Less really has been more this year


WIN WIN Exchanging clothes, household goods, produce, plants and other goods has helped people cuts down on financial and environmental costs.

Green Living
McKinley Neal

As we near the end of another tough, unpredictable year, I want to focus on the joy that we can find in simpler things.
I get the feeling that sometimes people think that by choosing to reduce waste, reuse materials and refuse certain goods that aren’t great for the planet (and usually also our health), we are missing out and enjoying life less.
Sure, there are some things we’ve given up: regular shopping trips to buy new lots of new stuff, filling a trolley in a massive supermarket, having the latest and greatest technology. But, we still wear clothes, eat great food and stream shows, so we’ve just found ways to do things differently.
Choosing to make conscious purchases, after a think about whether we truly need something, reduces clutter and poor-quality materials to worry about in the long-term. Buying less, better-quality items that are made to last generally means we save money, and we can be thoughtful about how to spend it in a way that will make us really happy (usually on a great experience, or for delicious food made by others).
What we have gained are some new hobbies and skills, from identifying and growing native trees and plants to fermenting foods and doing minor repairs on a wide range of goods to keep them working well.
I find learning how to do some things ourselves has made us more creative generally, and we can all now see potential fixes that don’t involve a long trip to several shops to find a suitable replacement that costs more. We’ve recently decorated the kids’ room, moving a wardrobe and chair from another room, sourcing two excellent secondhand beds, and buying only the mattresses new – and it looks great.
We have also connected with some really great people. We are part of a chain of reciprocity, accepting clothes and household goods from friends, and then passing along items and foods.
Our kids have been largely clothed by their cousins and friends, and the joy that a ‘new’ box of clothes brings (plus the time spent trying them on!) is lovely. I gave away our baby clothes more than once, and I got some plants and a lovely handmade pottery piece in exchange. Clothes we pass along now go directly to a family in Direct Provision via a link established through the organisation Let’s Match Mums.
At least 40 of the native trees we planted last winter were given to us by people who had areas with excess saplings, and a growing number of our garden plants have come via exchanges we hold every spring at the shop. And, we are lucky to receive gifts of seeds, homegrown veg and preserved foods – and I have been sharing ferments with the farmers who grow the food and other friends willing to experiment.  
For the holiday season, it’s good to remember that sometimes less is more, especially if we can enjoy the gift of time with our loved ones and good cheer.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.