I have a confession to make: I love throwing things away. A lot. It’s not like a pathological compulsion or anything. I don’t buy things just to throw them out or break into people’s homes so I can arbitrarily toss things into the garbage or anything weird like that. But I do love entering a room of clutter with a garbage bag and leaving with a clean room and a full bag. Then the nice trash collectors come and whisk the bag away so it’s not my problem anymore. Yes, I do enjoy that.
But now there’s a part of me that no longer feels good about it because I can see how wasteful it is. After all, what ever happened to prevention? Why do I continue to allow myself to accumulate clutter that will then need to be thrown out? What about repurposing and reusing the things I do have? I’m supposed to be saving money, not essentially flushing it down the toilet.
My three main goals:
1.) Buy less in the first place
2.) Store and label things properly so they last as long as possible
3.) Learn how to distinguish between what’s worth saving for future endeavors and what’s not
I can’t expect myself to transform overnight. We form bad habits over the years and it takes time to form new ones. The important thing is to start.
1.) How can I buy less in the first place?
- Purchase (and consistently use) reusable items instead of single-use. For example, purchase reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones. Use dish towels to pick up spills instead of paper towels, eat off of regular plates instead of paper ones, and stop going through so many sandwich baggies and use washable containers instead.
- Don’t buy it if you don’t have a plan for it. It sounds obvious, but I can honestly say I throw away a lot less food since implementing this rule. Whether it’s food pushed to the back of your fridge or a fancy dress pushed to the back of your closet, impulsive purchases can definitely add to your clutter and ultimately go to waste.
- It’s not always easy to invest more money into higher quality items upfront, but they often last longer and will limit waste and save you money in the long run. It may be worth waiting until you can save up.
- Know what you have (which is a lot easier when you don’t have as much stuff). This can prevent making purchases because you simply can’t find the thing you need or forgot you already had.
2.) How can I be more conscientious about how I store things?
- Label. Label. Label. Only use half a can of chickpeas? Put a date on the container of leftovers in the fridge. That way you don’t have to wonder how long it’s been there and then throw it away to be on the safe side.
- Know where to look for things. A surplus of different sized nails and screws thrown into a junk drawer is not nearly as helpful as keeping them in separate containers with your other tools.
- Keep things covered. Don’t assume things are protected from dust just because they’re in a drawer or cupboard. I threw away a good number of napkins just the other day because they weren’t stored inside of anything to protect them from dust, and frankly, they got all gross. They definitely weren’t something I’d want to wipe my mouth with anymore, but they would’ve been fine if I had simply taken the time to not leave them exposed.
3.) How can I determine what’s worth saving and what should be thrown away?
- Dedicate a specific space or container for certain supplies to control volume. For example, I’m starting to keep old tablecloths, clothes, etc. so I can practice sewing on them. I’m going to put the fabrics in a tub and if it fills up without me using what’s inside, perhaps I need to reevaluate what I’m keeping or even my dedication to repurposing them.
- How multi-purpose is it? Something like leftover wood has a lot of possible uses whereas a half can of dried up paint that could be saved, but it’s kind of a weird color, not so much.
- Ask yourself if you would’ve noticed if someone else got rid of it. If you wouldn’t have noticed and it never would’ve mattered, it may be worth throwing away or donating. Donating things that you have no use for anymore is less wasteful than just letting it sit in a closet where no one is using it.
All of that being said, while it’s a worthy goal to be less wasteful, there are times when getting rid of stuff is the right decision. It can be hard to be honest with ourselves. We want to believe we’ll do certain things and be a certain way, but we often fall short. We get swept up in the idea of it all, but when it comes time for the reality we find it grueling and tiresome. If you’re holding onto things for projects and when the time comes you actually hate it, it’s okay. It’s okay to try things and decide they’re not for you. You don’t need to hang onto all those things forever. Learn to let go of the things that aren’t meant for you to make room for the things that are.