When Simplifying is Counter-Culture

When the Greenest Thing You Can Do is Nothing
As popular as simple and "going green" has become, most of us aren't willing to do the one thing that would make the most difference: Refuse.

Buy some fun, earthy recycled organizing products? Yes. Buy secondhand, or donate and recycle instead of throwing away? Sure. Maybe even look into where products are made and choosing sustainable materials and transparent companies. Why not?

But not buying anything? Replace purchasing with... nothing? Make do with what we have, deny our wants, maybe even rethink our needs? That's just too far. And too counter-cultural. It requires too much sacrifice.

And, yet, refusing is still the number one solution to the growing wastelands, the booming storage industry, and our cluttered homes and lives. Denying what we want for the greater good--of our environment, the health of our families, and the lives of others.

But, how do we do it? How do we actually say "no" and refuse the things we don't need and maybe even some of the things we think we "need"? How do we train ourselves to be different and be okay, even happy, with that?

I don't know.

But I want to know, and I'm willing to get a little counter-culture to find the answer. Because I'm positive it's not found in the new season of home goods at Target. (I wish it was. Have you seen 'em? Yellows and light woods and earthy prints with silvery metals. My heart skipped a beat when I raced passed on my way to pick up some baby wipes.)

I'm pretty sure these less popular ideas and ways of living are a little closer to how we make refusing (and it's simple and green effects) a part of our everyday...

How to Refuse

Be prepared.

Where are you going and why? Those are good things to know when you leave the house, and will help you prepare. Either prepare to say "no" (if you're going somewhere they'll hand you free stuff), or prepare to have an alternative (reusable bags instead of plastic at stores), or prepare to not go (if you'll be window shopping).

Buy timeless.

This weekend my sister-in-law lent me a pair of her shorts. I instantly recognized them as a style I had in high school. Timeless and comfortable and flattering. She's had them for almost ten years, and still uses them. It's not unreasonable to expect the things we buy to still be relevant, attractive and useful years down the road.

Avoid the temptation.

I used to regularly browse Target clearance, and our family strolled Marshall's, Ross and TJ Maxx for fun. We told ourselves we simply enjoyed looking, yet we still saw all kinds of wonderful new things that we "needed" or really, really wanted. They were always fresh in our minds. We found contentment when we avoided these sources of temptation.

Find a new hobby.

A hobby is "an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure." If your hobby requires lots of new gear or recurring purchases, or puts you in the place to be tempted to buy things you don't need (i.e., window shopping), it might be time to find a new hobby.

Talk about it.

It's not easy telling friends and family what we're doing and why--trying to explain a lifestyle that took lots of reading and conviction. It's worth it though, not necessarily to get them on board. But to help set expectations for things given to you. It takes lots of conversations, but that's what relationships are all about.

Make new friends.

Don't ditch the old friends, but consider making new ones that value stuff in the same ways you do. If we're around people that value the newest, latest, and greatest, we're bound to feel we "need" the same. Find someone that will high five you for saying "no" to a freebie. I'll be that friend if you don't know any others ;)

Rethink needs.

Needs are food, shelter and clothing. Wants are meals at fancy restaurants, big well-decorated homes, and clothing from great brands or at least current fashions. Are the brand new styles and products at TJ and Target awesome? Yes. Do I need them? No.

Know why you say no.

The misconception is often that we say "no" because we're poor. Therefore, if something is free or cheap we have every reason to say "yes." This isn't true! I say "no" because I don't want or need it, and I don't want it to end up in a landfill. It's okay to pass on a giveaway, say no to a freebie, or avoid a great clearance.

Read up.

Reading is one way to not feel so alone. (And it's a great hobby to replace window shopping! ;) The Bible has lots to say on being counter-cultural--Leviticus 18:1-5 and Jesus' entire life, to name a couple places to start. There are also other great reads that make saying "no" about so much more. (7 and Radical are two of my favs.)

And this list is just the beginning. I enjoy dreaming of a simpler life. Where we are content with what we have and intentional about bringing into our homes only those things that we need. Where the footprint we leave behind is small, gentle and loving. This list gets me started.


also see:
new? start here...
simplifying home
the month we put away the kids' toys
monthly dose of simple