Thanks to sharing – old and new

This month I’ve been on a decluttering mission. I am playing The Minimalist Game, attempting to rid my home of 564 items in a month. One unexpected outcome of this mission – gratitude for the sharing economy.

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Thanks to the sharing economy

The sharing economy has come in for a bit of a backlash recently as community turns corporate, but I have a lot to thank it for this month.

Sorting through my home, I’ve experienced a range of feelings ­ guilt, overwhelm, joy, excitement. Undertaking this exercise has prompted me to search for ways of living with less. It has made me realise how grateful I am for the various ways that I can use and enjoy stuff without having to own it.

Old school sharing economy

While books and toys are often particularly difficult areas for people to declutter, they were relatively easy for me. I didn’t really have much book and toy clutter thanks to the stalwarts of the sharing economy – the library.

I love libraries. I have at various times worked as a librarian. To me, the library provides a world of possibilities. Through the library I can access virtually any book that I desire at no cost. Sure, I sometimes have to wait and I sometimes have to read faster than I’d Iike – but I don’t have to own anything.

I am also very grateful for our local toy library. It ensures my son gets to play with an ever-changing rotation of high quality toys. And, when he’s bored with them, they don’t hang around our house getting in the way – they go right back where they came from for other kids to enjoy. The wee guy loves his fortnightly trips to the toy library to return his toys and bring home some new ones. If you have young kids, I really recommend checking out if there is one near you.

New school sharing economy

Technology can create clutter but it can also help you clear clutter. I no longer need to hang on to those CDs and DVDs – if I want to listen to it or watch it I can stream it.

New school sharing really came into its own when I wanted to get rid of stuff. I realised that a barrier to decluttering was the guilt I felt about waste and my desire to find things a good new home. Sharing information through social media gave me a quick and easy way to do this. Through local and special-interest Facebook groups, my stuff is out of my house and with people who want it.

Decluttering this month playing The Miniminalist Game has taken a weight off my mind and loads out of my house. Thank you, sharing economy –I appreciate how you enable me to live more with less.

Are you trying to live more with less? What things do you share rather than own?

 This is my first post as part of the Gratitude Circle – expect more like this the 4th Thursday of every month.

Gratitude-Circle

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The cost of free stuff – the Minimalist Game days 15 – 21

My decluttering has really ramped up over the last week. I am still amazed by the amount of junk I have stashed away. While my house doesn’t look much different, the kitchen especially is a lot easier to use.

Minimalist game, decluttering, #minsgame
Minimalist Game Days 15 – 21

Freedom from the freebies

As I decluttered over the last three weeks, I’ve been struck by the amount of stuff in the house I acquired for free. It is now clear to me that all this free stuff has a cost.

I have come across various categories of free stuff in my cupboards and drawers:

  • giveaways and promotional freebies (eg. coffee mugs emblazoned a with logo, stickers, pins and bags)
  • stuff that was included with other stuff I bought (eg. A measuring cup and spoon that came with a rice cooker and a potato spiral maker)
  • stuff that has been passed on to me by someone else (eg. half my kitchen items and most of my craft things)
  • gifts (I think gifts will get a whole post of its own!).

I am fortunate, as a lot of what I consider to be essential items have been given to me and saved me a lot of money. Then there are the non-essential but potentially useful items.

My (former) slow cooker was one of those. I thought it would be really useful and I gave it a premium spot in my kitchen cupboard. However, I got it out more times to get to the special-occasions-only glass jug behind it than to cook with. Turns out I’m just not a slow cooker.

The lure of free

Then there are the more random things (coffee art stencils), the just plain useless things (bobble heads) and the things that would be useful if you didn’t already have 100 of them (promotional reusable shopping bags).

This got me thinking – what is it about free stuff? Why do I feel compelled to bring it into my home?

It is like we are hardwired to want free stuff – just because it’s free, no matter what it is. If there is something free on offer and I miss out on it, I feel disappointed and annoyed. Free stuff evokes a weird mix of feelings – both entitlement and gratitude.

