Minimalism teaches me, because it gives me space to think.
In recent days I've been mentally re-visiting the whole vexed issue of packaging. I am totally in admiration of those who practice a zero-waste lifestyle, and it's something I haven't properly given the energy and attention it deserves in my own life.
The problem is that packaging is so bound up with the consumerist muddle of over-production in which modern life is (by commercial design) enmeshed. It's so ubiquitous that it feels too difficult to disengage. I think the way forward might be to take one category at a time.
So I've been thinking about washing myself and my clothes.
When I wash my clothes, I generally chuck them in the washing machine. I used to use laundry liquid, but now I use this stuff, leaves of compacted soap powder that require minimal packaging. So that's a good start. I'll carry on with that for when I wash my bed sheets.
But in with my machine-load, I add fabric conditioner, which comes in a sturdy great bottle. I'm going to stop that.
And I'm going to change what I do with washing clothes. One of the many benefits of a minimalist wardrobe is that you just wear the same few things, so the lack of variety reduces the amount of laundry you generate. Every two or three days I have a few items to wash. I can wash them by hand in the sink, using the same soap I wash my hands with, that comes from the wholefood co-op in no packaging at all. Instead of fabric conditioner I can just add a few drops of essential oil to the final rinse.
When the weather is problematic for line-drying (ie when it's raining), I'll either wait a day or two until the rain clears up, or squeeze out the wet clothes and roll-and-wring them in my towel — that's as good as spinning them in the washing machine.
This strategy will eliminate one area of packaging from my life.
Another steady source of packaging is washing my hair. I wash it with liquid shampoo followed by conditioner, both of which come in bottles designed to last thousands of years. I've tried shampoo bars before, and the problem I have with those is that they leave my hair a bit hay-like. So I gave up on them. But I'm going to change my strategy to cultivate zero-waste hair. I'm going to keep my hair so short that I don't care if it is like hay. In fact, people with short hair buy spray wax to make their hair go back to being like hay after they've carefully washed and conditioned it into silky softness. So I reckon if I keep it very short and wash it with a shampoo bar I can get rid of a) shampoo packaging, b) conditioner at all, complete with its packaging and c) products to re-hay my softened hair, plus their packaging.
I'm going to try it and see how I get on. This morning I washed my clothes in hand soap and added essential oils to the rinse and they're hanging on the line. I've said goodbye to my empty shampoo bottle and started a shampoo bar today. This feels like progress.
Today's things to go are two very nice bras.
They are the kind I like — no wires or fastenings, not tight, just stretchy stuff and you put them on like a crop top, and they're very cheap. But these particular ones didn't work out. They came in a set of three. I liked them and wore one a few times but they weren't really a good fit, and having worn one I couldn't return the set. So while one was still in as-new condition after laundering, and these two were only tried on, I sent them to the charity shop.