Minimalism and Pets

I recently saw a comment on a blog post that made me stop in my tracks. The blog post was (of course) about minimalism. The comment was from a person who was also aspiring to a minimalist lifestyle.

Now I truly can’t remember which blog post this was, or exactly what the comment said. But I remember part of the comment, and that part was this… (not word for word)

‘I still have some things to get rid of, such as X, Y, Z and my dog.’ 

Now I don’t remember the other items. But I remember that poor dog.

As a minimalist myself, and a long time pet owner I have been in this position. I have been decluttering my home and my life, stumbling upon chewed up dog toys along the way. But never did I consider that in order to clear out the excess I would actually have to get rid of my pooch!

Of course, there are often plenty of good reasons why you may no longer be able to care for your pet. But I don’t think minimalism is one of them. If you find yourself unable to provide your pet with the things it needs – toys, food, shelter, exercise and attention, then I can completely understand.

But I don’t believe you need to be pet-free in order to be a minimalist.

Sure, pets have things. My dog has food and water bowls, a whole cupboard dedicated to his food, treats, leashes, collars and brushes. Toys, blankets and a bed of his own. Yes it can get frustrating when my clean and clear floor spends half the day littered in the toys he’s pulled out to play with, but that’s part of having a pet. My pooch brings me lots of joy, and adds lots of value to my life. Without him I wouldn’t get outdoors each day (whatever the weather) to breathe the fresh air and stretch my legs. I wouldn’t have met and started conversations with countless neighbours who have four legged friends of their own. I wouldn’t have a toasty companion to curl up at my feet and watch a film with while J works away. I wouldn’t have my ferocious little alarm telling me that the post has arrived.

My pet adds value and brings joy to my life in many ways. And yes he has things that I don’t need, but I need my dog. And I see my dog as a living, breathing creature with feelings and needs.

As they say, a dog is for life, not for Christmas.

No one will convince me that I need to kick him out in order to fit into a minimalist shaped mould.

He isn’t a holey pair of socks or a spare pair of scissors. He isn’t outdated paperwork or our 5th set of playing cards.

He’s a part of our family, and the idea of getting rid of him to help declutter my home is as bizarre as suggesting I’d have to get rid of my partner in order to declutter some more.

Perhaps the person that commented has other reasons, perhaps they have realised they don’t value their pet as they should, perhaps they plan on travelling the world with their backpack. Perhaps I have got them all wrong.

But this isn’t an attack on that person, and this isn’t a declaration that you must keep your pet no matter what.

It’s simply a post to say that minimalism comes in many shapes and sizes, and don’t ever feel pressured to ascribe to a checklist in order to fit in.

I can keep my dog, and you can keep your college sweater.

If it adds value, of course.

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5 ways to reduce plastic use

Since beginning my minimalist journey with decluttering my belongings, I’ve become more aware of other ways in which I am wasteful.

Plastic is a huge environmental issue and pretty much everyone contributes to it. Whilst I would love to be zero waste one day, I know that it’s a long journey and it won’t happen overnight. However, reducing the amount of plastic I bring into my home – and ultimately put into the bin – is an area where I think it’s best to act sooner rather than later.

Reducing plastic is relatively easy – because we consume so much of it! A few simple changes to our routines and purchasing habits can drastically cut the amount of plastic we use. Below, I have listed out 5 quick and easy ways in which I have started reducing the amount of plastic I use. I’d love to hear of any ways in which you have managed to reduce your plastic consumption as well.

If we all take small steps, we can make a huge difference.

#1 Food packaging

The most pointless (and annoying) form of plastic is often the packaging our food comes in. You can look for food that’s sold in minimal packaging, but I’ve found an easier way is to avoid supermarket shopping whenever you can.

Shopping at your local market, deli or butchers more often is an easy way to reduce plastic packaging. You can take along your own reusable containers. I also prefer shopping this way because it allows you to pick your own portions, preventing food waste.

Even if you only switch out one product, or only manage one non-supermarket shop per month, it all helps.

#2 Toiletries

Shampoo, Conditioner, Shower Gel, Bubble Bath, Hand Wash etc. Most toiletries these days have made their way into plastic bottles. But it doesn’t have to be the case.

A simple bar of soap wrapped in paper packaging is still easy to find and buy (you can even get them at the supermarkets – though often in a waxed or plasticised wrapping). But bars of soap can be used as your hand wash, shower gel and instead of bubble bath. I haven’t bought bubble bath for ages, I simply pop a bar of soap in while the water is running and bathe in soapy water instead. Still smells fantastic and I’ve learnt to live without bubbles.

(Note – I don’t use a whole bar of soap for every bath, but I do tend to leave it in the water for the majority of the time and have found it still shrinks relatively slowly)

You can also get bath bombs if you want something a bit funkier, these are often sold without excess packaging and you can even make your own quite simply, with plenty of guides online – I haven’t linked any as I haven’t actually ever tried any out! (I’ve got used to simple baths)

And for shampoo and conditioner you can buy these in bar form as well now. So long plastic bottles!

(To go even further you could always try the No Poo method? I have done this before.. I may have to blog about it one day)

I source most of these things from LUSH, simply because they have a store in my hometown, they always smell fantastic and I quite like their ethics and principles. But I’m sure you can find other retailers and sellers online or at local markets.

#3 Sanitary Products

As a woman, having to use sanitary products every month is horrifying enough – from a landfill perspective (it’s nothing to be ashamed of biologically!) – as tampons and towels don’t decompose, which I always find quite upsetting.

Thankfully there are now soooo many options for us to try instead.

A small step in the right direction is to ditch tampons with applicators – especially plastic applicators. This helps reduce the plastic you’re using each time.

However, if the environmental issues of used tampons and towels concern you as much as the plastic you can also try using menstruation cups or period pants. Both seem to have seen a recent rise in popularity and I have linked to some further reading.

#4 Drinks bottles

Buying a bottled drink each day adds up really fast. Both in terms of the money you’re spending and also the amount of plastic you’re using and disposing of. It’s such a simple thing to change – buy a reusable water bottle and get used to using it every day.

We have recently purchased metal drinking bottles which are fab as they keep your cold drinks cold and your hot drinks hot! Reusable and multipurpose – win/win.

I’ve found that it’s also helped me to ditch fizzy drinks and increase my water intake.

#5 Shopping bags

Since we introduced the 5p bag charge in the UK,  people have started being smarter with their shopping bags already anyway. Which is great news! But we can all be guilty of having to get one occasionally.

J and I are the worst offenders because we actively seek out shopping bags so that we can use them to bag up our household waste. It’s a hard habit to kick, but I’m really working on being more organised and taking reusable shopping totes to the shops with us, however I still haven’t found a way to avoid plastic bin bags – any ideas?

 

Personally, I think that all of the things I have listed out above are quite easy to implement. And even if you only do it some of the time as you get started it will make a huge difference.Plus as it becomes more normal and more ingrained in your routine you should find it easier and easier to keep moving away from plastic.

I know that I am a LONG way off from being an eco-warrior and there is so much more I could do, but for now I’m taking small steps in the right direction, and surely that’s a good start!

Have you found yourself becoming more concerned with the environment as part of your journey into minimalism? Do you have any more tips I could try?