‘It’s not about one person doing a really great thing, it is about a lot of people doing small things that really make a difference.‘
Just as one straw cannot pollute the environment, but 7.8 billion people using one straw each sure can; similarly, each individual contributing in their own small way can have a far-reaching effect on the environment and the future of our children.
Minimalism is not just a fad; it adds value to your life in a holistic way. Things that were indispensable for you become redundant. You start questioning things around you. You start valuing things that matter.
Here are the 10 habits that I changed for good. They did not happen overnight. Each of them involved breaking a set pattern and stepping out of my comfort zone to take the plunge. These changes certainly affect the environment, but most importantly, they make a difference to my own health and well-being. Of course, I have miles to go on this journey, but I value these small steps:
- Stopped using bin liners: It is very common to use bin liners for our dry and wet waste. Now multiply this with the number of days and also with the number of households, and so on. It took me a while to change the habit to stop using bin liners because then I would have to touch the wet waste with my hands when I give it to the person who collects them. However, I soon realized if I cannot touch my own waste, how can I expect another person to segregate it for me?
2. Writing with a pencil: I used to love collecting stationery, specifically the diaries and the notebooks. But what to do with them once they are over. If you have used them for writing personal stuff, you cannot just send them for recycling too. In order to further minimize my needs, I decided I didn’t need any new diaries. I could just use one over and over again. So, I use a pencil to write and use the notebooks again. That also means that I have completely stopped buying pens.
3. Carrying water bottles: I developed the habit of carrying water after my son was born, and now I never step out without a bottle of water. I remember we would always order bottled water in a restaurant, assuming that the water could be contaminated. On one hand, it was making all of us rather too sensitive, and on another hand, we were buying bottled water unnecessarily. And it was just me, who was crazy. My husband was okay with the water all along. So, I did a u-turn and stopped ordering bottled water. All restaurants serve RO water in any case. You just need to ask. Another major achievement was not buying water during our trips. For the last couple of trips, we did not buy any plastic water bottles. It takes a bit of planning and effort, but it is always an accomplishment when you can finish the entire trip without plastic bottles. You just need to keep asking the staff at your hotels to refill your bottles.
4. No clothes shopping without a plan: Clothes make for the biggest part of clutter in any household. I have been guilty of buying clothes mindlessly in the past. Over the years, I have become a mindful clothes-shopper. I stick to a certain colour palette and buy things that go with each other. I never buy clothes on a whim anymore. In fact, I hate shopping for clothes these days. Sometimes when I visit a store and like something, I just give it time, and 10 out of 10 times I have never gone back to buy that thing. I also don’t buy what’s ‘in fashion’ because they go out of fashion soon. I like to buy timeless things.
5. Stopping regular shampoo: Regular shampoo makes your hair look great temporarily but damages the hair in the long run. They are also the reason for hair fall and premature greying. They contain a lot of chemicals that aren’t good for the body, so I keep trying natural things for hair like reetha-anwla, eggs, curd, etc. I also oil my hair once a week and use SLS/Paraben free shampoo by Khadi to wash it off.
6. Switching to cloth pads: I have written about switching to zero-waste menstruation in this post.
7. Stopped buying physical books: Books were my only weak point. I was a book hoarder. That is a thing of the past now. I don’t even remember the last time I bought a physical book. I have even stopped buying books for my 8-year-old. For him, we have joined a library. For myself, I still have a lot of backlog of books at home, and I also have a Kindle. So, if I must read something, I get an ebook.
8. Cooking healthy food: It is said your diet makes for 80% of the way you look. The food that we eat daily affects us more than anything else. Of course, exercise is very important, but if you don’t monitor your food, no matter how much you exercise, you cannot achieve results. I cook with very little oil and always use healthy alternatives. For example, my pancake will have oats, whole wheat flour, and jaggery. My sandwiches have no butter.
9. Cancelling all magazine subscriptions: At one point in time, I used to get 5 magazines delivered to my home. I would read a couple of pages and stack them up to read later. That ‘later’ would never come. I subscribed to Femina for several years, but I have seldom read it from cover to cover. So, I stopped all subscriptions. In any case, you can read everything online now. Plus there’s the library too.
10. Removing non-stick cookware from the kitchen: About 2 years back, I removed all non-stick cookware from my kitchen, and stopped using plastic in the microwave as well as for any cooked food. My son’s tiffin boxes are also of steel, and we use glassware in the microwave. I also got iron cookware for my kitchen. Basically, going back to what our mothers used to do.
There are so many things that I want to do but things are permanent when they happen organically. So, just taking one step at a time and getting comfortable with it.
Are there any small big-changes that you have incorporated into your lives?