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UN Global Compact Russia

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Joachim Klöckner. Philosophy of conscious consumption

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He lives with only around 50 things, writes for his blog about it and gives speeches on minimalism consumption. Meet Joachim Klöckner, author of the book "The Little Minimalist." He lives in Berlin and gives an interview about the philosophy of conscious consumption.


For the first time the need for optimization came to me in 1986. It was the beginning of May, when I saw snow flakes on the streets of my native Kassel: it was not the belated snowfall, but the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. I did not want to stand aside, I learned to be an energy consultant and started helping companies save energy. The work gave me great pleasure - especially the realization that I contribute to the care of the environment. Against this background, I started optimizing my own life: I began to make furniture with my own hands - for myself and for my friends. Another step to minimalism was the parting with the girl. When I left the house where we lived for about two years, I sold off and distributed almost all of my property. Then he got into the car and saw that the only volumetric object that I take with me is the equipment for scuba diving. I felt a great relief - in my life there seemed to be a space for imagination, thoughts about myself, peace and happiness.

In 2008 I moved to Berlin. A friend called me to the opening of the first coworking in the city, and I liked it here so much that I did not want to leave. Coworking, start-ups, open and progressive people - I felt that the future was Berlin, and settled here.

With each move I took with me less and less things. Gradually, my wardrobe was reduced to two pairs of shorts, socks and shoes. There are still two T-shirts and two overalls - a summer one with short sleeves, a winter one with long ones, - a plaid and a backpack. Here, perhaps, that's all. The things I buy at the store are working clothes, which is why it is white and yellow - this, by the way, is very practical. I can wash everything together: the colors do not fade, and I save energy. I usually sleep on an inflatable mattress. Even now, being the owner of plus or minus fifty things, I ask myself regularly - do I need this blanket or can I do without it? And often I refuse something. My process of getting rid of excess lasts for more than twenty years.

The only thing I don’t want to give up is my tablet. With it, I read books, listen to music, keep my blog about minimalism, respond to emails. I can't do without a phone either. And I recently acquired the Apple Watch to keep my health under control: my father died of a heart attack, so I want to track my heart rate. These three things make it difficult for me to find a replacement. One more thing can be considered my home: I rent a room in the artist’s studio and I feel extremely happy. My main sources of income are pensions and fees for minimalism seminars: yes, my lifestyle is of particular interest in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, and I travel with lectures about it.

As a technician, I initially wondered: why do I feel happier as I get rid of surplus? To find the answer, I began to study neuroscience. So, our internal motivational system consists of three neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin - the so-called hormones of happiness. Dopamine is produced when a person experiences a positive experience — for example, experiencing pleasant taste or physical sensations. Serotonin increases with successful social life and cooperation with other people. And oxytocin - with a loving, harmonious interaction with others. Depression is, first of all, the absence of happiness hormones for a long time.

The daily routine of a person is occupied with thoughts of taxes, a house, upcoming expenses and other material things. With such a rhythm of life, there is very little time and place for the cultivation of happiness hormones through communication with loved ones and loved ones, traveling. The art of organizing your own life is a white canvas. Everyone can paint it as they wish: someone can fill it with thoughts about what kind of furniture you need to buy, and someone can ask yourself how to become happier. Thoughts on furniture are not a necessity. They are a conscious choice, which, unfortunately, does not invest in the hormones of happiness.

The joy of buying will evaporate in a few seconds: according to research, the satisfaction of buying something new lasts an average of eight seconds. And the more things a person buys, the more space and thoughts they will occupy - this is the maintenance of an apartment, house, car, taxes on all these accessories. Having got rid of the surplus, I gained time for life and people: cooperation (serotonin) and communication (oxytocin). My idea is not original: for many centuries humanity has been striving for the harmony of all three hormones of happiness. The famous slogan of the French Revolution: freedom, equality, fraternity. The motto of the "Arab Spring": unity, dignity, work. Freedom is an opportunity to be yourself, fraternity is a way to interact with others, equality and dignity - here we are talking about cooperation.

Most recently, religion, and somewhere - ideology, decided for a person how to live. In some parts of our planet this is still the case. But in the Western world, individualism is replacing religion. And this means that now a person must fill his own life. Twenty years after graduation, a person is left to himself, he can do what he wants with his life. How to cope with this independence? This is not taught to us. Therefore, consumerism has replaced the totalitarian regimes and churches, which clogs up space, “helps” man to occupy himself, to fill the void. Consumption creates the illusion of fullness and satisfaction - this is a simplified way of filling life, because high-quality fullness requires a lot of effort, time and imagination.

It is now entering the fashion to teach children fr om a young age to occupy themselves. But, perhaps, it will take several generations before people learn to fill their space with high quality. Minimalism is just one of the tools that helps to approach the scenario of your life individually and free up space for creativity.

In addition to the happy side of minimalism, I am glad that I can, with the help of my lifestyle, make a small contribution to the preservation of world resources: energy and materials involved in the production of clothing and other things. In German, the environment is Umwelt (the preposition um means “outside”, “outside”, non-inclusion; Welt means peace, environment. - Author's note), but I insist on the use of the term Mitwelt, wh ere the preposition mit (in German “C”, “together with.” - Ed.) Symbolizes the world’s human involvement.

Friends and relatives responded to changes in my life with curiosity. Some - with a lack of understanding. My mother said: “Yes, man is able to live as you do. After the war, we were all forced to live like this. But I don’t understand the free choice in favor of such a lifestyle. ” There is another story: having moved to Berlin, I met a woman with whom I began a relationship. We decided to move in: settled in the same apartment, but in different rooms. Somehow she came to visit me, looked at the hammock in which I was sleeping, and shook her head negatively - I had to buy a mattress. But otherwise I am tolerant of the choice of other people, and they respond to me with the same. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I do not do missionary work. The studio in which I rent a room belongs to my friend, the artist. He has several apartments, a lot of property, but we perfectly find a common language. My 32-year-old son also lives completely differently - he has a huge amount of things, and this, to be honest, pleases me. So, he chose his own path, free from my influence.

Despite the lack of missionary needs, I am often invited to seminars and lectures as a speaker. After one of these seminars, a listener called me and told a story. He and his wife were in IKEA, scored two trolleys of "necessary" things, and then his wife turned to him and said: "Remember, you told me about Mr. Klechner? Are you sure we really need all these things? ”They threw both carts and drove satisfied home. In a sense, I unwittingly retrained from an energy consultant to a lifestyle consultant.

And if you want advice from me, here it is: start your refusal small. Many have things that they have not used throughout the year. So, get rid of them. Sell them on eBay, bring them to second-hand or just give them to others - they will be happy.

Catherine Klöckner

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