I have a large pile of packaging sitting around. I had been saving it to redeem points on the products to get free stuff. I might get two or three free children’s books a year from doing this. I would never buy these books, as we have plenty of much better children’s books and use the local library heavily. Plus, the free books aren’t great quality so my son tears them easily. But no! I have been wasting time on redeeming points because it’s free stuff and I don’t want to miss out! Well, no more. If I wouldn’t buy it why accept it for free?

Not taking it

That is the lesson I learnt this week – it’s the stuff that I don’t buy that contributes most to my clutter. If I’m going to stop the clutter creep, it’s not just my spending I have to watch, it’s my accepting of free stuff. I need to get more discerning and practice saying thanks but no thanks.

Do you find it hard to resist a free offer? What is the stupidest freebie accepted recently?

Confessions of a food-waste hoarder

I hate to waste food but, inevitably, it happens. Despite meal planning like a pro, things don’t always work out as planned.

I know I am not alone in this. In New Zealand, where I live, the average family wastes around $563 worth of food every year. In the United States, for a family of four, its around $1600 worth of food each year. It’s pretty shocking.

Food waste, food waste friday
New Zealand’s Food Waste.
Image credit: WasteMINZ

I feel terrible about throwing away what was perfectly good food. And so I don’t – I hoard it. Half empty bottles of salad dressing languish at the back of my fridge until they are a year out of date. A little container of unused canned tomatoes sits growing mold. You get the picture – it’s not pretty. Eventually something smells and I can’t ignore it anymore, and out it all goes.

Well that was until now. I am owning-up to my food waste. I’m starting out with a clean fridge and a new approach. As part of Food Waste Friday, I will report in each fortnight on my food waste.

Food waste, Food Waste Friday
Inside my fridge – 19 June 2015

Am I the only person who hoards their food waste? What’s your best tip to reduce the amount of food you waste?

Help! I’m hoarding for the environment – the Minimalist Game days 8 to 14

It’s the end of Week 2 of the Minimalist Game and I’m already reaping the benefits of less stuff. I’ve also come to an important realisation – I’ve been hoarding for the environment.

Hoarding for the environment

Most of the items that I got rid of this week were either:

  • once useful stuff I no longer require or is at the end of its life (eg. old baby bottles, broken safety latches)
  • potentially useful stuff that is too good to waste and might be useful someday but that I don’t think anyone else would want (eg. piles of plastic cutlery and paper napkins that come with takeout, used plastic bags).

Essentially, now it is rubbish, trash, garbage. Easy to let go of? Umm, well, no.

The guilt from Week 1 resurfaced. I have been trying to deny my wasteful ways by keeping stuff packed away in cupboards and drawers.

During the week, I stumbled across this article – Are you hoarding for the environment?  Yes, yes I am. Or I was. I’ve written before about how I’ve always had strong environment values but they’ve waned in the last couple of years. The decluttering process has highlighted to me that I still have these values and renewed my motivation to take action.

I’ve decided to note the areas of waste that make me most ashamed and work out baby steps towards addressing them. I found some reusable mesh produce bags in the pantry and I have already put them into action at the supermarket.

Benefits showing already

I am already reaping the benefits of decluttering. This came home to me with a simple occurrence – my pre-schooler ripped a book. I located the book tape within 30 seconds and he was happily reading again in five minutes.

There was no big sigh from me at the prospect of wading through packed drawers searching for tape, no putting the book on a pile for another day, no feeling guilty, frustrated or overwhelmed, and no buying another roll because I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

Fixing the book was no big deal. Two weeks prior, the sad fact is, it would’ve been an ordeal. Seeing these benefits in everyday life has given me great motivation to continue.

Next steps

So what is next? This week my husband commented that what I was doing and calling minimalism looked a lot like what he called spring-cleaning.

In many ways he is right. Although from what I’ve said above, what could look like mere rubbish to someone else actually held meaning to me.

