Hoarding. We all do it-to a certain extent. I have way too much stuff, so much that it stresses me out. When I went to Australia I thought I only brought the bare minimum. After spending five months there I noticed that even that was too much. A lot of the things I brought only sat neglected in a corner, unused even though they had made the cut to journey across the world.
The thing is, I think a lot of my stuff has value because of how much it cost. But that brings in another issue-if I am not using it, and I don’t want it, why did I buy it in the first place? The horrifying truth of the society we live in (in the developed world at least), is that no matter where we go we are pressured to buy things. Some of these things we may actually like, even love-but we don’t need them. For me, my weakness is books. I can spend hours in a book store. I usually spend $60 every time I go into one, or at least I used to. Travelling has taught me just how impractical it is to have a book collection. I mean seriously, those things are heavy, and the weight limit on air planes is brutally unforgiving when it comes to a bag full of books. I realized that ultimately I love reading more than I love books. And that was a tough call to make. But when I started downloading books on my kindle I realized how silly it was to have so many physical copies of books. Now I can bring all the books I want wherever I want, without worrying about the weight limits.
Now, while this may have worked in my book scenario I realize that it does not necessarily work with everything. But the idea is similar. I narrowed down all of my favourite things in one category to my most favourite thing, and opted to keep that one. It is possible to do this with most things. Say you have 10 sweaters. Go through all of them and keep two: one with a pattern and one that is plain (I would consider those two different categories). Give the rest away, chances are you’ve only worn them once in the past year, if that.
Here’s a good idea if you have difficulty deciding which clothes to keep: at the beginning of the year turn all your hangers backwards (it’s only February so it’s not too late to do this now). As you wear things throughout the year you will hang them back up the normal way. By the end of the year you can see which hangers haven’t been touched. Give all those clothes away, no matter how much you like the pattern or the texture or the way it looks; you don’t wear it, you don’t need it.
Buy digital copies whenever you can. I cannot stress this enough. Yeah sure, it is nice to have the real thing in physical form, but it serves the same function. Think about it: what is going to happen to that plastic DVD case after you are dead? It is going to be somewhere on this planet for the next 500-1000 years! Is it really worth it to buy it then?
But no matter what you do to reduce the amount of things you already have, the biggest solution to hoarding is not to buy! Before I went travelling I bought so much random stuff that now I can’t even believe it! I look back and think why did I ever think I need it? And none of it was junk. It was all stuff that I really do like, but if it’s not something I am going to use every single day then I shouldn’t really buy it. Now I’m not saying don’t ever buy anything nice for yourself ever, but when you do buy here are some things you should consider first:
- How many resources did it take to make this product and ship it to me? This is so important. When you buy something you are giving your money to support whoever produced it. If you buy a shirt that was made in Vietnam and is being sold to you for $4 that means that YOU support sweatshops. Yes YOU. Don’t think “Oh but it’s already been made and was going to be made anyways so it doesn’t matter”. No, that’s not how it works. YOUR money from YOUR purchase goes into that company, and the only thing it tell them is: “There’s a demand for this so let’s make more”. Buy local whenever you can. Less shipping means less fuels burned to get that product to you.
- Where is this product going to end up when I am done with it? Those funny plastic new years crowns you bought that say 2016 on them? Where are they going to end up? Well unless you plan on time travelling I can’t see you reusing them. They are going to end up in a landfill, slowly leaking toxic gasses into the earth for the 1000 years it takes them to decompose. Our lives are so short when compared to the earth’s age. We should always think about where the things we have are going to end up when we are gone.
So, keeping these things in mind, here is what I am going to do to make sure I only buy things that I really think I will use. Whenever I see something, or think of something that I want it will go on a list. At the end of this month I will choose the one thing from the list that I want the most. This may be difficult. There may be two things that I want equally, but I will have to decide which one I want more. I’d say this is a fairly sure way of only ever buying things I will use. One thing a month is not a lot. And if the next month rolls around and I decide I still could really use that thing I wanted second most, then maybe it will be first on the list by then. And surely there will be things on the list that never get bought, because I’m not going to use them as much as I would others.
REDUCE, reuse, recycle. There is a reason reduce comes first.
People try to focus on what they want vs. what they need. But that is just silly, because if we only bought what we needed we could just buy rice, live in a shed, and have one pair of clothes. That’s not living that is surviving. We should try to focus on what we will use. If something gets used all the time until it is broken, then nobody can really say it was ever a waste.