Is your stuff overflowing your closets and weighing down your spirit? Mine is. Let’s redefine our relationship with belongings and live more lightly on Earth.
Generally, I am a serial declutterer undertaking decluttering campaigns regularly, although not necessarily at regular intervals. Usually, a new wave of decluttering begins when our household disorderliness level crosses an invisible yet variable threshold. Somehow, I just know when it is time.
If you have ever completed a decluttering project, big or small, you probably understand what I am saying. Your process might be different from mine, but something triggers you begin it whether it is a jam-packed kitchen cabinet or frustration because you can no longer park your car in the garage.
My current decluttering and divestment project began late last year, but it was not because we had crossed the household messiness line. Somehow, my concerns about Christmas consumerism and the harm we are inflicting on our planet’s environment came together forcing me to look at our stuff in a new light
This is how it happened.
As the holiday season got under way last year, I was feeling relieved knowing that we would not be involved in the Christmas shopping frenzy. A few years ago, my spouse and I had opted out of exchanging Christmas gifts so there was no need to shop. We had also seriously pared down our Christmas tree and home decor collection.
Nowadays, we enjoy giving to Toys for Tots, putting up a Christmas tree, and spending time with our family.
In December, we bought and decorated a Christmas tree, hung LED Christmas lights outside on the railings of our deck, and placed a few Christmasy items about the house. To me, we had just the right amount of holiday spirit on display and I did not mind that our Christmas tree had not one gift package beneath it.
We had our Christmas stuff under control.
Then I started looking at the rest of the stuff in our home. That is when the trouble began and an uneasy feeling crept over me.
Owning Stuff Environmental Impact
I found myself peering into cupboards and closets and pondering the items filling our television entertainment center. Standing in front of my clothes closet, I wondered why I still had work outfits suitable for the corporate world that I had left in 2011. Looking in the garage was just overwhelming.
Thoughts began swirling in my head. Where did all the stuff come from? Sure, we received some items as gifts and inherited others, but we had bought most of them ourselves. Do we really need all this stuff? How much money have we spent on all these things over the years?
How many tons of raw materials were used, how many gallons of water were consumed, and how much coal, oil, and natural gas were burned to make these things? How much pollution went into the air, water, and land during mining for materials, manufacturing, and transporting these products? How many people toiled under poor working conditions or received exposure to toxic substances while making this stuff?
I was only dealing with the belongings of a family of four. Yet, there are hundreds of millions of other people who own similar kinds and amounts of stuff and billions more that aspire to it.
These thoughts and more joined the ideas that had been percolating in the back of my consciousness for several years and formed a conclusion that is hard to deny.
Earth is already struggling to survive. We cannot sustain our current level of consumerism and destruction. I have to stop. We have to stop.
Moving Beyond Decluttering
I realized that I needed to transform my relationship with possessions by moving beyond decluttering and organizing my stuff to substantially reducing the things I own and minimizing the acquisition of more stuff in the future.
Once I had made this decision, I could feel my spirit lifting even though I believe it will be difficult for me to overcome the decades of training I received on shopping, buying, and consuming courtesy of product manufacturers, stores, the U.S. government, the advertising industry, and more lately the Internet.
Even though your reasons could be completely different from mine, you might be feeling uneasy or unhappy about your relationship with your belongings, too. Is your stuff out of control or weighing down your spirit? Changing your philosophy about owning things could benefit you and the planet.
In part two of this post, we will explore ideas about moving beyond decluttering to minimizing and I will share some of the ups and downs I experienced at the beginning the transformation.
- Keeping up with the Joneses – Let’s Not
- Spring Cleaning is a Green Thing to Do
- Spring Decluttering – Game Plan
- Spring Decluttering – Deciding, Sorting, and Parting Ways
- Spring Decluttering – Clutter Free Future
- Stop Junk Mail and Get Off Catalog Mailing Lists
- Stuff – Less is More
- The Story of Stuff – Book Review