My reasons for playing the Minimalist Game were beyond spring-cleaning. I do want to move onto some of the bigger items around the house and that is on my agenda for Week 3.

Week 2 Tally

Day 8 – 1 breast pump, 4 bottle lids, 4 teats (yes – I can’t count!)

Day 9 – 1 sippy cup, 1 bottle lid, 2 bottles, 2 broken safety clips, 3 teats

Day 10 – 1 toilet lid lock, 1 battery cover, 1 tube, 2 plastic keys, 5 medicine teats

Day 11 – 1 clip, 1 plastic key, 1 highlighter, 2 pieces of a piping set, 3 syringes, 3 plastic bottles I’d been keeping for crafts

Day 12 – 1 broken food cover, 1 broken safety lock, 1 pencil, 1 pen lid, 7 pens

Day 13 – 1 plastic tablecloth, 1 potato spiral maker, 1 tray, 1 bag of plastic cutlery, 1 pile of paper napkins, 1 set of cookie cutters (rusted), 1 empty box, 2 bags of plastic bags, 3 reusable shopping bags

Day 14 – 1 metal jug, 1 ceramic tile, 1 set of salt and pepper shakers, 2 glasses, 8 coffee mugs

I’m posting daily pictures of my progress on Twitter. You can find me under @AmyMoreTime.

Are you hoarding for the environment? Do you sometimes feel that minimalism is a bit at odds with your other values? How do you reconcile that?

Minimalist fundraising – rejecting raffles and accepting donations

I attended a community fundraiser this morning supporting the Red Cross’s work to help the people of Nepal recover from a series of devastating earthquakes. It was fun event, full of community spirit.

Minimalist fundraising

The fundraising featured the usual raffles and auctions. Being in the throes of the Minimalist Game, I viewed the tables of prizes through a different lens. Now, don’t get me wrong, the prizes were lovely, tasteful and good quality. But it was also stuff I don’t need and don’t really want, stuff that would just sit around my house for a few years before I moved it on.

My usual approach is to buy raffle tickets no matter the prize, but now I really don’t want to win! I don’t want to bring the stuff into my house. What to do? On the spot I formulated some quick strategies , which I thought I’d share.

  1. Don’t buy, just give

I steered away from the raffle table and towards a donation box, where I gave the money I would have spent on raffle tickets.

If approached by a raffle seller, I would have felt comfortable saying something like, “Thanks, but no thanks. I am weaning myself off raffles! Where can I make a donation?”.

  1. Take the experience option, but be discerning

I still participated in the silent auctions, but I only bid on experience prizes. Even then I was selective. I only bid on experiences that I’d actually like to do. For me, it was family passes to local nature attractions. A voucher for a beauty salon would be wasted on me, although if you saw my fingernails you might disagree. You see, one of the things I appreciate more and more about clutter is that it’s as much mental as it is physical. An unused voucher for a nail treatment sitting in my purse would weigh on my mind just as much as a physical object stashed in my spare room. I’d just feel bad for not making the time to use it.

I was really fortunate today – it was a friendly and pressure-free environment with many options for giving. I could easily participate without compromising my burgeoning minimalist values. I’m sure future fundraising situations will not be this easy, but I came away this morning feeling great.

Do you struggle to maintain your minimalist stance in the face of social obligations? What are your tips for “low stuff” fundraising?

The week of the Wii – The Minimalist Game days 1 to 7

Week One of the Minimalist Game is in the bag – 28 items successfully out of the house and out of my life. The pace of my de-cluttering this week actually slowed compared to pre-game, but it was still a challenge.

Letting go – the guilt of waste

Twelve out of the 28 items that left the house this week were all parts of a Nintendo Wii game console, its games and accessories. It had been sitting in its box, untouched, since we moved into our current home three years ago.

It should be easy to let go of, right? I haven’t used it and I’m not going to miss it, but it was still difficult. I haven’t been hanging onto it just in case; I’ve been hanging onto it out of guilt. You see, normally I don’t go in for frivolous consumer electronics.

