I celebrated my 6th veganversary last month by vowing to become a minimalist. I knew this journey would not be easy as I have hoarded every spice packet, faux leather thrift store find, and cruelty-free lotion sample from San Francisco to Brooklyn and back again. While the two concepts seem unrelated—one saves animals, while the other saves closet space—along my journey, I noticed a few overlaps. Veganism requires some mental fortitude that carries over into becoming a more live-on-purpose sort of person. And while my pantry is still a graveyard for the too many bananas I bought in hopes of making dairy-free ice cream, here are five ways that going vegan has helped me get closer to finding my inner Steve Jobs.
Let’s start with the obvious. Choosing to go vegan is a matter of becoming more aware about how the food on your plate gets there. Before I went vegan, bacon was a substance derived from an unknown source that surely had no face or feelings. However, once that awareness switch was flipped, there was no going back to blissful ignorance. The same rings true for minimalism. Becoming more aware about the material things that surround you and only choosing to keep those that are truly in-line with who you are, is a lesson that carries over from my cruelty-free life to my new junk-free life.
If vegans are superstars at anything, it has to be in finding multiple uses for one gadget or ingredient. One bag of nooch will be used for everything from flavoring pasta sauce to cheesifying a salad to savory-flavoring a baked potato. That vegetable peeler? You mean my zucchini-noodler slash carrot pasta-maker? Being vegan has made me realize that I don’t need a million things in order to do a million things. One good pair of shoes will suffice for a hike, a day at the office, and happy hour drinks, all the same.
This one is a bit existential, but I remember prior to going vegan, my head was fairly cluttered with all kinds of misinformation about what I should and should not be eating. High-fat diets that somehow promote weight-loss and eating only red foods until 6pm created an ever-growing mess inside of my mind about what it meant to nourish myself. Now that I have the clear directive of “do not eat anything that comes from an animal,” navigating my dietary choices has become easy, clear, and free of clutter. I have used this same approach to de-cluttering my life beyond ridding it of animal products. I have chosen one clear goal—to live without things that aren’t essential—and used it to guide my choices when it comes to purchases.
Going vegan has taught me to value relationships over everything else, which is also one of the main tenets of minimalism. As much as veganism is about leaving animals off of my plate and body, it is also about living a life that extends beyond my own existence. I find that I care about the well-being of other people and making important connections with them—especially if they’re fellow vegans—more than I care about satisfying some selfish impulse. One of the draws of becoming a minimalist is freeing up space—first physically, then mentally—for meaningful relationships. Once all the stuff is gone, and you no longer need to focus your energy on making sure your possessions are in order, there is time for engaging in prolonged conversations with the people who matter.
Advertisements for meaty burgers, cheesy pizzas, and towering two-for-one fast-food deals permeate my vegan life, as do commercials that aim to tickle my urge to consume clothing, furniture, and new gadgets. Driven by our ethical beliefs, vegans are masters at pushing sparkly adverts about animal products out of our minds. When it comes to living a minimalist life, I have learned that this vegan superpower still applies. I don’t want your trendy jeans, new iPhone 75s, or in-this-season lipsticks. Give me a true-and-tried Steve Jobs black turtleneck and I’m all set.
Anna Starostinetskaya is the news editor at VegNews and currently has two pairs of jeans, one faux leather jacket, and 500 recipes for avocado toast in her possession.
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