The decision making process for an aspiring minimalist and unconsumer is a bit consuming. However, there is method to madness, there has to be, to make a conscious decision in this hyper active consumption playground.
1. It starts with questioning the sheer necessity of the object that is about to be purchased or the function it provides. Take the case of q-tips. I used to own them in bathroom cabinet about 7 years ago until I could not remember why they were bought at the first place. If you are horrified with the lack of aural hygiene, you may want to do a bit of research. They are not only unnecessary, are downright harmful.
2. If the function turns out indeed necessary, I would check if something already available would do the job. As one day I ran out of dish scrubbing powder and was taking out the (entirely) plastic bottle to curb, I decided to look for a substitute. There was a substitute right in the kitchen and it came in a cardboard box. Baking soda. Two years since bought any scrubbing mix(or window/ mirror cleaner, bathtub or toilet cleaner).
3.If no substitute is available right away, I look for solutions that may provide multiple functions. For example when I needed polish for some wood spoons, up came some homemade solutions where different proportions of same ingredients (any natural wax like soy, candelilla, carnauba or beeswax and any type of oil like coconut ,olive or almond) produced wood polish, leather balm, waterproofing coating and body lotion.
4. When something absolutely has to be bought, another set of criteria emerges: material, packaging, compost-ability, company labor policy, recycling program, ‘Greenwashing‘ tendency, overall ecological footprint (a very grey area); only after when done considering the item’s function, design refinement and look. Frustratingly, responsible alternatives are often not carried by mainstream stores, have to be bought online and sometimes even at a premium. However, there is much lower chance of my purchasing power patronizing a corporation with questionable business policies.
This thought process may initially seem daunting but actually it becomes quite natural over time. Learning to think this way rather took time, but it is time well invested. It has invited simplicity in terms of whittled down possessions (clutter in its very sense are trivial yet overwhelming ) to fewer but versatile ones. It helps trim ‘stuff‘ maintenance time , trash output, provide much safer alternatives and substantial reduction in collective footprint.