for my life?” I sense that I am so much happier with a clean room than a cluttered space.

What others said: 

As the Roving Reporter, I love asking others about their experiences. I interviewed others who also attempted the challenge. I asked, “Now that you have given a lot away, what have you taken from this challenge?” Here is what they said:

“I’m noticing that I want to bring less into my life. I’m taking this as a positive sign, because if I simply decluttered without changing my mindset, then a few months down the line, I’d have amassed more stuff, and I’d be back where I started. Previously, I’d have gone shopping because it was part of my routine. Yet now I’m looking rationally at what I have. I also seem to be more appreciative of what I have. It feels like as I’m creating space in my physical world, I’m also creating space in my mental world.” (Source)

“I never knew how privileged I am. [I] thought I never had enough and [felt] deprived, but looking at my stuff, I have more than what is necessary and that made me appreciate and be content with what I have right now. [I also have] more money for food too!” (Source)

“A little at a time goes a long way. Instead of trying to conquer the Herculean task of organizing my entire home at once, I am repurposing or recycling one item at a time and building up gradually to more and more items. Each day has a beginning and an end. I have a goal that I have to reach each day, and once that is done, I don’t have to worry about the rest of the clutter yet.” Sharon Resident (Anonymous)

Want to try this? Here are a few tips that helped me:

  • Designate different days to review specific areas/things in your life (clothes, bathroom products, closet, toys, junk drawers, puzzles, kitchen). Figure out which are the areas with the most unnecessary stuff. This is what helped me as I got to the higher numbered days. Also, take it a day at a time. It would be much too overwhelming to get rid of everything in just one day.
  • Get rid of things intentionally. This challenge is not very sustainable if you just throw everything away. The goal is not to create tons of waste. By giving things away directly to people, the items you part with will not end up directly in a landfill. The items are also more likely to reach someone who actually wants them, needs them, or will benefit from them. Doing yard sales, or giving things away for free can help avoid this.
  • Dispose of stuff responsibly! When you can recycle, do so. If not, sort out your waste properly. Know what you can and can’t recycle. Do not “wishfully recycle.”
  • Do not replace things unless absolutely necessary. If you come across an item that is broken, do not replace it unless it serves a real need in your life.
  • If you do need to replace something, buy a second-hand version. This can help the planet because it prevents an item from going to a landfill and limits the production of more stuff.

What I learned:

I love a simple life. I don’t need to buy things just because others do. I get more satisfaction from living a minimal life with less rather than owning things. The more I get rid of various goods, the less I want them.

My challenge to you: I challenge all of you to try playing “the minimalism game”. A good ‘trick’ is to proclaim to others that you are doing this to make yourself accountable. You can live with less and be happier without as much clutter in your life.

In fact, this can help you start paying more attention to everything around you that is actually important. If this challenge seems like too much for you, consider doing a “no buy” challenge. It can have the same effect on the planet, if not better. We just need to buy less.

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts on clean energy or how you live sustainably. Here are three ways to make your viewpoints known and keep the conversation going:

  1. Join SSC on the first Wednesday of every month
  2. Email me personally at EnvironmentalConsulationsNow@gmail.com
  3. Visit or comment on my personal blog (like this one about minimalism) or my YouTube channel

Sustainable Sharon Coalition

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