Sustainability and sustainable living have been on the rise over the last decade as people are becoming more aware and educated on the different ways that their actions and lifestyles are impacting the world around them. Many people are making conscious efforts to change/adapt the way they live into a more sustainable long-term model and are looking for creative and innovative methods to do this. 

Another lifestyle choice/philosophy that has been gaining popularity over the last few years is the concept of minimalism. Minimalism, and the amount of people practicing it, has been on the rise and, just as sustainable lifestyles, people are becoming more aware and educated on the potential benefits that practicing minimalism can have on both their lives and the world around them.

While I do not label myself a minimalist or claim to live a completely minimal life, I have incorporated a lot of the underlying principles and ideas associated with this type of lifestyle into my own day to day life and mentality. The same goes for sustainable living. I do my best to live as sustainably as possible without taking it to the extreme. In this essay I will look at what it means to have a sustainable lifestyle, some of the principles of minimalism, and will explore the ways in which these two ideas intersect with one another and how being more minimal can positively influence and aid a sustainable lifestyle.

Sustainable Living

Sustainable living is centred around only using the things you need, avoiding unnecessary excess, and being aware of where your things come from and the amount of waste that is generated from their production and consumption. Living a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t mean going off the grid and making everything yourself, it simply means being intentional with the things you choose to own, consume, and take part in.

Asking yourself where things come from, how they are produced, and if you are willing to support a particular company and their practices are important questions if you are trying to live more sustainably. There isn’t one specific thing that you can do to instantly make your lifestyle more sustainable, however. It requires the combination of many small changes and adjustments in all aspects of your life with the first, and most important, being a change in your mentality and the way in which you see the world and approach life. One such mentality is minimalism.


“By eliminating the unnecessary, we make room for the essential, and give ourselves more breathing space” – Leo Babauta (2010)

Minimalism is a philosophy/lifestyle choice that encourages people to question what value the things they own add to their lives. It allows you to make room in your life for what is truly important, such as your family and your passions, and helps you to remove the clutter and excess from your life. It prioritises simplicity and is often categorised as an anti-consumerism/anticapitalism philosophy.

Minimalism, or the pursuit of a more minimal way of living, forces you to question yourself about how much things you are consuming, what you are consuming, and why you are consuming them. These questions have been integral to my goal of living a more sustainable lifestyle and has allowed me to take stock of my possessions and the meaning/function that each one holds.


From YouTube videos, to podcast, to documentaries, I have been engaging with minimalist ideas and theories for a few years now and have resonated with them. Diving deeper into these ideas, it became apparent to me that I had been engaging in minimal practices long before coming across these ideas (maybe that’s why I connected with them so quickly).

Learning more about minimalism allowed me to place the decisions I had been making subconsciously into a philosophical framework and clearly define my ideals and what was important to me. Minimalism looks different for every person, but the basic idea is the same. Do I truly need this, and will it add value to me if I allow it into my life? Like I said, I don’t consider myself a minimalist, but I believe everyone can benefit from understanding these principles and applying them in some way to their own lives in whatever way is most appropriate.

Minimalism practices

There are many practices and ideas associated with minimalism, but I am only going to focus on a couple that I think are the most important and simple to implement.

Decluttering your space

This principle focuses on purging your space and where you live of all unnecessary/excess belongings that aren’t adding any value to your life. This can be in your kitchen, your closet, or even decluttering your computer and workspace. Regardless of the item or location the basic idea is the same – Does it add value, and do I need it? If yes, then I’ll keep it. If not, then it needs to go. What is important and adds value is completely subjective which is why you need to be honest with yourself when engaging in this process. After decluttering your space, the process of cleaning and organising should be quick and easy to accomplish.

