Please welcome mindful home coach and East Gippslander, Tania Goranitis from Interior Philosophy as Gippsland Unwrapped’s first guest blogger. Tania helps people to optimise their homes through decluttering, organisation, conscious consumerism and mindful interior design.
I’ve really connected with Tania’s blog since Interior Philosophy took a mindful change of direction earlier this year and I’m keen to share with you her post The Things You Save, You Waste The Most because it’s exactly what I would have written!
Let me explain why.
Decluttering has been on my mind a lot lately as I prepare to move house.
The reasons I want to declutter are to:
- Save time and effort cleaning and tidying. I love to have a clean, tidy house and when it’s not I get really agitated and also anxious about unexpected guests. I’ve tried to get over this because I don’t care about the state of other people’s homes when I visit, I’m there to see the person not judge the cleanliness of their home, but I actually am more productive and clear-headed in clutter free spaces.
- Have the space and time needed to encourage my kids to be more independent and responsible by cleaning and tidying their own things. Developing good habits in kids takes time and effort, and it’s very easy to just do it for them when there isn’t much time or there is a lot of tidying up to do. If this independence isn’t developed in kids early on, all sorts of problems crop up in the future. I’m currently reading Spoonfed Generation: How To Raise Independent Children by Michael Grose for some ideas and support when the kids dig their heals in and the place is an absolute mess.
- Focus on the things that matter to me, like good food, health, family, and activities that make me happy. Being time-stressed makes people seek out less eco-friendly, more expensive convenience options like highly packaged meals and using the car instead of walking. Perhaps decluttering can’t really free up my time and expenditure this much but I’m willing to give it a go.
- Have a home that looks, feels and works the way I want it to. Over the years, I’ve clarified my thoughts about what is ‘enough’ for a great life filled with happiness and what’s just excess baggage. Some of this excess baggage even brings up negative emotions (a large part of my decluttering waste was photos, and I feel great about ridding myself of them).
But, there’s been something holding me back from decluttering to the degree I’d like to achieve.
And it’s that I don’t like to waste things, so I save them – often for more than a decade.
It wasn’t until I realised how wasteful this is too, that I was able to effectively deal with my clutter.
I’ll let Tania explain more and share what can be done about it…
The Things You Save, You Waste The Most
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re being accidentally wasteful when you’re trying not to be. That is, the things that you hang onto just because you don’t want to waste them, are being wasted the most. It’s not your fault, you’ve been trained to think this way your whole life.
Yes in those moments when you stop to question the value something has in your life, the little voice of justification lies to you. ” Well you have it now, it would be wasteful to just get rid of it. You might need it one day”. That sounds responsible and reasonable, right?
But actually, this thinking is completely backwards, because keeping something which remains unused is the ultimate act of wastefulness.
Here is why: Everything created travels through the Materials Economy; extraction, production and distribution before it gets to you; and then consumption and ultimately disposal. In other words, materials have been taken from the ground, transported for processing, processed, likely transported again, the article manufactured and packaged, transported again and put out for sale; all the while creating lots of pollution and using up finite resources. There is the packaging and man hours to consider too.
Then it sits at your house, doing nothing. It doesn’t make you happy, it doesn’t add value to your life. You’re not using it, and it sits in a cupboard. Oh dear.
And the reason you’re not using it really doesn’t matter. It could be the wrong size, colour, style; or maybe it just isn’t as useful in your life as you imagined it would be. Whatever the reason, the problem remains the same: the resources, energy and pollution which has gone into creating it are completely and utterly wasted when the item goes unused. Let alone the money you spent on purchasing it or the space which it is taking up in your home.
The good news is, you can absolutely do something about it. You’re not powerless!
So what to do? Throwing it into the rubbish would be the ultimate act of wastefulness; the item travelling through the entire materials economy would all have been for nothing.
Your best options:
Use it: See if you can integrate it into your life in a meaningful, useful and joyful way. Did you just forget about it, hidden away?
Re-purpose it: Don’t love the teapot, make it into a plant holder. Don’t like the old doona cover, turn it into cleaning clothes or washing bags.
Sell it: Get back some of your financial investment! Hello Ebay, Buy Swap Sell Groups and the like.
Offer it: Whilst we never want to make our clutter problem someone else’s clutter problem, you can sensitively see if anyone in your network could genuinely benefit from it. Offer it free from pressure or expectation (be sure to tell them you don’t mind if they say no).
Donate it: Op-shops are over-run with stuff as people come to the realisation that we just have too much, so be thoughtful about where you donate. I have a great list of alternative places to donate HERE.
Recycle it: Can it be broken down into its constituent parts for recycling?
You can learn more about the Materials Economy from The Story of Stuff people HERE. This video is the first thing that I ever saw to make me stop and think about where my things come from, and at what cost. It is easy to watch and understand and suitable for children too. I highly recommend it!
So, I’ve spent heaps of time lately, using what I already have to complete home organisation and repair projects, to rehome things, and to recycle what’s left over. The results have been outstanding because I’ve only produced one bag of landfill waste (a 20kg dog food bag) and I have one large bag of items I haven’t yet rehomed through my networks. I see donations to op shops as a last resort because they are overwhelmed with items and much of it ends up in landfill because not enough people shop secondhand. It’s a bit hard to say how well I’ve gone with the deluttering because I’m packing as I go, but it truly feels like I’ve made huge progress and I can’t wait to get set up in our next house.
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Today I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Every. single. thing. in my house has passed through my hands over the past few weeks and with these simple tools I have lovingly restored many, many items – so many more than I thought needed repairing or even could be repaired. It did not require a lot of skill or specialised tools (I borrowed the handheld electric sander to speed things up a bit), just some time. Instead of feeling like I have a lot of ageing, worn out things, it literally now feels like we'll be setting up a new home with new things. It's amazing what tying up loose threads, cleaning off marks, and a bit of glue, paint or sanding can do to make things look great. It's so rewarding to have done this! And the only additional thing I had to buy to achieve it all was a tube of glue, the rest of my materials came from things I already had in the house. I used old things I didn't want anymore to fix things I did want to keep or to make new things I felt we needed. —- I also want to add that I'm really happy with the performance of these eco friendly glues, so if you are looking for some, follow the link in my profile to find out where I got them from.
My final message is, please don’t declutter to make room for more stuff because you are keeping up with the Jones. That’s consumerism and wastefulness at its best (or is that worst?). I’ve avoided talking about decluttering before because I worry that it encourages people to be wasteful and does nothing to curb consumption. My clutter issues had nothing to do with high levels of consumption (and most of the things we own are second-hand), it was about letting go once something was in my possession. I could pretend this comes purely from a concern for the environment but I know that it also comes from experiencing periods of financial stress and a fear that I may get rid of something that I will not be able to replace later if I need it. Therefore, decluttering for me has also required a belief that I can cope with future challenges and to embrace everything I have learnt about stuff along the way (that it’s just not as important as everything else). If you are unhappily living with clutter, I highly recommend finding out the reasons why and addressing them. You’ll feel so much better.