Decluttering sustainably

by Andrew Tidswell, Blackwood Sustainable Communities Group
This article appeared on page 6 of Blackwood Times, Issue 318,  September 2021

[Photo by Jack Church on Unsplash]

While we have been spending more time at home in the past eighteen months I, like many others, have had good intentions to sort through a lifetime of collected things. I did make some progress but realised just how much stuff I still have. I also realised that there is a real skill in being able to clean out the clutter without adding to the load of material that goes to landfill.

Marie Kondo has provided techniques to de-clutter; to only keep things that give us joy. But there is more to it than that. There are also things that we regularly use and value. The tricky things are those that we may use occasionally or sometime in the future. And there is no point in just getting rid of things to make space to buy more things.

 

 

Re-use and re-purpose

  • Look for other uses for items; such as jars for bulk-bought food, old pots to hold plants, creative art and craft projects, clothes repurposed into carry bags. There are hundreds of ideas on google.
  • Wring out the last drop of usefulness from everything. Creatively turn things into new useful items. Mend and repair things.
  • Sell and give away things we no longer need. One person’s trash is another’s treasure.

Conscious consumption

  • We have all bought many things that we didn’t need. That special gadget that we never used. Think twice or three times before buying something – do we already have something that will do the job.
  • Clothes are one of the greatest waste items going to landfill. Good clothes can be given to charity shops, but poor quality clothes end up in the dump, including many of those given to charity – often in landfill in third-world countries.
  • Deliberative clothes shopping is buying what we need instead of what fashion tells us we must have, and selecting items that will last.
  • Being mindful consumers is a worthwhile habit to cultivate.

Value things

  • Buy fewer things, but of quality that will last; things that we will value over a long time.
  • Deciding what to keep or dispose of is usually a lot harder than how the ‘experts’ advise, but starting small – one drawer or cupboard at a time makes it manageable, trust me I have started.
  • And look for sustainable solutions to reusing and disposing of our lifetime of collected items rather than the dump or recycle bin.

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