Do your values conflict with your needs? 

Minimalism and environmentalism cause me to second-guess and feel guilt.

Having strong values is generally a great thing to have. When you believe in something bigger than yourself and your bubble you start to see the world differently. You start to question things, you start to wonder. But what happens when you start to question every action you take? 

I have been a serious minimalist and environmentalist for 2-3 years now. Both my wife and I actively learn and practice each regularly. I have talked about this in previous letters, but I have never mentioned how these things impact everything I do. I am not saying that this is a bad thing. You know you truly believe in something when it becomes an involuntary reaction.

Over the past 6 months, there have been a lot of changes in my life. Firstly, I went full-time remote with my employer and I moved 3200 miles from South Florida to Vancouver, Washington. By doing these two things I have thought a lot about the things I have and how they impact my daily life. To be clear I do not have a lot of things, actually very few – hence the minimalism. I also steer clear away from extreme minimalism, but I do live a very intentional life, both with possessions and values/ actions. 

The idea for this letter arose due to recently selling my older, large, standing desk for two smaller ones. This allows me and my wife to have separate working spaces – right across from each other, but separate. This has been great for meetings and focused work. Now I am considering a desk chair. I sold our desk to a nice couple that will repurpose it for a crafts table. They were very nice and seem to have an understanding of their use for it. When we moved we had to part with our second chair. Firstly, due to it being uncomfortable, but secondly, we didn’t have room in our POD for it. It was way smaller than expected. When considering this chair I am thinking of comfort and aesthetics, but more so – where was it made, who made it, were the resources sustainably sourced, what is the recyclability of it, what were the emissions and impact of making it? Most importantly, do I need it at all? Maybe my wife and I just share the existing chair, passing it to each other every few hours as we alternately sit and stand? 

See the problem? I want/ need something. It offers me a positive value. It could even make me more comfortable and focus better. But due to my deep-rooted values, I am not sure if I should bother. To add to the moral value problem – to get a chair that checks these boxes you have to spend a few dollars. I am not going to get into specifics, but of course, cost plays a part too. 

This is also coming to mind when thinking about getting overhead, noise-canceling headphones. Working from home, taking a ton of calls, working across from my wife who also takes a lot of calls – noise-canceling headphones have a value for me. In order to check all the boxes of ethics and environmental standards, I am in the minimalism and cost predicament again. 

I don’t have a solution or a formula for you this week. I don’t see an easy answer to programmatically make these decisions. These generally will take time and truly test your values. My point of this article is more about the people that don’t take the time. The people that buy and consume just because they can. Most people don’t think about how something was made or sourced, never mind if they are adding to their personal garbage or the world’s abundance of trash. 

I write this letter today, to all of you and the people in your life that buy and consume without stopping to think that about the impact of these little actions. Before you buy your next want or need – think about how it was made, who made it, where it came from, why you need it, and how it will improve your life. 

I know this topic can be confrontational. I do not write this with malice, but more to open someone’s eyes that might have otherwise been shut. I am just here to help you think.