I struggle with minimalism. Not only do I think there is an under-discussed amount of privilege involved, I just plain stink at it. Case in point? I wrote my come-to-shoe-gods confessional post months ago, and I still have too many shoes. But it’s not just that I can’t get over the sunk costs or the off-chance that I might actually wear something
again once. It’s also the fact that I have a hard time reconciling my need to declutter with my burgeoning eco-awareness.
As I open cabinets, drawers, and closets, I am hit with a torrent of emotions. Mostly, I feel disgust and frustration for kowtowing to consumerism the way that I did. When I’m face-to-face with things I love, though, I’m actually quite pleased, even if things aren’t supposed to make me happy. Once I push past the emotions and get ready to bid adieu to my excess, I find myself feeling stumped.
Assuredly, the easiest thing to do would be to bag everything up I haven’t used recently and put it out on the curb. Out of sight, out of mind. But I’m not sure I’m totally okay with out-of-house, into-landfill as the panacea for clearing out my crap.
Lately, I’ve been consumed with the notion of how much waste our house produces. Once a point of pride, garbage day now makes me hang my head. In days gone by, we used to put out one bag of trash, maybe two if we had done some entertaining or work around the house. Now, though, we can easily fill up 2-3 bags, sometimes even an entire can. Part of this has to do with having a baby (and conceding to convenience), but another part of it also has to do with my attempt to declutter.
I posted on Twitter that I was going to attempt the #MinsGame this month to keep myself accountable and to create an actual metric for my goal posts. Otherwise, I’m all like, “Yup, got rid of some stuff” or “Nope, kept a bunch of junk”. Not helpful. And while the hashtag challenge has kept me more motivated, I’m also fearful of the fact that it is leading to more waste.
Before I toss anything, I consider other possibilities: sell, donate, or repurpose. But what happens to things like half-used bottles of nail polish? I can only paint so many keys (thanks, Pinterest). What about hole-y socks? Sure, I could darn the occasional hole or repurpose it as a Swiffer cover, but what happens to Mr. P’s pairs that look like Swiss cheese? When it comes to things like nail polish, using it up feels much less wasteful. But where do you draw the line? What exactly is used up? An empty bottle is a perfect indicator for something meant to be consumed, but what about things like socks or pajamas or t-shirts? Do I let them go until they disintegrate? That seems equal parts laughable and unreasonable. I’m not even sure I will live that long. But after I have enough tomato ties and cleaning rags, is it time to toss the rest?
This kind of mental gymnastics certainly slows down the decluttering process, sometimes to a screeching halt. Yet, the entire purpose of the #MinsgGame challenge is to part with the requisite number of items by the day’s end. It can be so frustrating that I find myself giving up, resigning myself to living with all of the stuff, making feeble attempts to use up all the luminescent green drops of my Who the Shrek are You? OPI nail polish (PSA: yes, it’s a real color, and yes I also bought Funky Dunkey). Other times, I make bold declarations like, Once I have less stuff, I’ll be more eco-conscious. Then, I ruthlessly cull the half-used, long-forgotten lipsticks in the back of my bathroom drawer.
As I implement the process of decluttering with more integrity, I can’t help but wonder if, in my haste to have less, I’m creating more waste. The best solution would be to have never bought all the things in the first place. As for the second best thing? I’m not sure if this sort of speed streamlining is the best option.
So Tell Me…What is your secret to owning less without making more waste?
PS – I’ll do a full #MinsGame update at the end of the month. Days 1-7 went swimmingly well. The wheels fell off on days 8 and 9, and I’m currently trying to get back on track.