At the end of the summer holiday, I walk around the house and wonder again how we have managed to accumulate so much stuff. I don’t even completely know where it has all come from. Each summer club, event, day trip seems to bring with it a small pile of debris which collects on every surface.
Aside from my house looking like it’s taking shelter under a warm layer in preparation for the autumn, I can’t quite get over how much waste we seem to produce.
Rationally, I know what we have to do. Consume less.
But treating people to little bits here and there is a way of me showing love, and after the last year, it seems an easy way to make sure everyone is having a nice time. I don’t want to say no – I want to say yes with wide open arms. But in reality, the moment of joy from each new purchase is so short lived it feels like I’m creating addicts who live for the buzz of getting yet another rubber in a gift shop. And then, I think of the impact – on the environment, on my wallet, and on my house which is straining. And significantly on my kids. I don’t want them to be spoilt, expectant, ungrateful.
So aside from the parenting manual I clearly need on not producing the next set of mercenary consumers, I need to change my mindset on how i amass and how I get rid of stuff.
In preparation for my quest to have less, I have watched every episode of The Home Edit, I’ve read and joyfully watched Marie Kondo, I listen to the Minimalists podcasts. I have even had a home organiser come round and help me be objective about my hallway situation. I’ve successfully completed the #minsgame challenge. But there is still a way to go.
Here’s my plan for next steps
- Stop increasing the amount of storage – My mum has always said it is about good storage, but really there is only so much storage one house can handle. And when I put stuff away, the kids either get it back out, or I forget I’ve got it and buy it again – not helping with the waste or the wallet. My dad has over 50 long sleeved shirts before we count the short-sleeved shirts, jumpers and jeans– they clearly have too much storage.
- Stop keeping things for best – if lockdown has taught me anything it is that life is unpredictable. Enjoy the beautiful, scented candle and the guest towels, use the ‘best for an occasion’ today. Enjoy it, don’t store it.
- Stop speculating on what might come in handy – I can see a rational use for most items. I keep piles of magazines for an article or recipe I will most definitely not remember to go back to. Bin it, the cost of storage is often more than the cost should it come in handy eventually and you need to buy it again. Do I need a bigger house, no I need less crap in this one.
- Buy less – remember that I can say no. It doesn’t make me mean. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids. I will try the 48 hour rule as a test to see if I actually still want and need it.
- Wear things out, finish them off – don’t buy it again until you’ve used it up. I have a ridiculous range of half-finished lotions and potions in the bathroom cabinet. I’m not buying anymore conditioner until I have actually used up the last lot. They all say they will make my hair shiny…
- Pocket money – I’ve started to (slightly) increase the pocket money I give the kids, and am going with the idea of if you want it, you can buy it from your gohenry account. Funny how much less stuff they actually want when it comes out of their own spends. I’m about to try it with a clothing allowance too.
- Pass it on – there are loads of options now for passing things along when they are no longer needed, old lego to the local library club, children’s books to your local nursery, children’s clothes to the local women’s refuge. My mum’s idea of decluttering is to drop it round to ours. Mine is to pass it on to a neighbour with a younger child. Maybe that’s why they are moving.
- Bundle it up and sell it on facebook marketplace or ebay – it is mad what people might need. I sold the leftover tiles from my new bathroom on facebook, clearing a space in the shed and making it look like I’d gone slightly less over budget.
- Gift consumables – treat people with moments, with experiences, with thoughtfulness, something sentimental or with food or flowers. Or ask what people need in advance. My dad doesn’t need any shirts.
- Don’t overthink it – I don’t need to declutter the whole house. I work on the basis of a few calm areas that offer the mind some respite from the chaos -for me, my bedside table without cold cups of tea and the en-suite bathroom without clothes on the floor is doing pretty well. If they are okay, well, the rest of the house will get there eventually.
After all, Christmas is coming…