Minimalism and a Plant-Based Diet

At first, there does not seem to be an apparent connection between following a plant-based diet and being a minimalist. However, during the past few weeks and months, it has become apparent to me that my minimalist lifestyle has had a huge impact on my eating habits and my ability to follow a healthy and delicious whole foods plant-based diet. But before we dig deeper, allow me to explain what minimalism means to me and how I became a minimalist.

Minimalism does not mean that I live in a 10 square foot apartment, staring at blank walls the entire day and clutching me three possessions: a toothbrush, my MacBook and a worn T-shirt. This is not Orwell’s 1984, after all. Rather, minimalism is a conscious lifestyle that is centered around keeping only those items in my life that help me reach a higher purpose. This higher purpose may be something entirely different for each and every one of us. To me, my higher purpose is to live each day to the fullest and to enjoy the things that I love: reading, learning new things about cities (in case you didn’t know, I am a Human Geographer), playing the guitar; you name it. The problem is that for most of us, the sheer amount of material possessions that we own is actually keeping us from fulfilling our dreams.
We have an often oversized house that has to be kept in order, we have a car that keeps breaking down sitting in a garage that has been cleaned… the time we moved in here? Our closet is overflowing with clothes that – for the most part – do not fit us anymore or do not suit our continuously advancing sense of style. Our bookshelf is filled with books that we planned to read (but never got around to read) and now most of them do not interest us anymore. Our bathroom is filled with skin care products that we tried maybe once or twice and that are now rotting in the very back of the closet underneath the sink.
How on Earth are we supposed to concentrate in such an environment? How are we supposed to be productive, feel comfortable (dare I say: feel at home) in a house that is not a living space, but much rather a storage space?

This is where minimalism kicks in.
I was put on my minimalist path when I read the “Zen” books by Lindsay S. Nixon, author of the Happy Herbivore cookbooks. The principle/way of life that she seemed to put forward was somehow just too good to be true: discard all those items (and people!) that do not suit our goals and keep distracting us and only keep those items (and people!) that give you true happiness. But wasn’t I already doing that? Wasn’t I only keeping the items that I truly need? Nope. Not by a long shot.
It was a few months later when I read two books by Japan’s leading tidying guru, Marie Kondo. I read it when I was in the middle of one of the most stressful phases of my university track to date and a very daunting exam was just around the corner. She advocated a method of tidying and organising that she dubbed the “KonMari method”. The guiding principle is to only keep those items in our lives that “spark joy” and to tidy our homes in fixed categories: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, mementos.
And so I did. And tidied. And tidied. And tidied. It actually took me more than two weeks to tidy our entire apartment, but the result was sure worth it. I got rid of about 100 books, three-quarters of my wardrobe, 5 huge 80-liter bags of papers, 5(!) sushi mats etc. In the end, my desk (whose surface I honestly hadn’t seen for probably four months), looked like this (I’m actually sitting here right now, typing this essay):

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So, how does this exactly help me in pursuing a whole foods plant-based diet? I mean, a clean and streamlined home is nice, for sure, but what are the immediate benefits food-wise?

Well, this entire procedure taught me how not to want. In a way, it made me fall in love with simplicity and enabled me to be happy with the way things are, rather than to push for something “even better”, that in the end only ends up dragging me down.

Without even fully realising it, my diet has become so much simpler and more fulfilling at the same time. Even though I did not have any severe health problems, I did not feel like I had mastered the art of saying no to foods that I knew weren’t good for me (Clif-bars and “just once in a while because I’m out with friends vegan but oily pizzas”, I’m looking at you!). I always felt like I was missing out on something. While I knew that I shouldn’t have that salad with an oily dressing when I’m out with friends, I just couldn’t resist it because I just felt like I needed it so, so badly. And when I walked past a bakery I kept asking myself “there must be a way to make that whole foods plant-based, right”?

These thoughts have died down completely. When I don’t find anything to eat at a restaurant, I just don’t eat anything and have a nice cup of tea, instead. And when I walk past a bakery I just automatically, instinctively, think: “I like some fresh, fully ripe mangos or peaches better”.

I do not think that any of this would have been possible without my newly-found ability to a) appreciate simplicity and b)  say NO.
Additionally, my home is now a distraction-free environment and I find myself having more time to do the things that I enjoy: eating, reading, playing the guitar and so on.

I thank Marie Kondo from the bottom of my heart for having made all of this possible.