Taken July 18, 2008, in Kelowna, BC.
July is “Enough stuff, already!” month here, and we’ve slowly been decluttering our house. We’re finding things we’d forgotten about or misplaced. We’re making a point of using what we already have (which gets much easier as we discover just what it is we do own) instead of buying new things. We’re sharing what we don’t use anymore with others.
How many times have I bought something I already own because (a) I don’t remember that I have one or (b) I can’t find it? How many times have I bought something I could make or fix because it’s just too much trouble to find the stuff or clear the room I need to do it? How many things have I bought when there’s something I could make do with right here already? How much stuff have we hung onto that could be used by others, so that they buy new things while ours sit in a box unused? How often have I walked away from my house because I’m overwhelmed or unhappy with it, and gotten in the car to escape? How many questions can I write in one paragraph?
So far, decluttering has had the usual green benefits for us. By cleaning out the hand-me-down boxes in Child Two’s closet, we found enough summer clothes in the right size that we didn’t have to buy anything new for her. And when someone posted in our local Freecycle group that her children had become obsessed with My Little Pony, we were able to give her Child Two’s collection and she didn’t have to go out and buy new plastic toys with their associated overpackaging. Instead of replacing our aging plastic kitchen storage containers, we’re making do with the five boxes of mason jars which, for some unknown reason, moved all the way to California and all the way back with us and have been living in the shadows of our shed (I prefer the jars to plastic anyway).
But it’s also having some less obvious effects. The less cluttered our house is, the more enjoyable it is to spend time here and the easier it is to enjoy the things we have. With our summer battle cry of “Use it or lose it,” we’re making a point of enjoying the things we’re finding: the games that got buried in the back of the cupboard, the DVDs the kids got for Christmas that still have the plastic on them, the boxes (and boxes) of unread books. Not only does this keep us from buying more, but it makes home a nicer place to be. More time at home means fewer car trips and less shopping for even more stuff.
Most importantly for the long term, I’m finding that as I put the work into decluttering and as I find out what I already have, I don’t want to buy more and more stuff. I don’t want my house to get more and more crowded. I want to make the projects I bought all the supplies for but haven’t gotten around to. I want to read the books I bought months or years ago with such anticipation. I want to spend time fixing the house and garden up instead of escaping.
And I am much more aware of how much stuff we’ve bought for the wrong reasons. Instead of providing enjoyment, that stuff results in frustration (as I trip over it) or guilt (as I realize we’ve hardly used it) or despair (as I wonder if there will ever be room for a bed in the guestroom).
A neighbour was commenting to me the other day that we could build another story on our house without blocking anyone’s view—in fact, the previous owner had plans drawn up to do just that. Right now, the stuff we own doesn’t fit well in our house. But this is not because we need a bigger house, nor do we need to use a bunch of resources to build and maintain more space or to buy complicated storage solutions. We simply need less stuff.