Teemu Kunto is one of the most well-known minimalists in Finland and a father of three on the weekends. He has written a blog on minimalism and published a book of the same topic in 2021. We interviewed Teemu about minimalism and environmental friendliness and the many intersections of the two.
What made you get interested in minimalism?
I first came across this kind of thinking twenty years ago, in the Fight Club movie. In the film, Tyler Durden declares that “we work to get money so we can buy things that impress people we don’t even like”. There was the first radical idea that one could live differently. Then about 10-15 years ago, the concept of minimalism began to appear in American blogs and I became more acquainted with it. Since then, it has always been in the back of my mind. At that time, I was living the busy life of a family with three kids and it felt like our house was full of stuff and there was no energy all the time to clean and organize. That’s when the idea, that it would be easier if there were really only the essentials, crystallized in my mind. In 2017, I was in a situation where the conditions were favourable for throwing myself into minimalism. My job at the time, apartment lease and marriage had ended, so I decided to commit to living in a minimalist way. I started writing a blog on the subject to make it public and commit myself to it. The ecological side to my minimalism has emerged a bit later as my own minimalism did not stem from climate anxiety, for example.
What is minimalism and how can you practice it?
For me, minimalism means cutting down on all consumption that is not necessary or bring tremendous joy to me. My goal is not asceticism or owning as little stuff as possible. I strive for “fluency” that makes everyday life as smooth as possible. For example, a suitable amount of clothing is such that not everything is in the laundry all the time. I also have more dishes than I would need myself, as the children are with me on the weekends. On the other hand, a man of my age usually owns more tools than I stuff overall. I think my own starting point for minimalism was relatively easy, because after the breakup, I didn’t have a huge amount of stuff or heirlooms. However, I decided to give up everything unnecessary and not to buy new stuff. Many find it difficult to decide what to give up and what to save. Often a photograph can be enough to commemorate something of emotional value. After discussing with other aspiring minimalists, getting rid of goods also seems to be tricky. I actually sold my useless stuff on Facebook flea markets quite cheaply and got a large portion sold. The most important thing, of course, is to try to curb the flow of goods into the home. It requires little change of mindset when, for example, trade fairs offer all sorts of free stuff. You may have to realize that I probably don’t need those free items. My weak point, even as a minimalist, is the latest electronics, but I always consider purchases carefully.
My goal is not asceticism or owning as little stuff as possible. I strive for “fluency” that makes everyday life as smooth as possible.
How does sustainability play a part in your lifestyle?
Well, we should reduce our carbon footprint by about 90 percent by 2050. I think that this goal will not only be achieved through the circular economy, but we will also be required to get used to a new kind of scarcity and to accept that consumption and the economy cannot grow indefinitely. I see that minimalism and reducing consumption are, in a way, essential things that we will all have to learn in the coming decades. In my own daily life, I try not to buy new stuff and only buy clothes to replace broken ones. With purchases, I strive to favour sustainable, high-quality and ethically sustainable products. Most recently, for example, I bought a hoodie made from recycled textiles from the Pure Waste brand. A particular challenge is that many clothes don’t seem to last very long. For example, I have had to buy jeans once a year because they always get worn out on the crotch. The same happens regardless of price or brand, and it feels foolish to get rid of them, when most part of the jeans are still intact. I’m trying to find something more durable or a repair option for this. Partially inspired by my conscious teenage children, I have also given up eating meat, for environmental reasons. There are immensely good vegetarian food options almost everywhere in Helsinki. I still love cheese and it would be hard to give it up, but maybe I'll get there some day. I also work with the circular economy as my profession, on the Kiertonet site, where the public sector can resell its unnecessary possessions. So environmental friendliness is becoming more and more prominent in my life.