Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Bin, Sell, Donate. The Problem Of Decluttering.

These posts are helping me so much in writing out the story of my stuff, how it grew, how it has followed me around the world, and why it clouds my mind every moment of the day.

Having read the Minimalists’ book Everything that Remains this summer, I am newly inspired and itching to get at my stuff, ready to be free of the clutter of my mind and storage unit. Ready to do Tiny living, minimalism my way.

However, there’s one problem. Where to put it when I let go of it.

Since year 6 when we studied recycling and the environment, I have been an Environmental Queen. Nothing goes into landfill unless it absolutely has to. In my travels, I’ve always taken unwanted clothes and other things, even things that probably wouldn’t sell, to charity. Or else it’s gone in recycling or in the bin. As time went by, and Al Gore made The Inconvenient Truth, I was at my peak of carbon foot-printing – living in the Bahamas, flying around in private jets and flying commercial long distances, driving massive SUVs, buying extra stuff from every continent I travelled to because island life lacked good shopping, and worst of all, throwing everything directly out to landfill. The Bahamas as a bunch of tiny islands in the Caribbean just doesn’t have the capacity to recycle. I remember being so sure that people like the ones I worked for were slowly killing the planet, and taking me down with them.

Since returning to Australia, I have done all the right things to return my footprint back to a more even keel. Lived in share-houses and small apartments. Cycled and walked instead of owning a car. Bought local and natural or organic. Lived in the city. Used less electricity. Reduced. Reused. Recycled.

My rubbish/recycling program is on the super conscientious side of things. I operate on the ‘no rubbish to landfill’ aspiration. Not quite zero waste but very intentional nonetheless. Everything gets recycled and I do whatever I can to reduce waste. Portable things like lunches have reusable glass or good quality plastic containers. Each year I make a new goal to use less disposable things, so I now use washable cloths when cleaning, hankies instead of tissues, print university work sparingly and double-sided, etc. Paper and daily recycling of grocery waste goes with the local council pickup. Coles supermarket gets my soft plastics and the occasional plastic shopping bag. Batteries and ink cartridges go to Officeworks. If I didn’t live in so many different places, my compost would be collected too. Generally with this much effort, my landfill contribution is quite small.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Yup. The biggest issue, keeping stuff in storage is finding where to put it when I rid myself of ownership. Littered near the front of my storage are sorted piles ready to go: the giveaway on Gumtree pile; the sell pile; the e-waste recycling pile; the charity pile. Fortunately there are rubbish, recycling and now charity bins on the property, so the charity pile doesn’t last long. But time to sell or giveaway, the ability to move large amounts of recyclables and the money to replace things or purchase whatever tool is required to further reduce my collection are constant blocks. Mental blocks that grind my progress to a dead halt.

I hate it, but I can see it and admit to it freely. That is the first step, surely.

Money is the issue right now. Unemployed as a recent graduate, I have the time to sort through things and make some progress, but lack of housing, money and certainty prevent me from doing things like getting a new scanner to rapidly scan interesting recipes from the scores of unused cookbooks I have and sell them. Or buying a small tv and VCR to review my video tapes and send them off to e-waste recycling. Or buying new clothes and donating the ones I’m sick of wearing. Or selling my mattress and bedding – what if I find a place without a bed and need these things? Same goes for my bike? I just lack any certainty for the immediate future.

If I flip the coin and were to return to international living, I’ll have the money but won’t be around to sort things out, or have the time if I use my holidays for that. I could walk away and choose to live in blissful ignorance and deal with it later, but I’m still paying for storage and still in the same position, just delaying the inevitable. *sighs in exasperation*

Maybe I can try the ripple effect. Sell one thing that won’t get much money, and use the money to do something marginally more expensive, sort that out, sell what I can next. Like, I could trade my old printer for a new one. Use it for scanning. Sell my cookbooks at the book exchange. Fix my broken camera. Sell that.

I guess this is one of the real roadblocks that keeps me in a vicious cycle without making progress. What about you, what are your roadblocks? How do you feel about decluttering and the recycle/donate/sell issue? Does anyone share my difficulties? Please comment below. It is issues like this that make me want to talk to others in similar situations.

Hope you’re liking the blog so far! I feel like I’m starting to get into the big issues now, and in the coming weeks will continue to declutter and discuss the process with you. A problem shared is a problem solved, right?

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