Living with non-Zero-wasters/ minimalists

Hi everyone, today I want to talk about a topic that has been making the rounds lately, and that is what to do when you are going zero-waste and minimalist, but the people you live with are opposed.


As some of you already know, I currently live at home, and share a house with 3 other people….let’s just say that they are not big fans of change. They were quite skeptical when I began changing my own routine, and they are still somewhat skeptical, but now that they see the benefits of my lifestyle, they don’t complain about it as much. There are a bunch of tips and tid-bits that I have learned through this journey at home, so I will try to group them into categories for you:

1. SPACE– This is the biggest tip I can give for others who are living with non zero-wasters/minimalists…..make your own space and maintain it. Do NOT try to worry about or control their space (believe me, I tried, and all I got in return was STRESS). In our home “My Space” consists of; my room, my closet, the top shelf in our linen closet, 2 shelves in a kitchen cupboard, 2 shelves/drawers in the fridge, 2 wicker baskets (for my produce), one small box in the laundry room, and one small corner of the basement for misc. items.

If you do not have kitchen space, negotiate for it. My bathroom routine got so small that I no longer need any drawers or shelf space in the bathroom, I gave it up in return for the cupboard space. It was worth it. In the fridge I simply started by separating my grocery shopping and bills from theirs, then congregated all of my food onto one shelf. I already had the bedroom space and linen closet shelf, so I did not have to negotiate for those. I did negotiate for my compost space in our backyard, I had to make promises that it wouldn’t smell and that it would not be in their way.

Keep your space in order, and leave everybody else’s alone. Believe me, when they see that your space is always clean and organized, they tend to start following suit.  🙂

2. MONEY- If you are not paying the lion’s share of the bills, the best way to show your family/roomates the benefits of zero-waste and minimalism, is to lower your contribution to those bills. This could cover everything from taking shorter showers to lessening your television watching. My showers used to take quite a while, because I had about 20 products for every part of me, and it took forever to use them all. Now I have 3 things, shampoo, soap, and shave stuff. I condensed my showers from 20-25 mins to now about 10, saving on the water bill.

I share a car with the family as well, so I try to plan all of my errands on one day, to save gas. I do my own laundry, buying my own soap nuts, and I buy my own groceries as well. My bills are pretty much separate from theirs, except for the basics of electricity and water. I take care of my own stuff, and lessen my impact on theirs (trust me, they DO notice the water bill!).

3. Show, don’t tell- let your lifestyle speak for itself, do not try to force them into it by talking it to death. Be sneaky, when they see you do it and they see your positive results, they are more likely to be influenced. For example, it took me forever to convince my family to sign up for curbside recycling, and when I finally did I was the only one using it. They saw me faithfully take out my recycling every day to the bin, and eventually they started following along, and they now easily fill half of the bin each week.

The same thing goes for food, they see that I do not purchase packaged food and that I go to the farmers market. Sometimes I invite them to come along, but I never pressure them into anything. It has been 4-5 months since I started, and I now see them making healthier choices when they shop, it is all about baby-steps.

4. Get involved- Be actively involved in their lives, and show them the benefits of your lifestyle in a fun way. Instead of going to the movies, ask them to have a day at the park with you, or make them a delicious zero-waste meal (don’t say it is zero-waste unless they ask), and enjoy it together. I asked my mother to go with me to the health store one week, and now it is our weekly routine for most of our grocery shopping. Make it fun, not a chore 🙂

Now I know there are going to be days when they frustrate you to no end, I go through those days too. Remember that you can only control your own choices, and it does not pay to worry about others. Live your life the way you choose, and be a positive example for others. That is all that you can do, and trust me when I say that it DOES make a difference!