I’ve been working soooo hard for the last couple of weeks, putting together materials for my green decluttering coaching programme. I’ve decided to run a prototype programme (of maybe 10 weeks duration) for half a dozen people, starting end July/beginning August, and I’ve got five people ready to sign up already. The lucky six will get my programme super-cheap in return for giving me feedback so I can tweak it and improve it ready for a full launch later in the year.
It’s starting to seem real now, which is exciting and scary in equal measure!
In the meantime, I’ve also started offering one-on-one support, where I visit people at home to work with them directly. They get a jump start on tackling that overwhelming clutter mountain, and I gain even more insight into the psychology of clutter and decluttering, particularly for green-minded people.
And I’ve been interviewing people to really get how they feel about their clutter, and why they are cluttered.
One of the things I love about working in this area is how it makes me look again at my own attitude to my belongings. Over the years, I’ve developed effective systems and processes for managing my stuff so that my house is almost clutter-free. (It’s not, and never will be, completely clutter-free. I don’t want my house to look like a museum and I don’t mind if a few things sit around waiting to be dealt with, so long as it doesn’t get overwhelming).
Nonetheless, I’ve been surprised by some of the irrational thought processes I’m spotting in myself.
It might come in handy
When you’re green-minded (and, especially if you’re thrifty too, as green-minded people often are), it’s tempting to feel that it’s better to hang onto anything that there’s any chance of you using in the future.
There’s false logic here though. For anything that you’re not likely to use, and which you could replace relatively easily and/or cheaply, the greener option is to get it back into circulation.
And, if your clutter means you’re paying for off-site storage, it might be the cheaper option too.
The trick, when decluttering, is to think it through logically. If you’re tempted to keep it because ‘it might come in handy’, think:
- How LIKELY is it that I’ll use it in future?
- How EASILY could I replace it if necessary?
- How CHEAP/EXPENSIVE would it be to replace if necessary?
- How much would I CARE if I couldn’t replace it?
If you’re unlikely to use it (even though you might) and you could replace it relatively easily and cheaply (or you wouldn’t care that much if you couldn’t), the greener option is to get it to someone who will use it in the foreseeable future.
For example, ever since I decluttered my leftover DIY materials, it’s been nagging at me that I wasn’t rigorous enough. Apart from the part-used cans of coloured paints, here’s some things I held onto:
- 4 part-used cans of interior wood varnish
- 1 part-used tin of white satinwood paint
- 1 part-used tin of white eggshell paint
- 1 part-used spray can of primer
- 1 part-used tin of primer
- 1 part-used tin of metal primer
- 2 part-used tins of white emulsion
- 1 part-used tin of white undercoat
- 1 part-used tin of off-white undercoat.
In the light of what I said in my previous blog post, I’ve been reconsidering those items. While it’s true that I might use them in the future, it’s not likely. I’m not planning any redecorating, plus, if and when I do, the chances are that the decorator I use will prefer to use new materials than old ones that might have deteriorated over time (which is why I’ve got more than one can of varnish and white emulsion). And they’re all easily, and fairly cheaply, replaceable.
Meanwhile, all that stuff is out of circulation, sitting in my loft when someone else could be using it rather than buying new. And, if I ever do come to use it, I might find it’s deteriorated beyond use (like the grout and Covertex I mentioned in my previous blog post). How annoyed would I be then?
So I sent a Facebook message to Choppa at Elementree Studios to see if he can use them and he messaged back to say he’d be delighted to take them off my hands. Fantastic! If he hadn’t wanted them, I’d have put them on Freecycle and Freegle and, if that hadn’t worked, I’d have contacted Community RePaint.
I bought it, I’m responsible for it
I also hold onto stuff because I feel responsible for it. This particularly applies to things that are unlikely even to be wanted by Freecyclers/Freeglers yet which are still functional. Old towels and clothes that are way out of fashion for example. I feel obliged to keep using them, or find a use for them (which often really means hanging onto them in the hope of finding a use for them) until they’re worn out.
If I’ve got more of them than I can ever hope to use though, that’s not the greenest option. It would be better to give them to charity shops, who can raise money by selling them as rags to be reprocessed for use in, for example, carpets and underlays.
When my clothes cupboard next comes up in my decluttering schedule, I’m shifting some of those no-longer-good-enough-for-everyday clothes that I’ve been telling myself would do for gym cover ups or to sleep in. I’m going to see how many I’ve got and get realistic about how many it’s worth keeping. I suspect I’ve got more than I can hope to wear out in my lifetime.
And, if that’s true, some of them are going for charity rags.
Stuff as a security blanket
So then I noticed something else. As I made the decision to move on those decorating materials, I got a flash of anxiety. What was that about? I took a look and found that the thoughts behind it were:
- How much stuff do I want to get rid of? Am I in danger of getting rid of so much that I haven’t got what I need?
- How will I feel about empty shelves and cupboards? Will my house start to feel bare, soulless and grim?
- Will I reach a point where I can no longer justify living in my (beloved) house because I’ve got rid of so much stuff that I need less space?
All that in response to considering moving on a few part-used tins of paint!
It made me conscious of the extent to which we accumluate stuff as a security blanket. And how irrational that is. After all, we can’t store in our homes all the stuff we’re ever going to need in our lifetimes. Or even all the stuff that passes through our hands that we would use again in the future (let alone all the stuff that we only might use).
There are many other irrational justifications we have for acquiring and holding onto clutter (‘but it’s a bargain’, ‘I will get round to doing that craft project/losing that weight one day’, ‘but it cost a lot of money’, ‘but it might be worth something’, ‘but it was a gift’ ‘but it reminds me of someone/something/sometime’…). The ones above are just those my own decluttering, and my recent even stronger focus on it, has had me noticing.
Developing this business, and writing this blog also has me discover even more ways to move things on so that they will get reused, and even more green alternatives to everyday products. Connecting with the green community on Twitter, and researching issues for my blog posts immerses me even deeper into this domain that I love so much.
It’s all good. 🙂