The case for less is more

October 12, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Laura Campbell

Anyone who knows me very well (my husband), knows that I have a hard time managing many things at once. I like to linger a long time with tasks. But somehow the ‘hustle’ always gets the better of me and I’m flooded, drowning in work.

What is keeping me sane? Smiling? I wish it were yoga, but I don’t even have time for that. It’s another little thing that I’ve been working on for a few years: practising minimalism. And the key word here is ‘practising’ since I’m far from having mastered this lifestyle. I’m sure other writers in this space have touched on it, but hear me out. … I believe it might just be the solution to our many existential crises.

As with many things, my exposure and conduit into the trend of minimalism is motherhood. I’m definitely what many would label as a classic “granola” mom. I feel lucky to have been able to breastfeed each of my children for two years, and I followed the principles of attachment parenting very closely. But as they’re growing up, I’ve found it harder and harder to keep the ‘noise’ of the outside world, and all of the stress it comes with, from descending on my house. I’m talking about the pressures of capitalism: too much screen time, too many toys, too many extracurricular activities.

I was deeply inspired by the incredibly seminal work of Kim John Payne in his book Simplicity Parenting, in which he encourages parents to adopt the concept and practice of LESS in every facet of their children’s lives. He describes the nightmare scenarios of anxious children who are far too exposed to the pressures of the world than they need to be, a scenario in which children are deprived of their own childhood.

Now what about us adults? By now we know we spend too much time on our phones. We spend too much money on things we don’t need or want. We are stressed. So is our planet. Maybe it’s time that we simplified, too? If I were a trend-forecaster I would have seen minimalism coming from miles away. There is something distinctly 2018 about Minimalism; it rallies us against the establishment, it makes ecological sense, and the aesthetic of minimalism is futuristic.

As a woman, in particular, the thing that shocked me the most was learning about the amount of textile waste the Fast Fashion industry produces every single year. If you want to learn about some of the shocking and horrifying environmental implications of buying new, inexpensive clothing, I would point you to the documentary The True Cost. I don’t believe for a second that it’s easy to simply give up buying clothing at H&M or Joe Fresh – the convenience and price point of those clothes and the overwhelming pressures of being “current” are legitimate reasons that keep us going back. Sometimes when my kids need new underwear, or a pair of pants (after I’ve checked at our awesome local consignment store, As We Grow), I end up at Carters.

But at some point, we’ve got to try something new. Because our mass consumerism and desire to “do it all” are having real, and terrible consequences in three deeply connected areas: our environment, our mental health and our personal and broader economy.

My sister and I have been trying to conjure up ways to pressure our provincial government to reconsider its rejection of climate action. We know political organizing will be a major part of that work. But the other facet, of course, is changing our own habits, and encouraging all of our friends to do the same. Minimalism is the social movement we’ve all been waiting for. I think everyone, whether you’re a Conservative, a Liberal or a Green, can relate to the ways in which banks have overwhelming power over us all. What would happen if we all paid off our debt? What would happen if we bought locally made products, exclusively? Consumer debt is the massive engine of capitalism – the interest we pay on the things we never really needed, or even wanted, is driving institutional investment in the industries that are destroying our planet.

I’m not against banks or bankers. Indeed, in the 19th century, immediately after the Congress of Vienna in 1814, financiers operating behind the diplomatic scenes pushed strongly for liberal values of human rights and ending discrimination against minorities living inside the conservative states of Europe. Today, many banks are slowly shifting investments into renewables and (as seen with the oil sands), are now less enthusiastic to make massive capital investments in fossil fuels.

But by and large, they still operate on principles that are fundamentally at odds with our survival on this planet. This past Thanksgiving, scientists across the world coordinated their last and crucial warning to us humans: we must act NOW or risk destruction of apocalyptic proportions. These warnings can make me feel powerless, sometimes. I’m sure you feel the same. But if there is one thing that can help us take back some control, it is refusing to participate in the one system that is driving this destruction: unfettered consumer capitalism.

Minimalism is empowerment. It is protest and liberation. It doesn’t mean you can’t have new skis this year. It just means, be mindful, and be radically local and exclusive about what you choose to spend your precious dollars on.


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