Why is decluttering good for the planet? What do they even have in common? Well, I guess I’m still learning, but what I do know is that since I left my day job I only do things that I enjoy and that align with my values and that has to be good for the planet for a start, because, until we start to love ourselves there’s no way we can start to love our environment and the world we live in. I started decluttering my own things 5 years ago, ebay loves to tell me I’ve been a member since January 2015, so that’s when I sold my first pair of shoes from my wardrobe. Just over a year later, I helped a friend declutter her wardrobe and about 6 months after that I had my first paying client. Now, I visit several homes in a week and work through stuff with my clients. We pick an area to sort through that week and stick with it. Sessions usually last 3-4 hours. Except, right now, I’m not doing that. I’m at home with everyone else hoping business will go back to normal when this is over but I’ve planted several seeds in people’s minds and, mostly, people I’ve worked with are now more likely to let go of something than acquire it, so that, also, is good for the planet.
I’ve just read an article on how Amazon is currently pocketing £8,800 profit per second. Per second, that’s bonkers. I can’t say I don’t use Amazon but I sure use it a whole lot less now than I did a few years ago and in spite, or perhaps because, of my nagging, my family seem to be using it more than ever, and they were huge fans before. The article provides alternatives and while they aren’t perfect and you’ll have to go onto two or three separate sites to get hold of your new tablet, the latest bestseller and some moisturiser, it’s a small price to pay especially now, when something a lot of us do have, is time.
Since I became a declutterer, I became anti-stuff. I realise I love stuff, and in my job a lot of stuff comes through my sorting office (aka the garage I use as a store), but I don’t want any more of it. I like that it comes through my hands to find it a new home, not to keep. I use a variety of ways to rehome unwanted things, and I love that old adage, your trash is someone else’s treasure. I use landfill as a last resort, usually managing to donate, sell or recyle everything before it goes in the ‘landfill’ bin at the dump. I declutter all sorts of things: a lot of clothes and shoes, some small items of furniture, electrical goods, antiques, jewellery and also food. Who doesn’t love a kitchen declutter? When lockdown first happened and we came to stay out of London with my mum, to be surrounded by fields instead of people, I decided we wouldn’t need to shop for at least a month while we emptied the contents of the fridge, freezer and cupboards. We might end up eating some strange concoctions, but we certainly wouldn’t starve. My small wins so far have been to finish not one but two half empty jars of out of date hollandaise sauce, and slow roasting a neck of venison joint that has been in the freezer for something between 4 and 8 years. Not only are we still alive, it was delicious. I’m on a mission to let go of stuff in a conscious way – it would’ve been so easy to chuck that old, tricky to cook, joint of meat in the bin which would mean, in a roundabout way, helping to clog our landfill problem, releasing methane as it rotted, which as we know is bad for the air we breathe.
So, my point, that I’m getting to in a roundabout way as usual, is that we don’t need stuff to be happy. We don’t need to pop onto Amazon or ebay every time we have an idea that getting that little something would be rather nice. We don’t need to go to the shops to buy those fennel seeds for that one recipe before they sit there for evermore. The chances are, the meal will be just as tasty without fennel seeds, you might not even miss them. Be inventive with cooking – have a look at what you have in the cupboards and base your meal around them. See how far you can go without shopping for anything that isn’t fresh fruit and veg. When lockdown first happened, and we decamped to my mum’s, I did my first few zoom pilates and yoga classes on a rug until I was able to go home to get my yoga mat. While I’m at my mum’s I don’t need to look good, I just need to keep warm so I’m alternating two really old cashmere jumpers that both have holes, one worse than the other, but that doesn’t matter, my family will have to talk to me even with gaping holes and elbows on clear view. Right now, it’s a chilly morning and I’m wearing both of them. When I get bored or tired I have a look through old things. Sometimes it’s a room, sometimes it’s just a drawer or cupboard. I re-discovered an old skipping rope the other day, I remember being given it by my granny probably and it’s been in the house ever since. And I rediscovered something else. Skipping is hard. It was easy when I was twelve, but it’s hard now, I’m improving and I’ve gone from about two to about sixty skips a day, and usually only about 17 before getting mixed up in the rope and starting again.
Some of the books I’m reading at the moment, often about climate change because of a sustainability book club I co-run as part of our sustainability network And The Future, relate back to the Second World War, not to the war side of it, but to regular every day people’s lives during times of hardship. Sometimes, it’s to talk about how the author’s grandmother (Jonathan Safran-Foer) escaped Nazi occupied Poland and went through all sorts of ordeals to survive and create a family of her own, sometimes it’s to talk about why our intensively managed arable crops full of fertilisers and pesticides are the way they are, because of the Dig For Victory campaign (Isabella Tree, and sometimes it’s to talk about Make do and Mend, when we didn’t have anything and we had to make use of what we had because there wasn’t internet or Amazon or anything that wasn’t rationed in the shops.
So, all I’m saying is, stop buying stuff. Or have a think before you buy stuff. Can you make do without it. The space in your home is finite, it’s good to surround yourself with things you love but if you can’t sit at the desk for papers, or see the walls for pictures, or see the back of the freezer for 10 year old meat joints, then it’s time to stop consuming and loving more of what you have. You may well find it makes you happier.
Phones: your mobile phone will last longer than you think. It might get a bit slower and those evil phone providers may well ask you to update your settings a little more often than during the first year you had it, but it will still work. Some top tips: regularly carry out an audit of the apps you have on your phone. I currently have 56 apps – about 10 of those are downloaded, the rest come with the phone. Are there any apps you’re not using regularly, probably worth deleting them, your (older) phone will work better with more memory.
Books: libraries! I’m guilty of not using the local library, I have my reasons, but if you can, they’re free. Ask on facebook if any friends have a book they’d recommend and wouldn’t mind lending you. Download the audible version, or electronic version (which, yes, will probably require using amazon). http://www.worldofbooks.com and other second hand book stores have loads of books – often, when I look on ebay for a second hand book, it’ll come from world of books. And then, I take pleasure in giving the book away. The sustainability book club I run with a friend gives brownie points to anyone who can find the book in any way that means not buying the actual book brand new.
DIY and moving house: for packing and moving equipment, you might find some free stuff on www.nextdoor.co.uk – cardboard boxes especially. There may also be someone letting go of a cupboard, bbq, bed (insert other desired item here) that is just perfect for your home.
Exercise: use the rug or rummage around in old boxes and maybe you’ll find an old skipping rope or tennis ball, or just some trainers so you can take them out for a run instead of clicking a few buttons to get Nike’s latest hyped up advertised neon orange shoe.