The Low-Waste, Minimalist Home:
An Interview with Jess with Less

By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza

Jess used to love owning stuff. This Baltimore dweller was quite the collector for some time, having grown up thrift shopping and carrying the hobby with her into adulthood. “I wanted my house to look like an antique shop,” she told me on the phone. But about five years ago, Jess saw a documentary called We the Tiny House People, which profiled the lives of tiny house dwellers and the freedom it afforded them, then she started listening to The Minimalists podcast. Things changed for her. “I started thinking for myself because of it. I so desperately wanted to not want things.”

So Jess changed her mind and her lifestyle. She and her husband began purging their belongings, getting rid of everything that wasn’t necessary, sometimes even pulling the entire contents of a room into the center of the floor and parsing through it, leaving themselves with only the necessities.

And it stuck. For Jess, this wasn’t an organizational kick, it’s become a large part of her lifestyle, though she’s careful to note that it doesn’t control her. There are moments when she finds herself buying beyond the “necessities,” but overall, the switch to a low-waste, minimalist lifestyle has meant more financial freedom, more time to spend with loved ones, a more thoughtful experience of the world.

We asked Jess about her favorite ways to practice low-waste minimalism in the home: what this way of life means to her, what simple changes we can make in our own homes that get us closer to responsible consumption.

Photos courtesy of Jess

What does leading a low-waste, minimalist life mean to you?

Minimalism means simplifying your life down to what you truly need and use so you can focus on what really matters in life. For me, that is having that time to follow my passions and create.

Low waste is a way of consciously consuming. I am choosing to consume in a way that has as little of an environmental effect as possible. I choose to reduce my plastic use and eliminate all single-use plastics from my life.

How did you start leading a low-waste, minimalist life?

I did a lot of reading from others that were living minimalist lives and took what worked for my family and slowly incorporated it. I also slowly eliminated my processions and started to simplify my needs. We live in a society that will tell you what you “need,” but really we can live with a lot less and be happier because of it!

Photos courtesy of Jess

Products for a low-waste home

We asked Jess for her favorite low-waste alternatives for our homes.

What do you love so much about these swaps?

I find they save me money, make it easier in the long run, and are more aesthetically pleasing than the disposable versions.

Dinner napkins instead of paper towels

I purchased a few sets of linen napkins from thrift shops for under $10 and they will last me years. I also like to keep a set separated for when we have company over so they aren’t as dingy as our everyday ones. Typically paper towels are wrapped in plastic and are wrapped around a paper tube, I have eliminated the need for all these materials so less time is spent buying, using, and recycling. I just use them, then wash with my kitchen towels and repeat!

OXO Self-cleaning lint brush instead of disposable lint rollers

The OXO self-cleaning lint brush is a compact lint brush that works just as well as a plastic lint roller. This is coming from a house that wears mostly black and has three cats, plus one picky husband that hates having lint or cat hair on him!

Homemade toothpaste instead of store-bought

All we use is baking soda with a little peppermint oil. It’s easy to travel with and none is wasted!

The double-edge razor instead of traditional razors

The best! After a few YouTube videos to get the technique down there is no going back to disposable razors. My Merkur razor was $25 off Amazon and I purchased 100 razors for $10 (I got way too many); I have hardly made a dent in them. They will last me 15 years or more, all for $35!

The instant pot instead of a full set of pots and pans

You can literally cook anything in this thing. Beans, soup, rice, stock, yogurt, cheesecake?? But really it makes cooking so easy and fast, and it tastes like you have been cooking all day!

Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds instead of traditional cleaning products

I love how I can use one product to do all the cleaning I need. I don’t like having a cluttered cabinet or having toxic chemicals and this stuff does it all, you just adjust how much water you add per cleaning task.

True story: My not-so-zero waste friend came over the other night with a stain from concentrated cherry juice on his brand new white Nikes and I offered to clean them with my Dr. Bronner’s and literally the stain just disappeared! This stuff is magic!

You can follow Jess on Instagram @Jesswithless or on her blog, Jess with Less.

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