To me this is very, very, very, very, very, very, very upsetting! A travesty, a disaster, a calamity, a tragedy and a farce. You may be able to tell I am not a fan of minimalism!
So why you may ask – well, the concept is simply promoting the creation of landfill. There is no place to get rid of things.
Take the concept of donating to charity shops. I know friends always justify their clear out by saying they will be donating things to charity. This is great – anything to prevent items going to landfill, and it is always good to support charities – enabling them to earn money.
However, I have started to question this. I donate things regularly to charities, and over the past year I have helped clear my aunt’s house – after she moved into a home. I registered my details with charities, to enable them to claim back the tax. That meant that with some charities like Age UK I received a report on the amount my items had made for the charity. In one quarter, after donating around 20 bin bags of items I found they had raised £16.53 from the sale of these items. That means many of the items were not sold. So what happened?
Basically the amount of things given far exceeds the demand for those things. Therefore charity shops have a choice. Do they send the donated items to landfill, or do they try and pass or trade on your items. An estimate is that only 10-30% of items donated are sold in charity shops1, and 30% of clothes end up directly in landfill2. The BBC3 produced an interesting article on how many of your items are traded abroad. They are sold in this country for a small amount then taken to countries such as Poland, Ghana and Pakistan and sold on for a profit. This is great as it keeps items out of landfill, however, as with many cheap imports it can put the livelihood and local economy at risk this is not much of an answer either. Whilst these sites talk mostly about clothes, the same principal applies to other items.
Therefore instead of decluttering I have a different set of “New year challenges” which I will be following and I hope you may choose one as well.
- I love shopping – there is something about the acquisition of something new that gives pleasure. However my challenge this year is not to buy. Often I try and justify things by telling myself how much I will use it (and that is normally true), but this year I am going to attempt to not purchase, unless necessary. Instead I will review what I have and see if I can “make do” with what I have. This may include being creative in how I use things – from not throwing away that favourite mug with the broken handle, but instead using it to hold pens, to using the mixer I got from a jumble sale mumble, mumble years ago that is slightly bent and has seen better days, but still keeps going.
- The advantage of this of course is that my “New year’s resolution” is to do nothing! That always makes it easy to keep.
- I am falling out of love with one of my favourite coats. I realised it was simply that the pocket was torn, and I spend half the time wearing it searching for things in the lining. I am going to mend that, and then there are those trousers… and that ornament that the cat knocked over. I might even be able to mend that mug!
- Just because something was sold for one purpose doesn’t mean it has to be used for that! A few years ago I realised I had a plethora of T-shirts I had not worn for years, and was unlikely to. Some had “gone” around the neck, others were torn, or no longer my taste or some simply didn’t fit. Rather than throw them out I utilised them to make a rather interesting throw quilt, with the pictures and logos adding memories and personalisation to a chair in need of colour!
- Obviously some of these ideas take some time and some skill. I don’t think I am too bad on the practical side. I am as happy driving a sewing machine as a drill. I have mastered the complexities of super glue and I will never be without duct tape. However there are things I can’t do, or could be better at. Therefore I will try and sign up to a course in DIY - what is there in your local area?
- Have you ever wondered where your clothes are made? By buying them are you adding to child labour/slave wages/resource and water crisis? By buying second hand, especially from a charity, you are massively reducing this concern, and ensuring your money ends up in a less morally murky place.
- Not only that you helping charities raise money
- And you are able to be smug over any concerns about clothing reducing landfill, reducing transport costs of clothes to other countries and reducing concerns on flooding poor economies with cast off items, and of course you are helping those who do want to send their things to charity shops.
- Finally you save money!
There is a reason the old catch phrase was “Reduce, Reuse – and then recycle.”
How are you going to aim to reduce your footprint this new year?