Decluttering your home, your life and saving the planet!

Have you ever walked past a clothing store and seen a t-shirt in the display and just HAD to have it? Not because you have no clothes in your cupboard back home, just because it was too good to resist? For that sudden excitement of owning something new!

An innocent afternoon shop may not be as innocent as you think!

It’s a great feeling most can agree, but let’s take a step back and review this consumeristic nature of ours. I’m going to throw five statistics at you, take a moment and see how you feel about them.

Title:                12 Crazy Stats About Clutter [Go Figure]

300,000The average amount of items in an American home
80%The portion of items in an American house that are rarely or never used
99%The percentage amount of materials used for producing consumer goods that are used up, thrown out, or obsolete within 6 months of purchase
100%Percentage increase in material goods consumption over the last 50 years
172%Increase in the size of an average home in America since 1950

Of course, these statistics will vary according to the country you live in, but it gives you an idea about the state of our modern day consumer culture.  

A book I started reading recently – Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari- describes one of the biggest differences between our predecessors and modern day humans is the amount of possessions we own. If a historian was to uncover today’s civilization 200 years down the lane, he or she would very accurately be able to describe our lives simply from the amount of possessions we had. In contrast, they have deciphered very little when it comes to our closest ancestors.

Modern day humans are obsessed with owning material things. If you’ve moved houses recently, you will know exactly what I mean! And the worst part is that we hardly realise the negatives this material obsession brings to our person. For example:

  • The direct hit it brings to our finances
  • The stress of having to store and manage all these possessions
  • The drain it has on our energy and mind because of the constant stimuli from multiple sources

And lastly, the significant effect it has on our environment. According to the statistics above, if only 20% of what we buy is being used effectively, we have 80% extra items just lying around. And where does it normll? To landfills or for incineration with only a small portion being recycled or repurposed. Global waste disposal systems are failing our planet resulting in pollution and climate change. In simple words, the earth cannot sustain our waste.   

From where I see it, it looks like this:

Our minds are cluttered, Our homes are cluttered, Our earth is cluttered.

A major overhaul is needed!

Luckily, this is not an impossible feat!

Caring for the environment doesn’t mean going minimalist or zero-waste cold turkey. In fact, I would highly discourage that as it is difficult to achieve and would end up demoralizing you instead.

Where do we start in this journey of decluttering our homes, our life and saving the planet? As Jenni from the Marine Education Centre likes to say do small things perfectly rather than big things imperfectly. You can also start out simple with these two great tips!

  1. Declutter

Step 1 – You need 4 boxes – Keep, Donate, Recycle, Discard

Step 2 – Ask yourself these 5 questions when you look at something you own

  • When is the last time I used this?
  • Would I buy another one of these right now?
  • Do I own another item that does the exact same thing?
  • Do I plan to use this in the future?
  • Can someone else make better use of this than I can

Step 3 – Put each item in the respective box and deal with it accordingly. A simple search on the internet will give you local options of where to donate, recycle and discard items responsibly.

  1. Conscious consumerism

Ask yourself these 7 questions when you are about to purchase something:

  • Where is this product made and shipped from? The further away it is manufactured, the bigger its carbon footprint. Search for local alternatives instead
  • What is it made from? Opt for products that are made from biodegradable materials e.g. wood, bamboo, cotton, hemp, cork
  • Where does it go at the end of its life cycle? Can it be repaired, reused, recycled or repurposed?
  • Is the packaging compostable, biodegradable, reusable or recyclable?
  • What does the manufacturing company do to help reduce the impact it’s creating on the environment?
  • How often will you use the product?
  • Can you buy it secondhand instead?

By decluttering and becoming a conscious consumer, you will greatly improve your own life and be part of saving our planet! 

So I’ll end with this, next time you see that cute t-shirt in a shop’s display, take a moment and admire it but don’t bring it home and carry it around with you for the next 30 years! Or even worse, wear it a few times before it ends up in a landfill!

Harveen Bansal is based in Nairobi and volunteers for the Conservation Education Society. Recently transitioning from the corporate world to marine conservation, Harveen is passionate about protecting our oceans.

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