Minimalism, like veganism, is a lifestyle that puts into practice a personal philosophy. Amy Norton looks at the ways in which the movement crosses over with veganism.
The less is more philosophy today is central to the minimalism movement, and it’s where veganism comes in. If minimalism is concerned with living with less for your spiritual wellbeing, then that extends to the impact you have environmentally. Minimalists consume less and buy less, meaning that their eco-footprints are lighter; but eliminating your consumption of animal products is one of the most significant ways of reducing your eco-footprint, as animal-based products have greater emissions than plant-based products per unit of weight.
What is minimalism?
Contrary to common assumptions, there’s far more to minimalism than throwing away the bulk of your possessions and favouring a bare aesthetic. As Joshua Becker of theminimalists.com puts it, “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” This means re-evaluating the objects that we own and identifying those which most give value to our lives, against those which serve no purpose. In general, it’s important to take stock of the fact that our possessions don’t give our lives purpose; we would continue to exist without cars, that second pair of trainers, and our smoothie makers. A minimalist may say that objects can obscure our clearest vision and sense of direction; think of the hindrance of travelling when you’re burdened by the things you can’t imagine leaving behind.
De-cluttering a room, cupboard, or garage provides an almost cathartic experience, and giving away unwanted items to charity brings immense satisfaction. I’ve recently given away four large bags of clothes that no longer fit, no longer see enough use, or just simply don’t suit me anymore, and it’s given me a feeling of relief. I aim to streamline the items in my wardrobe to those that I wear most regularly and are most comfortable. While this is a start, my house is filled with things which I forget are even there.
It’s useful to look back at the minimalist movement’s origins to get a firmer grasp on its philosophy. A lot of inspiration comes from Japanese life and culture, where the word ma translates as space or gap, and is essential to a spatial awareness of form and non-form. Ma is an understanding, a state of comprehension within the mind of negative space; that is, the space around and between an object. It’s about silence and empty space, and how this gives meaning.
Ma can be found in the Japanese principle less is more, which exists in many aspects of life, from interior design, to food, to beauty. Japanese traditional design is simplistic, minimal, and relates to the natural world in some way. The Buddhist concept that nothing is permanent also informs this way of thinking, particularly in a country subject to powerful and destructive natural disasters. Detaching yourself from material consumerism can be incredibly liberating, not to mention lighter on the wallet.
Minimalism and veganism
The less is more philosophy today is central to the minimalism movement, and it’s where veganism comes in. If minimalism is concerned with living with less for your spiritual wellbeing, then that extends to the impact you have environmentally. Minimalists consume less and buy less, meaning that their eco-footprints are lighter; but eliminating your consumption of animal products is one of the most significant ways of reducing your eco-footprint, as animal-based products have greater emissions than plant-based products per unit of weight. Moreover, if you want your lifestyle to bring the most meaning it possibly can to your life, then the treatment of animals in various exploitative industries isn’t going to bring you any joy. Most vegans are interested in environmental issues, as the environmental benefits of a vegan lifestyle are often significant imperatives to individuals making the transition. So, minimalism often appeals to those of us who want to live as cleanly and simplistically as possible.
That being said, what brings most value to a minimalist’s life varies from person to person. One minimalist may find plentiful meaning and joy in their life without being completely vegan. Chances are, however, they’re already pondering how to continue to reduce their impact on the planet and live even more sustainably. Neither do minimalist vegans have some sort of upper hand over non-minimal vegans; there’s no benchmark for how to live your life, only the impulse to evaluate now and then how to be the best and most mindful person you can be.
Here are a few tips to introduce minimalism into your lifestyle.
- Examine your home and each room: identify items you can see, and evaluate whether they’re something that brings any meaning to your life. If not, donate or give them away.
- Eliminate clutter and items of furniture that take up a lot of space, yet don’t serve any special purpose.
- Go through your wardrobe. How often do you wear each item of clothing? If the answer is not very regularly, then that jacket or jumper isn’t necessary for your wellbeing.
- Investigate drawers. Do your knick-knacks, mementoes and other bric-a-brac hold special importance in your life? Can you imagine life without them?
- Next time you make a purchase in a shop, ask yourself what purpose that item will hold, and whether it’s significant enough.
- Relinquish guilt. Gifts from family members or items that hold sentimental value can go to a new home where someone else may be appreciate and get more use out of them.
- Make sensible decisions – if your shoes are really falling apart, invest in the highest-quality replacement you can, and commit to them for as many years as possible.
- Unsubscribe from the emails that frequently inform you of sales and price reductions.
By Amy Norton
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.