Minimalist Vegan – “Identify what’s really important in life and get rid of the rest”September 12, 2018
Michael: Masha freaked out when I first mentioned the word minimalism to her.
Masha: When he first told me I went, “Are you crazy? This is what you want to do? It sounds so boring!”
Michael: But really the way we define minimalism is basically identifying what’s actually really important to you in your life and getting rid of the rest. So it’s not just material things, actual physical items, it’s a lot of intangible things like what relationships you choose to pursue, what friendships you choose to have, what commitments you choose to take on and that’s why we’re pretty ambitious. We used to take on many different things and we used to spread ourselves too thin and now we literally just quit pretty much everything to the point where it’s just a job and our blog and that’s it. You get a lot of contentment from that. So that’s a way you can use minimalism. In a nutshell, identify what’s really, really important and get rid of the rest.
So is there anyone in particular that has inspired you to adopt the lifestyle?
Michael: Definitely. While we can’t identify an origin, Zen Habits, a single author blog by Leo Babauta was instrumental, that’s where I first heard about simplicity and his concept of minimalism. From there, I just went on a rampage researching. I came across another few blogs; Becoming Minimalist with Joshua Becker, TheMinimalist.com with the two guys over there and all the minimalist bloggers were really, really quite important to shift that mind-set and think a little bit differently about things.
So what came first for you guys? Was it the minimalism or the veganism?
So you both became vegan in September 2014. What was the catalyst for that?
Masha: My dad’s been vegetarian since I was born but my mum’s given us a bit of meat for the whole ‘you need iron’ thing but she’s always cooked meat pretty terribly (sorry mum, but it’s true!) so I never enjoyed eating it anyway. And for me, I always had that connection – that’s a dead animal on my plate and there are dead animals on your shelf in the supermarket fridge. Whereas a lot of people don’t have that connection. They consume without making that conscious connection.
Michael: Yeah but that’s what a powerful film does, it helps you to make the connection. So I sent the link to Masha and she initially replied with a text message saying “I can’t watch that, there’s no way I could watch that” and then she came home and said “Look, I’ve got to do it. Let’s do it together”. So we laboured through it.
Masha: We took two breaks. I cried. It’s not easy, you get emotional and your heart hurts when you watch footage like that.
Michael: Yeah it’s definitely not easy. It definitely is like a horror film but it’s real and after we watched it we thought “we can’t”. I can understand what Ellen was saying. We couldn’t participate in that anymore so we just went cold turkey and we’ve never looked back since.
Masha: After the film was over, he turned to me and he said “Well I’m going vegan” and I looked back at him and I said “I guess I am too!” So we literally went vegan that night. The more you learn about what is happening the more it cements for you that you’re on the right path. I want to inspire other people to have this knowledge because you can’t see these things and understand them and not want to have this lifestyle. You almost feel incomplete unless you do. I don’t know, I feel like I’m a better human being for myself and for everyone else.
So what is it about veganism and minimalism that marries so well?
One of my best friends bought me a vegan wallet that looks like leather and people are starting to respect the choice that I’ve made and put in the effort. So I think for me the leather personally, especially now in winter, it’s been the hardest thing because I’m starting to wear some things down. I want to find a vegan product that is going to go the distance, that’s not just polyester or something that’s damaging to the environment, and that’s actually going to last you more than just one season. So from a fashionable point of view I guess that’s the struggle that I’m having, the accessibility of high quality vegan products.
Michael: From a minimalism standpoint I don’t think we struggle too much. We’ve been pretty ruthless and I think it’s because our minds have been conditioned pretty well.
Masha: I’ve kept some things I absolutely love because I want my children to use them, but there’s just literally half a box of that sort of thing. I’m not getting rid of it because I know I’m going to use it.
Michael: I’ve got this little shoe box of documents that I need like passports and all that kinda stuff; my laptop’s really important, I have everything on there. There’s a few key things that are really important but I don’t know, once you see it this way it’s quite simple to just keep the essentials.
What have been some of the surprising aspects of your journey so far? Things that you weren’t necessarily expecting?
Masha: Because that’s how we used to think…
Michael: That’s how we used to measure success – you measure success through how many things you owned. But now I’m racing to the bottom, I don’t want to own anything. So it’s hard not to be happy when that’s your goal. I chuckle to myself when a friend is trying to show me a fancy car, I think ‘this means nothing to me, it means absolutely nothing’. People are trying to fulfil that internal need with things and so it doesn’t bring peace or confidence because everything’s external – if I buy this it will make me feel better temporarily about myself? I think we’re both becoming a lot better at analysing where we’re at and how we’re feeling and what needs to be changed. So that’s really cool and we’re just grateful that at twenty seven we’ve discovered this. We’ve got many years to explore this further…
Masha: And also be able to bring kids into this world with this knowledge and be able to raise them as minimalists/vegans. That’s what a lot of people that I’ve spoken with or that we’ve been in contact with have said – they wish that they knew a lot of this stuff before they had kids because it’s hard even with small children or teenagers to start shifting that but if you get them from the beginning, they will more likely understand it better.
How have these changes impacted your relationship as a couple?
Masha: In terms of our blog, we’d talked about starting businesses together in the past but it’s never quite clicked and we never really knew why. I had my photography business, he was in real estate, we just didn’t quite know how it was actually going to come together. As a couple there were many vulnerable situations where we were at almost breaking point because we weren’t quite on the same path but I kept repeating in my head “but I know that there’s something in us that we can do together and we can make a lot of impact and we can make a big difference in this world”. What kept me going forward and saying ‘no we need to persist’ is because I knew that we had something bigger and greater that we could do together and The Minimalist Vegan is definitely it.
Top tip: Decluttering…
Take an area of your house – wardrobe, kitchen, living area, study – and put everything into boxes. Then for the next month only take out what you need to use. At the end of that process you’ll see how many things you actually need and then you can make a decision on whether or not to keep or get rid of the rest of the stuff that’s left in the boxes.
Michael: But just be open. Masha definitely questions things a lot. When you begin doing that you’re finally thinking on your own, independently of what other people think and you start not to care, you just really stop caring and follow your own path and listen to yourself. I think that’s a huge sign of personal growth.
As a writer, Emma’s work has been featured in other popular well-being and spiritual websites such as Elephant Journal, IVORY magazine, and she’s part of the Huffington Post’s team of regular bloggers. Her writing was also included in the Tiny Buddha book 365 Love Challenges from Tiny Buddha,released in 2015 by HarperCollins.
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