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Everyday Enviro with Elise - The challenge of not consuming

Date: 11-Mar-19
Author: Elise Catterall

Changing one's consumption habits in the name of environmental sustainability can be difficult. Image: Ashim De Silva/Unsplash © Ashim De Silva/Unsplash

Changing one's consumption habits in the name of environmental sustainability can be difficult. Image: Ashim De Silva/Unsplash

There is a lot of discussion around the emotional toll of adopting minimalism, particularly in relation to decluttering, or Marie Kondo-ing – where we rid ourselves of belongings that don’t serve a purpose or ‘spark joy’. People talk about the wrench that comes with parting with an old, long unworn, t-shirt, or trophy, or (in my case,) still unwrapped wedding presents (from 15+ years previously).

My emotional hurdles around adopting minimalism, however, are about far more than letting go of memories - they relate more to the other side of minimalism – reducing consumption.  And surprisingly for me, they are big hurdles.  It seems that, for me, adopting a low-consumption lifestyle brings up major emotions that are almost fear-like in their nature.

While I am committed to limiting my impact on the environment, and also truly want the simplified and experience-rich life that a minimalist, low waste, low consumption approach can provide, I keep coming up against the same internal blocks.

Basically, I want to buy things - often for no other reason than I just want (sometimes subconsciously) to buy something. And along with that urge comes a feeling of acute deprivation if I don’t. Typically, my brain wins and I resist the urge, but the emotion that has arisen lingers and, for a time, eclipses the other positive emotions that I may have been experiencing.

So what is it about? Why do I have the desire to consume when I am convinced to my core that I have all (and more) that I need and am equally convinced about why I shouldn’t consume from an environmental perspective. Why do things I don’t need matter so much?

I know it isn’t just me. I know that many of us have emotional connections to materialism and consumerism and my reading tells me that is about filling a void.  But what if there is no void, what if your life is full and fulfilling? It must be something else.  Is it boredom? Does acquiring stimulate me in some way that I can’t otherwise achieve? Is it a reward? A kind of subconscious ‘go ahead, you deserve it’? Is it escapism, or a form of self-soothing? Or, is it plain and simple greed?

I guess that is going to be the crux of my journey -to explore, read, learn and hopefully understand what this is bringing up for me and why. It all feels a little self-indulgent when the bigger picture is the environment, not ‘little old me’, but I think it is important to acknowledge the things that hold us back, so I’m starting here.

What I’m reading

Gretchen Rubin’s Outer Order Inner Calm

Brooke McAlary’s books (Slow and Rest) and website

Joshua Becker’s book (The More of Less) and website


See you next time! - Elise

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 


Elise                                             Catterall
Author: Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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