Mindful Consumption: 5 Tips to Enjoy Life with Less

Kate Gilbert

Imagine having to rely on sunshine to watch TV or having a limited supply of water. How about carrying all your garbage around with you for a week. That might not sound like an ideal life to you, but low-consumption living can lead to a simpler life where experiences matter more than things. You may not be ready to live off the grid, but you may find that you gain more than you lose by being a mindful consumer.

Less than 12 months ago I was working a corporate job and living in downtown San Diego. In a high rise condo, you take a lot for granted. Without a second thought we could heat and cool our home. Hot and cold water miraculously came from a central tank in endless supply. Trash was simply dropped down a chute never to be thought of again.

Last year we left it all behind. We quit our jobs, sold our home, bought an Airstream trailer and hit the road. We are self-contained; allowing us the the freedom to park on public lands, miles from neighbors. Spectacular scenery and amazing sunsets have replaced the artwork that once adorned our home.

Our new lifestyle has made us acutely aware of our surroundings. We think about the weather all of the time, something we never did in San Diego. Every day we ask ourselves if there will be enough sunshine to generate electricity from our solar panels. If it’s a cloudy day, we have to think how long we can stretch our stored battery power. Sometimes we change our plans and instead of catching up on House of Cards, we turn off the TV and read instead.

We also carry all the fuel on board needed to cook, chill our refrigerator and heat our water and trailer. We are always careful that our propane does not run out. And, like camels, we carry our water with us. Nothing makes you more acutely aware of consumption than knowing you have a finite supply of water. I never knew what a navy shower was 12 months ago, now I turn the water off after getting myself wet enough to soap up, and wash my hair before turning it back on to rinse. My husband and I are quite competitive about who can use the least amount of water to get clean!

It might not be the subject of polite conversation, but I know you are probably thinking it. Yes, we carry all of our waste with us, too. We always think about what goes down the drain, knowing that at some point we will have to find a place to dump our tanks.

Finally, there’s the stuff. When we hit the road, we rid ourselves of 95% of our belongings. We now live in 188 square feet and our tow truck is our garage. That’s it, if it’s not in either of these places, we don’t have it. Whenever we buy something we ask ourselves – Do we really need it, or do we already have something that could do the same job? Can it be used for more than one purpose?

Reading this you might think our life is a lot of hassle, but honestly, it’s not a burden at all. Having limitations makes you appreciate the environment and everything around you so much more. This is in stark contrast to the mindless consumption of our old life. While you may not be ready to downsize to less than 200 square feet, but here are some tips to help reap the benefits of mindful consumption in your own home:

  • Drought in parts of our country is major news, and using less water is much easier than you think. Oxygenated shower heads use much less water and adding a quick stop valve means the water doesn’t have to run down the drain the whole time you are in the shower.
  • Water collected in a jug from the shower as it warms up can be used for watering plants and other household chores.
  • Think about the power you consume. Do you really need all those electrical kitchen gadgets that will inevitably break? For example, a manual coffee grinder saves energy, and you get a bonus 3 minute upper body workout every day!
  • Cut down on trash by buying bulk foods at the store. Many stores now have an expansive bulk foods section, which minimizes cardboard and plastic waste and saves you money, too.
  • Decluttering is always good, but what about stopping the flow of stuff at the source? Before making a purchase stop and ask yourself whether you really need it, or if you already have something that fits that purpose. Buy quality things that will last.

There are so many ways to cut down what you use and throw away without skipping on life’s creature comforts The most significant thing you can do is to consume mindfully. Even if resources are seemingly endless, if you stop for a second and think about what you are doing, you might find that you consume less and value everything just a little more.


Mindful Consumption: 5 Tips to Enjoying Life with Less

This post was written by Kate Gilbert exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.


Many people dream of quitting their jobs and walking away from everything to start a new life. Not many people do it! At the age of 45, I decided I was just not happy enough and if life was not about being happy then what the hell was it about! Together with my husband, I quit my lucrative executive job, sold my sticks and bricks home and hit the road to travel full-time in a 180 square foot Airstream trailer.