In my mind, I equate “simplicity” and “minimalist.”
In reality, my sustainable life is full of clutter:
- The recyclables are spilling out of their bin because we haven’t taken the time to haul them off.
- A catch-all table in the basement holds an assortment of old shampoo bottles, vinegar bottles and medicine bottles — because I might need them someday.
- The spare room closet is full of boxes of kids’ clothes, ranging from newborn to boys’ size 5. The larger sizes are hand-me-downs waiting to be used by SustainaKid. The smaller sizes are the ones I haven’t loaned out to friends or that have been returned already.
- Then there’s the baby swing and stroller that I hope to use someday if we can afford SustainaKid#2.
- The garage is full of kids’ toys for all ages — including three hand-me-down kids’ bicycles of different sizes.
- My closet is full of hand-me-down clothes, for which I am grateful but many of which I rarely wear. I keep the work clothes because I may decide to go back to work full-time when SustainaKid#1 goes to kindergarten. But I really need to let go of the patterned T-shirts that just aren’t my style.
- My kitchen has a few too many gadgets, gifts from my family.
- My bathroom has become a holding ground for gifts of lotions with suspect ingredients from well-meaning grandmothers. I don’t want to give potential carcinogens to someone but it seems wrong to throw away something that someone else would pay for.
- The backyard holds a CraigsListed playset that my son has outgrown but the hoped-for SustainaKid#2 would love. In the meantime, we move it to cut the grass while some other kid would love to be playing on it now.
- And I am tripping over toys, 50 percent hand-me-downs, 40 percent birthday and Christmas gifts, and 10 percent SustainaFamily-purchased. In fact, when SustainaKid wouldn’t help pick up toys two months ago, I threatened to put them all in the basement. I followed through and he hasn’t missed them. I think that is a sign.
I sound like a clinical hoarder, don’t I?
Maybe I’m an eco-hoarder. Before I really thought about where all the trash was going, I threw things out much more easily. Before I became aware of the environmental impact of consumerism, I donated things much more easily. For example, I’d just plan to buy more baby items should we need them in the future. (Of course, the tanked economy and the SustainaFamily job situation have radically affected that mentality as well.)
I do some things right. I have a fantastic kids’ hand-me-down chain going. Five little boys ranging from 12 month to 6 years benefit from clothing swaps. And my on-the-way little niece or nephew will benefit from stored baby items and toys. When I need egg cartons to start seeds, I know there are a few in the basement that weren’t given to my friend with chickens. When I finally make homemade deodorant this week, I know I have a perfect container in the basement and I don’t have to buy something.
But the “what if I need it?” items are taking over my house. I have to let go of the guilt of moving gifts that I do not need out of my house, and I need to really zero in on what I might need and what is worth storing.
I’m committing to a two-month process to go through at least one room every weekend. I think Amy Dacyczyn and Tsh Oxenreider may go to war in the SustainaFamily household.
I've found some inspiration, if you're interested?
- Tsh Oxenreider's Organized Simplicity - I don't think the book says anything revolutionary, but it is motivational, especially if you need to hear in many ways, "If you don't need it, then it is okay to get it out of your house." And she does a great job breaking things into small bites that seem less overwhelming.
- Have you heard of the Quietude home? This article is what actually made me realize how idyllic simplicity is — and to think about the discipline it takes to simplify and live consciously today.
Any advice or more inspiration for someone who is soon to become very active on Freecycle?!