Ugh, the struggle.
If you keep something but don’t use it, it’s a waste of space.
If you toss, donate, or sell it… it winds up having been a waste of money. Unless you somehow manage to sell it for more than you spent on it… in which case, I applaud you!
So… do you waste space, or money?
That is the difficulty of going through your belongings and purging things. Either way, you end up feeling like you are wasting or have wasted something.
The only way around this, is to bring fewer material goods into your home in the first place.
That is where Joe and I are at right now. Trying to reduce first and foremost, then reuse, then recycle.
As I mentioned in a recent post, in the past few months, Joe and I have donated countless bags of clothing, old winter-wear, random kitchen crap, handbags, jewellery, old footwear, a printer, mounted deer antlers (oh Joe…), an armchair, and a couple wooden chairs. The furniture had been taken from the “free crap” pile in my building’s basement in the first place… so… back from whence it came!
We also wound up doing a second round of donations (clothing and duplicate items) after we officially combined our crap. We still have too much clothing.
I sold an old laptop, my iPad and a whole box of craft supplies that I never had time to use. Thank you Kijiji!
After we donated and sold as much as we could, we recycled or threw out a pile of useless papers I’d been hoarding in my filing cabinet, as well as old greeting cards, duplicate photos, and any other useless paper/documents.
What the heck did we keep then?
- Things that are still useful and used frequently.
- Things with strong sentimental value (heirlooms, art, photos).
- Important documents (now organized and appropriately labelled!)
- Things we love.
- The cats.
I’m looking around our living room right now, and I can’t pick out anything that doesn’t fit into one or more of those 5 categories. It feels amazing!
Very recently, Joe and I watched a Netflix documentary titled “The True Cost,” and it broke my heart. I’m not a big clothing shopper in the first place (trendy is far from my middle name), but I also don’t go to high-end clothing stores or “local-designer-focused” boutiques when I need clothes. Joe, on the other hand, shops exclusively at Value Village.
We (as a society) tend not to look beyond the price tag of clothing or any other item we buy, but this film highlighted not only the environmental impact of cheap clothing, but also the social and human costs associated with it.
I was also shocked by the negative impact of clothing donations. Joe used to manage some thrift stores, and was well aware that what isn’t sold there is sold off to third-party companies who then sell the donated clothing to people in developing countries. The impact of this cheap clothing on their own economy is devastating. People who make clothes for a living can’t sell anything because everyone can get their clothing for much less. Even people with the formerly-useful skill of sewing can’t get work in garment factories because there is no work. Nobody can compete with the prices of the donated clothes. So it creates a vicious cycle of impoverished people who must rely on the cheapest clothing.
I cried watching that film. The impact of fast-fashion and cheap material goods is absolutely devastating. These industries affect the health, families, surrounding environment, quality of life, freedom and happiness of millions of workers who have no choice but to participate in the cycle, and hope that if they work hard enough and don’t die in the process, their children won’t have to do the work they do.
After watching this, Joe and I decided that the only way we can feel good about the things we have, is if we know it was made ethically and responsibly, and/or if we really need or want it (as in, less likely to toss it in the long-run and add to the garbage heap).
That is essentially our mission. We won’t always be successful. For instance, I love stationary. I have no idea where it comes from, or who makes it, and I’m probably not going to research every single pen I buy. But we’ll do our best not to buy cheap things that will need replacing often, when we could just spend a little more on a nicer thing that we’ll get more use out of, made by an ethical, forward-thinking company.
We can also do our best to fix, repair and maintain the things we have, to make sure we’re only contributing to the garbage heap when necessary.
What are some things you have given up in the name of ethical or sustainable consumerism?
What companies do you recommend in terms of their ethics?
How’s your Valentine’s Day going? 😉