I recently watched a 2007 documentary called The Story of Stuff and I was blown away. The narrator stated “99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport—99 percent of the stuff we run through this system is trashed within 6 months.” That is a frightening statistic. Especially considering all the resources used to make the stuff and the state of the landfills where a lot of it ends up.
When I began decluttering I knew I had wasted a lot of stuff, things that were easily given away or simply trashed (probably within 6 months of purchase). However, I had also wasted a lot of time and money. Time wasted shopping, cleaning and moving all these things and money wasted that could have been spent toward something of real value. This really got me thinking, “What can I do right now to help eliminate waste and benefit both me and my planet?” Therefore, I am choosing to focus on these 3 areas: time, money, and trash.
I can say since I made some lifestyle changes and began living with less, I have significantly decreased time wasted shopping for stuff. However, I still waste time. If I made a list of activities I enjoyed doing or goals I wanted to achieve, I’m pretty sure mindlessly scrolling through social media would not be on that list. Yet, time after time, I find myself sitting, eyes glazed over and my finger tapping and swiping, looking at things I’m not really interested in. I read about an app in the Technology Issue of Simplify Magazine which would change that. In an article called Consume Less, Create More, Brian Gardner suggests using the Moment app to help avoid drains on attention. I downloaded the free version and in less than half a day I had been on my phone over 2 hours! I thought of all I could accomplish in 2 hours and opportunities I had missed while on my phone. After a week, I upgraded to the full version and cut time spent on my phone in half. I also increased awareness of when my phone was in my hand so I could put it down and get on with my life. Time is the one I can’t get back so I will make Izey Victoria Odiase’s words my mantra. She says, “Work on purpose, play on purpose, rest on purpose. Do not let yourself or anyone else waste your time.”
3 things I can do now to stop wasting time:
• Keep my phone out of reach and continue to monitor use with the Moment app to become aware of when and why I am on my phone.
• Read a real book or my Kindle Paperwhite instead of the app on my phone. This lessens the temptation to wander to apps where I waste time.
• Make a list of 10 things I want to do on paper. When I find myself wasting time, I will get up and spend time doing something on that list.
I’ve spent the last 20 years in education and am pretty naive about how things work in the business world. Therefore, I’m trying to become a more informed consumer and not be duped by flashy advertising into believing I need to consume more and more to be happy. I recently learned about planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence. These are business practices used to get consumers to purchase a new product because the old one no longer works properly or is no longer cool. The Story of Stuff explains it this way, “Planned obsolescence is another word for “designed for the dump.” It means they actually make stuff that is designed to be useless as quickly as possible so we will chuck it and go buy a new one.” “Perceived obsolescence convinces us to throw away stuff that is still perfectly useful.” These strategies have been around for decades but seem to be becoming more extreme, especially in today’s technology and fashion worlds. By being informed, I can stand my ground when the next marketing campaign tries to grab me.
5 things I can do now to save money:
• I can give up “cool” for a bigger life, just like Joy Netanya Thompson.
• Make only planned purchases.
• Have weeks or months of no spending. Cait Flanders did a whole year if you’re up for an extreme challenge!!
• Purchase quality items instead of cheap and disposable ones.
• Complete my capsule wardrobe.
My family of 3 averages about 1 kitchen sized bag of trash per day. To me it seems like quite a bit. Most of it is related to food – the food itself, forgotten in the back of the fridge and no longer recognizable, and food packaging, boxes, plastic containers, plastic wrappers, paper towels and yes folks, paper plates. I have been making my way through these documentaries to get more ideas for decreasing waste. One that really amazed me was the 2009 documentary, No Impact Man. In this film, Colin Bevan and his family spend a pretty radical year attempting to live in the city making as little environmental impact as possible. While I’m not ready to give up electricity and my car, I can make simple changes. I have started looking around my house and just in my pantry are a number of things I have purchased, intended for some Pinterest recipe. Unfortunately, many times these products end up in the trash, out of date, never opened.
5 things I can do now to reduce trash:
• Purchase only foods I know my family will eat.
• Get a water filter.
• Purchase items with very little or no packaging.
• Shop with reusable bags.
• Use real plates and cloth napkins and towels.
Hopefully, a few small changes will begin to have a cumulative effect with big results for a more simple, more purposeful, and more joyful life.