Reduce/Refuse, Reuse/Repurpose, Recycle
They say less is more, but what exactly does that mean? This statement is trying to stress that as you cut consumption and downsize on the “stuff” you own, the more:
money in your bank
ease when it comes to moving
free time you will have because you do not have to clean as often/as much
clean air from fewer emissions from manufacturing and transportation
I can remember seeing photographs in my geography and sociology classes in college comparing average personal belongings for Americans to people from around the world in countries such as Japan, Mexico, Europe, Africa, India, and so on. There was an alarming difference in the amount of resources used for consumption in the United States compared to other nations, many of which are also developed nations. You can also view a world clock and experience just how much the U.S. and the world is consuming every day, week, month, and year.
I also was introduced to TED Talks and came across a video that got the ball rolling on downsizing and streamlining my life.
When I began researching this streamlined lifestyle I came across several blogs and videos about people living in tiny houses. Some of which included stories of people who lived in New York apartments within 100 square foot, and they would also challenge people to live within 100 personal items. One blog that stands out most in my mind was written by a couple in Portland, OR that was overwhelmed with debt, working overtime, and in over their head with stress and daily life. They sold both of their cars to use Portland’s great public transportation system, as well as take advantage of bicycles to cause fewer emissions and stay in shape. During this process the husband went back to school to get his PhD while the wife went from working overtime to part-time and now spends her free time volunteering her efforts towards her passions. Their new lifestyle caused me to examine my life and begin taking inventory of my personal belongings. At one point in my life my collections were getting out of control, but have since sold everything. I now feel less anxiety when it comes to moving, and the reduction of clutter frees my mind of stress. I no longer feel I am missing something from my life and search for it in the big box stores and malls.
Houses have grown by three times in the last few decades, so we should have plenty of room for our possessions, right? Wrong. With the purchase of larger homes came the trend of purchasing a greater amount of items to fill those homes until consumption spins out of control. With this came a booming industry of storage units. Not only are our homes not big enough to hold our things we “cannot live without”, but we can’t park our car in the garage. Yet, we force ourselves to rent storage space for the things not quite worthy of being in the house rather than downsizing on items we no longer truly need. I say we should start a revolution to free ourselves of the clutter, while at the same time-saving the earth from our wasteful tendencies and ever-growing piles of trash. Larger homes and storage units mean more land use, over consumption in a throw-away society means more land use and tax dollars to buy the land for landfills.
Politics can be a mess and seem like we are going nowhere, the industry lobbyist are armed with money and tailored suits, however we are armed with our voice and our votes. So I encourage you to create and keep a relationship with your representative whether you agree with them or not. However we are also have a vote with our dollars. Whenever we buy something it means that we approve of that product, materials it is made of, and the business practices. With this being said let companies know you want products made out of recycled materials or that use less packaging. Shop second-hand and thrift so people invest and create an economy that supports recycling. Politicians and business really pay attention to what we want by what we spend our money on.
-Mike, Sierra Club Lone Star chapter Intern