I’ve been thinking about how my relationship with stuff - material possessions - have changed over the past 2 years. For the most part, I no longer desire stuff nor do I feel sentimentally tied to my belongings, and it’s so... freeing.
I used to be a borderline hoarder. I was weirdly attached to my belongings. I had a thing for mementos and lots of them. I wanted to save everything from little bits of what was essentially trash to all my school notes, rough drafts, projects, and quizzes from all years. I wanted to save every thought and feeling I’ve noted, every doodle, every idea - any reminders of my identity at every point in time.
Then there was all the stuff I held onto because some non-existent imaginary version of myself would make use of that stuff. I had piles of clothes I loved the idea of wearing for occasions that would never happen (like bold clubbing outfits when I’m a quiet person that stays away from clubs). Tons of hobbyist supplies for all the hobbies I wanted to get into “one day” but never did. Holding onto things I never used because “what if”. I held a lot of value in my stuff - to lose it all would have been devastating, so I spent a lot of energy worrying about protecting and preserving my stuff as I accumulated more and more.
I started running out of room to put my stuff. The space around me felt like a constant mess, and being surrounded by clutter had my mind in a perpetual state of stress and chaos. I thought I needed more storage solutions and organizational tools, but I simply had too much stuff. When I finally realized how much stress my stuff and my relationship with stuff was causing, I knew I needed to change. So began my journey of minimalism and decluttering…
It was a drawn out process, but I’ve slowly learned to let go of stuff and it’s like a burden has been lifted. At first, parting with my stuff was really, really difficult. There were things I never used that I’d agonize over getting rid of because of the dreaded what if. At the same time, I so badly wanted to not feel tied down by my stuff - I wanted to feel in control of my stuff, not the other way around.
These days, I feel a lot lighter. I want to own just a few things and be with nature. I am basically content with what I have and extra stuff feels like a burden. (If anything, I still own too much stuff despite going through some massive purges, but I haven’t had time to declutter further being busy with the store and all.) Now stuff is just stuff.
Minimalism can go hand in hand with zero waste. The less you consume, the less resources you use, and the less stuff that ends up the landfills. Minimalism and living zero waste both require you to be a conscious consumer. It’s no wonder so many people trying to live zero waste are also minimalists.
Further adding to this newly found sense of freedom, the less I desire stuff, the less need I have for money -- though maybe not right now because opening a store has HUGE expenses which means we need to take out loans... But I feel richer, and I feel privileged to have this perspective.
Running a grocery store is not an easy way to make money, but once we can pay off our loans and see growth, I want to focus on giving. If I’m already content with what I have and I’m not constantly saving up for the next new thing, then what else is there to do but give? There are so many possibilities for what I could do to make this world a little bit of a better place for all. That’s what I’ve always wanted, but now I’m less burdened by stuff.
That said, I’ve been noticing some cynicism towards green/social companies like mine as if I’m in this to “get rich quick” or taking advantage of a trend. That doesn’t make sense. There are so many other things I could be doing if my main focus were money - it’s not like my opportunities were limited. Opening a brick-and-mortar store is expensive and risky, and groceries are known to be a low margin industry. I’ve been working full time on this project for many months with practically no pay (we’ve only done a handful of popups where we have made sales). Once we open, I still won’t be paying myself for the first year so that I can make sure I can cover store related expenses.
The reality is, after all the sweat and money we put into opening a zero waste grocery store, there is no guarantee that it will succeed. It’s not so glamorous, but I’m doing this because it’s fulfilling. Zero Waste Bulk is a passion project. Although it’s risky and we could lose everything we invested, I want to be able to say I tried. And if we lose it all… Stuff is just stuff. I’ll continue to find ways to do my part for the planet and people. That’s where I find my purpose.
Featured image (monstera leaf): Photo by Sarah Dorweiler, Evano Community (link: https://evano.community)