Decluttering and the environment

As I write in May 2019, discussions raised by the Extinct Rebellion protests and school strikes prompted by the inspirational Greta Thunberg, have got me reflecting. I have been very moved by her actions and I’ve been thinking about the fact that I work in an industry that essentially generates heaps of waste! I can’t tell you how many bags of rubbish we remove from people’s houses in a year.

Increasingly my clients say to me that they want to be conscious about how they dispose of their unwanted clutter. I strongly encourage this. Here are some thoughts on three aspects of this to consider:
1. Finding more sustainable ways to dispose of the things we no longer need
2. Being mindful of the environmental impact of what we bring into our homes
3. Potential barriers to personal growth that can arise through fear of adding more to the landfill.

Sustainable and ethical ways to dispose of clutter

It’s relatively easy to jump online and read about the most conscientious way of disposing and recycling your items. Just search “How to dispose of xyz”. (I always add UK at the end to start with to get more relevant answers). Here are a few ideas:

  • Charities can sell or recycle old clothes. This is a win on all counts.
  • Freecycle is an amazing concept where people will come and pick up furniture and other goods and reuse them, saving you the bother of disposing of them.
  • Local councils have recycling information pages and if it is a specific item, sometimes charities will take them. I am thinking old mobile phones, musical instruments or old tech that you no longer use that may be helpful to people in a developing country.
  • If you are selling things you no longer need, consider donating all or some of the proceeds to environmental or sustainable development charities

At a minimum, make a little bit of time during your declutter and divide the things that are going out of the house into environmentally conscious piles. But although this is an admirable and sensible thing to consider, it is not going to improve the quality of your life if you are living in a state of clutter, chaos and Stuffocation.

Bringing less clutter into our homes

After your mindful declutter, the next step is to stop bringing in an excess of things into your home. I discuss in part two of this blog the value of looking at why we can accumulate clutter. I’d encourage you to get to the root of the issues. This will mean you are less likely to repeat the same patterns.

You will have heard the adage “one in one out”, which can be a good way to keep consumption manageable. But remember this doesn’t mean you have to go shopping every time you let something go!

I really liked this concept of buying being the last option, not the first:

I’m working on being really conscious about not buying too much that relies on plastic production. This has caused me a lot of concern, as I am very much an advocate of using the transparent plastic boxes so you can see what’s inside them. There is something about cardboard boxes that really is out of sight out of mind, even when they are well labelled. This doesn’t help you be mindful of what you have. So, people often end up buying stuff they already have because they forget what they have or don’t know where things are. If you buy good quality, recyclable plastic containers they will last for a long time. Which means they have less impact than the disposable plastics which are the biggest issue for the planet.

If you are really on a deep ‘plastic fast’ I recently found these boxes that I thought I would share with you, which have a little window and easy access point.

Other things you can do include checking the green credentials of the products and companies you buy from and aiming to buy local rather than stuff that’s been airfreighted in.

There’s loads of advice on this subject, simply search for ‘How to be a conscious consumer’

What about the psychology of holding on?

Many people who contact me are in a serious state of stuckness in their life. And not just in relation to their homes but also in terms of moving forward or moving on. Sometimes worrying about the planet and not throwing things away because they might end up on the landfill can be a way of avoiding dealing with things that need to be dealt with. I examine this in depth in part two of the blog, coming soon.

My pledge to you is to stick to these principles:

1. Take care of your body, the home of your soul,

2. Take care of your home, the home of your body and soul

3. Take care of your planet, the home of your home, body and soul.

What would be your pledge if you were to turn over a new leaf today? I would love to hear, so leave a comment below.

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