An inner voice chastised me – “What were you thinking spending good money tying up precious natural resources on something totally unnecessary which becomes obsolete almost immediately and is near impossible to dispose of responsibly? You should know better”.

At the time, buying the Wii was a guilty pleasure, but the pleasure is now gone and I was just left with the guilt. I’d been holding on to it in some vain hope that its use would be revived, my guilt assuaged. But it’s been three years, so it’s time to get real. Stepping back, the reality is that I created this waste the day I bought the Wii and hanging on to it wasn’t going to change that. The only difference I could make was what I did about it now.

So I did it – out the door it went. Quickly, before I changed my mind.

Getting rid – to sell or to give?

So I made the decision to get the Wii out of the house – but how? It’s pretty much obsolete, but in great condition and it wasn’t cheap. Part of me thought it should have some residual value and I should attempt to recoup some of its cost.

Stories of the money friends and family have made flogging unwanted stuff on online auction sites rang in my ears. I did some market research, but older Wiis aren’t in hot demand. Maybe I could get $20–50 for it on a Facebook buy’n’sell group. But what happens if it turns out it doesn’t work or some of the bits aren’t there?

What to do? I talked to my husband – “It’s your decision, but personally, if it’s worth less than $100, I give it away. Selling isn’t worth the hassle”. Right that was it, decision made. I listed it on a local free/swap group and a happy dad picked it up at the end of the day to take home to some soon to be very happy kids. It all happened very quickly and I was embarrassingly excited.

I caught the bug, flung open the kitchen cupboards and it was on – Day 30, bring it!

This week I learnt:

  • Feeling guilty about past purchases doesn’t achieve anything – you’ve got to move on and that’s much easier to do without the offending stuff sitting round as a constant reminder
  • Hanging on to stuff you are never going to use to avoid waste is just denial. The reality is, the waste was created the moment you bought it – deal with it (and remember this the next time you’re out shopping).

Week 1 Tally

Day 1 – 1 Wii console

Day 2 – 2 Wii controllers

Day 3 – 3 Wii games

Day 4 – 4 Wii controllers

Day 5 – 1 Wii balance board, 1 Wii fitness accessory, 3 broken pens

Day 6 – 1 plastic container, 1 bowl, 1 plate, 1 food processor accessory for a food processor I don’t own, 1 decorative garlic/ginger grater, 1 George Foreman Grill fork type accessory

Day 7 – 1 empty baby monitor box with instruction manuals, 2 empty packets, 1 broken bottle brush, 1 sippy cup lid, 1 breast pump part, 1 medical gauze

I’m posting daily pictures of my progress on Twitter. You can find me under @AmyMoreTime.

Confessions of a supermarket environmentalist

I’ve been pretty environmentally conscious since my teens – I was getting books out of the library on climate change for causal reading back when it was still called the greenhouse effect.

In the last few years I have become so overwhelmed by the scale of the problem and frustrated by greenwashing and green consumerism that I’ve almost given up trying.

These days I’d describe myself as a “supermarket environmentalist”. This description is a total contradiction in some ways, but sums up my desire to make the best everyday choices I can easily accommodate in a mainstream lifestyle.

My biggest tip is make a shopping list and stick to it. Only buy what you are going to use – and be realistic.

We all have good intentions, but putting fresh fruit and veggies in your shopping trolley doesn’t make you any healthier. You actually have to eat them! Instead, try popping some frozen fruit and veggies in your trolley to supplement the fresh. If you are doing a good job and getting through your 5+ a day there will be some on hand in the freezer. If not, there is less waste and food ready for a better week next week.

If you are after some eco-inspiration, I recommend a couple of blogs. What I really like about them is they are more action than aspiration. The bloggers are not buying their way to a “greener” lifestyle but sharing a wealth of practical advice about everyday experiences.

So be sure to check out: