One woman’s rubbish is another’s new outfit

It’s been a while since I’ve turned to minimalism on the blog, it’s all been about this turning 40 business, mixed with a bit of mindfulness, but minimalism is still a great passion of mine and I am proud of how my wife and I have reduced our belongings and our needs.

Alongside this reduction in things, I’ve seen an increase in time spent together, in improved wellbeing  – I feel calmer, happier and more organised –  and in the time spent in experiencing things, rather than tidying, cleaning and paying for it all.

Yet there are still key areas that I can’t get round with minimalism; my wardrobe, throwing things away and reducing the waste we produce.

I’ll deal with my wardrobe (again) in detail in another post. I am actually making progress on this one (slow progress, but still progress). A quick update; I am going to use the Unfancy Capsule planner for my autumn wardrobe. Now I have no credit card, the impulsive buying has reduced because I have no money to pay for it!  I’ve also given myself a target of buying second hand where possible. A) because it’s cheaper, and b) because the environmental impact is lower. But more of that in another post.

Here I want to talk about how hard I find throwing away junk and also about re-using other peoples junk. When I say ‘junk’ I mean all that stuff that collects in drawers, and corners, or little piles. Things you get for free (plastic bracelet thingies for example)  or think you’ll use (dainty cup and saucer from Age UK charity shop – used once), things you’ve bought and then regret (cheap top because it was cold). I still have these moments, although they are less.

If I can pass on the items via charity shops, car boot sales or selling on Ebay then great, but the thing I feel most guilty about is those things I have to throw away. The broken items, the absolutely no use, and no-one would want items, the food items that have wasted or sat in the cupboard for two years untouched. To add to this I am absolutely shocked by what I see in some people’s bins on bin day – whole storage shelves, bundles of clothes, cardboard boxes of stuff. It seems we live in a throwaway society, and that makes me sad.

I try not to buy things that will be thrown away, but inevitably sometimes a cup or a glass will break, a sheet will wear through, or a plastic case will crack. The unloved items that really don’t have a use. In the bin they go. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t keep broken items but I have found myself putting something back in a box (bracelets I don’t wear) or a cupboard (borlotti beans) because I don’t really have a hope they will find a new home.

I have visions of mounds of broken stuff sitting undigested with nowhere to go, although in reality there are very few landfill sites now, and actually we do have very little to throw away any more that isn’t absolute rubbish.

I wonder if I am alone. These bins I’ve seen stuffed full of things that could be sorted and salvaged, some people definitely aren’t thinking about the resources we have that are rapidly depleting? For us charity shoppers and bargain hunters though one person’s trash is another person’s treasure? (Like the re-purposed patio set abandoned in an alleyway now finely repainted in our garden).

For some people the stigma  of buying second hand can be too much. I have made a decision to only buy second hand through Ebay, or a handful of items that are better quality and that will last for years, and that’s because I want to reduce the impact I have on this already cluttered and depleted world. Yet I can remember being so embarrassed as a child having to wear second hand clothes, and not having what other people had. Now I don’t care. In fact I’m proud to be able to re-purpose, restyle and re-wear clothes that others have discarded. What a difference 25 years make!

So how I can reduce those last bits of junk that live in our home? How can I make sure I don’t accumulate any more?  If you have any ideas let me know? Have you tried to get people to take responsibility for reducing their waste, or their disposed items? Or to take responsibility for what they own? Do you purchase sustainably and if so how does that work for you? I think we have a long way to go  on this in our home, so really interested to hear stories of how people are making these changes.  I think the only way to keep on top of things is to keep decluttering on a regular basis, asking myself ‘Do I love this?’, ‘Do I need this?’ and when I am out and about picking up bits of clutter, trying to be mindful and really thinking about the impact of it coming into my home. So don’t be offended if I say no to your pin badge when I give a donation, or I don’t make use of things you offer me that you’re also clearing out. I’m not being rude, just keeping it minimal! (and the image going with this piece is not our house 🙂 )