Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Americans toss an extra 25% of trash into landfills. That equals 25 million tons of garbage, or an extra 1 million tons of garbage every week during the holiday season. That includes nearly 3 billion Christmas cards, which if you were to stack them on a football field, would reach 10 stories into the sky.
These sobering statistics come courtesy of Stanford University. And it’s a reminder that in this season of giving, we can be more conscientious about what we give, more aware about what we receive, and more open to ways of cutting back on unnecessary waste.
If you want to minimize your landfill footprint this holiday season, try these tips for living a little more minimally. It’s the perfect opportunity to truly appreciate and feel gratitude for what you do have, while creating room and space (literally and figuratively) to give generously to those who don’t have as much as we might have.
Write Down Your Whys
It’s hard to remember our minimalist goals when we’re flipping through a sales catalog or when our cute grandma hands us one too many Christmas packages. Make a list of all the reasons why you want to simplify your life, reduce how much stuff fills your home and mind, and live with a more minimal footprint.
Perhaps it’s to save money to go on a vacation. Or maybe you feel like you spend too much time cleaning, tidying up and maintaining your stuff. Or maybe you want more emotional and mental room to enjoy the simpler pleasures of life.
Whatever it is, write it down and return to this list whenever you feel your resolve wavering.
This is the most obvious step but also the most difficult. Slowly and intentionally begin removing things that do not serve your goals. Decluttering expert Marie Kondo recommends picking up each item and asking, “Does this spark joy in me?”
Start by getting rid of anything you don’t need. Then, go through and toss out or donate duplicates. Do you really need five blue sweaters or 20 coffee mugs? Finally, put away anything that you don’t need right now. Box them up and store them in your spare bedroom or your garage. After a few months, most people find they don’t even go through those boxes. Donate the boxes to charity (but don’t go through them when donating; if you didn’t think about them before, going through them will only trick you into sorting and keeping unnecessary stuff).
Once you’ve made a goal and purged your home of unnecessary items, practice mindfulness. When you’re tempted to go shopping or to tuck away a little keepsake or piece of unnecessary decor, ask: Why do I want to keep this? Why do I want to buy this?
Return to the list of goals that you made at the start of this exercise. Ask yourself if what you’re doing truly serves your goals. Most people find that this urge to shop, collect, buy and keep arises to satisfy some other need: boredom or insecurity or anxiety. Mindfulness allows you to tackle these underlying emotions instead of mindlessly filling your home with clutter and gifts this holiday season.