My Year of Intentional Consumption

This year, I have decided that my overarching theme to guide my life is “intentional consumption”. All year long I try to stay in touch with my values, and let these guide the choices I make in the day-to-day. But I also like the new year as a time of reflection and forward planning for what I want my life to look like. There will always be ways to do better and to live more closely with my values. Although I always do try to be mindful and intentional in the way that I use my time, and the lifestyle decisions that I make, I started this year believing that this needs more attention from me in 2018.

Intentional consumption, for me, does not mean buying things, although this is a small part of it. I do not mean consumerism- in fact, I feel that modern day consumerism has skewed the meaning of the word. Intentional consumption is much broader than what I buy. Consumption also means the media, writing and art that I consume (with my attention), the things that I choose to eat, and the way that I spend my time.

In short, in 2018 I plan to be more mindful and intentional with how I use my time, money and energy.

This year will be part of my process of developing what I have termed “a sustainable minimalism”. It is in contrast to the mindless minimalism that has begun to dominate the discourse which promotes decluttering in the extreme, with complete disregard for the environmental impact of this approach. Mainstream minimalism has been co-opted by capitalism and ends in more mindless waste. Without mindfulness, and a healthy respect for the material objects in our world, mindless consumerism will creep back in.

My year of intentional consumption will bring mindfulness to what and how I am eating. Spending 5 minutes picking chamomile daisies on a summers eve so that I can drink tea over the winter that is homegrown, zero-waste, and healthful without unnecessary calories. Using my time and energy to do this, rather than using my money to buy herbal tea from a shop. Scheduling time in the evenings to cook gluten-free bread, and raw sweets, instead of falling into habits of eating supermarket snacks, which although are healthy, generate pointless packaging waste. And dedicating my food preparation time as a chance to listen to my favourite language learning podcasts (a real love of mine), so I am motivated to do the work in the kitchen week in and week out.

My year of intentional consumption will see me reviewing my possessions to see which I treasure and use, and which I let go of. It will mean practising slow gifting, turning the decluttering practice into a way to give to my community, and nourish the ideals of sharing, sustainable living, and leaving consumerism behind. It will see me embracing materialism, in the true sense of the word, which to me means respecting and valuing the material objects in my life and spending the time and energy to maintain and fix them, or to find them a new home if I no longer need them. It will mean embracing the pleasure of using my hands to mend an object or piece of clothing or even the pleasure of knowing that old rags from my wardrobe will be turned become soil over time in my compost heap.

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My year of intentional consumption will be mean paying closer attention to what I spend my money on, and how my spending aligns with my values. It will mean being careful to pack lunches instead of unintentionally buying packaged food when I am out of the home and hungry. It will also mean feeling a sense of ease when I mindfully choose to spend my money on French lessons, or an organic coffee in my favourite cafe, instead of feeling a guilty about spending money that is completely within my means. It will mean embracing my frugal roots that stem from a childhood in poverty, while at the same time giving myself permission to spend money on things that matter to me, without the guilt that any money spent is misspent and undeserved.

My year of intentional consumption will bring a mindfulness to how I consume media, and how I use my time. It will mean putting my phone out of reach when I am working and using social media deliberately. It will mean avoiding the mindless scroll and using these tools as a mindful opportunity to connect with ideas, inspiration, and community of like-minded souls who are working for the same goals.

And finally, although this list is not exhaustive, I will bring intention to the way that I ‘consume’ my own energy to create meaningful media, books and courses that can nourish your lives too. My latest book, The Resilience Guide for Eco-Activists is almost complete, and I have plans to create some courses or new publications to teach my concept of ‘sustainable minimalism’ in the way that I’ve described here.  I am also super excited to let you know that I have finally found the topic for a book about sustainable fashion that I will pitch to publication houses. It is a big project that will take a lot of energy and work without any immediate return, but I know it will offer a unique contribution to the global conversation.

I would love you to be part of the journey and get exclusive insider insights as I go about my writing process for these projects. You can support my work by becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month. All ongoing patrons who give $4 or more a month will receive an advance copy of The Resilience Guide for Eco-Activists book when it launches later this year. Becoming a patron is small contribution you can make to help bring these big projects to fruition.

I wish you the happiest new year, and it is my dearest hope that my work can help you find your intentional consumption in 2018. Thanks for being here and being a small but critical part of this journey and our community.

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  • I admire your idea of “sustainable minimalism.” I’ve been decluttering and cleaning out my belongings recently because I am getting ready to move after I complete graduate school. Although I do give items to thrift stores, I have been giving all of my craft supplies to the education department at the museum I work for. I was so happy to hear from one of the staff members in the department that one of the art classes for children used my fabric donations and the children loved the fabrics! I was so grateful to see my giveaways being put to good use and loved by others. I think that minimalism isn’t always the best answer to sustainability, and your concept with this understanding of being mindful of how we use or give away items is something I will continue to think about as I move forward in 2018.

    • That is exactly what sustainable minimalism is all about. Taking time and care with the belongings we own, including those we no longer need. I get so much pleasure out of being part of my local Buy Nothing community. I occasionally find something that I need (I just recently saved $50 on a french grammar book I had wanted to buy for 6 months!), but for the large part I find new homes for the belongings that I no longer need. Children’s toys, fabrics, jewellery, old language text books……it is so nice knowing that they will be used by someone who needs them.

      We live in a small 3 bedroom house, our family of 4, plus I work from home. So we need to be very mindful of what we keep, and what we don’t need in the first place!

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  • Jaz Okura-Youtsey

    This is such a beautiful post! It makes such a big difference, just making a point to be mindful about what you consume. Shopping is my biggest weakness (mostly clothes – I can’t resist a deal). But I’ve found that only buying from small, ethical, sustainable businesses, I buy less. Since they tend to be more expensive, it forces me to decide whether or not I need it. And if I do, I can feel good about supporting a small business that does good for the world!

    I’m lucky enough to have a locally owned store where I live (Washington) that has been a solid go to for finding clothes that nourish my soul. They’re called Texture Clothing and recommend them to everyone! https://www.textureclothing.com/

    • It’s wonderful to hear that aligning your shopping with your values has also resulted in you being more mindful about whether or not you need something in the first place. In our culture that conditions us to think of spending as good for the world, it is so important for us to be able to untangle ourselves from consumerism that is literally wearing out the world.

      My own intentional consumption month has been very focused on what I eat. I have been choosing fruit over rice crackers, and making time to bake bread. I’ve been brewing loads of kombucha at home. I have already lost noticeable weight, although that it not the purpose. I am simply paying attention to what my body really needs, and avoiding nutritionally poor packaged food (and avoiding plastic waste in the process). This certainly has not meant deprivation. I have eaten quality dark chocolate almost every day, as well as cakes for my son’s birthday. I have had the occasional glass of wine (or two). But I have been mindful about my choices and my body it thanking me for the mindful attention.

      Good luck with your year of intentional consumption. It is a slow journey, but a valuable one. I hope you will keep sharing your thoughts with me as the year progresses