Responsible Users, Not Thoughtless Consumers

Curating a home with intentionality at its core

Minimal living room
Photography by Michelle Wentworth

There have been many headlines about responsible consumption and what kind of carbon footprint each of us leaves behind. It’s really good that these issues are widely spoken of, and these things can’t be properly ignored if you follow the mainstream news, columns, or blogs.

I don’t feel I am a particularly eco person, but it has been very interesting to reflect on my own way of life, and notice that a minimalist lifestyle is quite an ecological way of living.

Life situations change, as do our habits. 10 or 20 years ago, my life was very different than it is now. Earlier, I lived alone in a studio apartment, I didn’t own a car, but I dined out a lot, often bought new clothes, and spent my money very easily. Now I live with my family in a detached house and I own a car, but I rarely visit restaurants or buy new clothes—perhaps too rarely (I don’t even dare to say how many holes I have in my clothes, but I still use them). However, my consumption has changed a lot during this time and the way I lived changed with it.

I haven’t always made the most ecological of purchases, but I am always mindful of how long an item may last and that I will get the best value for it, that is, value for money. Well-made objects will last much longer. I prefer to invest in functional, sustainable, and aesthetically beautiful products, rather than those that are temporary, disposable, and environmentally-damaging. I prefer to buy out of necessity rather than fun or impulse. I don’t need much, and that has been a great thing to be aware of.

A while ago, I ordered a couple of coat racks for our hallway. The package came with a letter that read:

“We don’t like materialism, but love aesthetics. We see less as more, and so everything, however small, should be chosen with care. Quality is not elitism, but sustainability.”

It was really gratifying to get this letter with the products—a message I fully endorse. Less is indeed more, and when it’s good quality and long lasting, it is certainly better for nature. At the end of the letter, it was stated that the packaging materials should be recycled. It is a great thing that many companies guide and encourage their customers to work with nature and be more aware of their responsibilities as users. It’s a small, but meaningful thing.

Am I, then, a responsible user? In some way yes, and some no. I have come to realize how unecological some of my decisions were in terms of housing, for example, my concrete flooring. When we were looking for our current home, the ecological aspects weren’t the main focus, but rather on other things, such as the health of our family. Our old moldy house had already done too much damage to our health, so we had to minimize all the risks at this time.

Each of us has our own ways of living and managing our responsibilities and priorities. Of course, it is good to share information, but no one is perfect. I’m not. Every day we are getting older and wiser. Surely, I have to look at my choices and actions even more closely, and do my best to be responsible and also teach my own offspring important values. Adopting a minimalist lifestyle is definitely the right direction to do just that.

Originally published for our Inside Minimalism series.

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