Declutter space

Being intentional with your purchases

As mentioned, minimalism asks you to focus on what value your possessions bring to your life. This, however, is applied, not just to the items you already have, but purchases you make in the future. There is no point decluttering your space only to clutter it once again by purchasing more things. Each purchase needs to be considered and mindful about the amount of value they will add to your life. This doesn’t mean you aren’t able to indulge yourself and buy the things you want. It is, instead, focused on reducing excess and emphasising the function or purpose of the items that you are purchasing.

Being content with the things that you own

In the current capitalist society that we live in there is a tendency to constantly be looking for a better replacement or something new to purchase. We are constantly being fed information on social media and through advertising that there is a new product we must have, a new version we need to upgrade to, or an essential item that’s guaranteed to make us happy. We are constantly seeing other people’s lives and comparing ourselves to them. The truth is that purchasing more things doesn’t result in happiness or satisfaction. In fact, the opposite is true. By being content with the things that you have, you will be able to resist the temptation of constantly searching for the next best thing and will stop comparing yourselves to others. This will, ultimately, allow you to feel more satisfied.

Reducing time at work by automating and delegating tasks

Minimalism removes distractions from your life and allows you to focus on what is important and meaningful. It also helps to reduce decision overload by allowing you to reduce the number of choices that you have to make in a given day or situation. By automating or delegating certain tasks you are able to free up time and mental space to prioritise your passions and spend less time on meaningless activities.

Delegate tasks

How do minimalism and sustainable living intersect?

There are many parallels that could be made with sustainable living and practicing minimalism. Many of the ideologies around consumption and excess are similar and intersect in a meaningful way. A minimalist lifestyle encourages you to own and consume less while a sustainable lifestyle is reliant on you consuming less. There are some specific ways, however, that these ideas and practises can manifest to positively impact both your own personal life and the environment.

Less waste and pollution

Owning and consuming less has the direct consequence of reducing the amount of waste you produce and introduce into the world. This reduction in waste comes in many different forms and positively impact, not only your immediate space and surroundings, but also the wider environment as a whole.

Sustainable fashion

Fast fashion is one of the largest industries in the world and produces an immense amount of waste each year as well as consuming a large amount of water (the fashion industries have one of the highest water footprints amongst industries). Instead of constantly purchasing new clothes from these fast fashion outlets, be intentional with your purchases and focus on purchasing high quality items that will last a long time. This will greatly reduce the amount of clothes you purchase each year, the amount of waste you produce, the amount of clutter in your space, and will also indirectly lower your personal water footprint.

Decluttering your closet and repurposing your old clothes is an important aspect of minimal living and will also help you to live more sustainably as well. Buying second-hand clothing and shopping from thrift shops is another way to engage in sustainable fashion as the clothes get to have their life span extended and are used for a longer time instead of being thrown away and being sent to landfills etc.

Sustainable fashion

Repair when possible, reduce reuse recycle

One of the main aspects of sustainability is the three R’s – Reduce, reuse, recycle. This ideology is centred around utilising less of the earth’s resources and instead focuses on consuming less and extending the life of the products that we purchase. This sentiment is also found in minimalism which prioritises only purchasing things that you truly need and buying quality products that last a long time.

Constantly replacing the same product over and over is pointless and harmful to the environment and invites clutter into your life. Instead reduce the number of things you own, reuse them when possible and, if you are able to, repair broken items instead of immediately replacing them. This will greatly help the environment and will allow you to live a more sustainable and minimal lifestyle.

Final thoughts

Materialism and consumerism are linked to lower levels of gratitude, satisfaction, and happiness. Practising minimalism will allow you to feel happier and more fulfilled as everything you own and choose to let into your life adds value in one way or another. It also enables you to live a more sustainable lifestyle without implementing major changes into your life. 

Minimalism and sustainable living are intrinsically linked and have many similar practices and ideologies imbedded into their respective ethos. Practicing either lifestyle means indirectly engaging in ideas from both of them, but the end result is the same. Less waste, more meaningful possessions, and more physical and mental space allowing you to focus on the things that truly matter in life.