On the topic of “stuff” and “waste”

Since the beginning of 2011, the start of my teaching career, I have moved house five times. With each move, I have been afforded the opportunity to go through my possessions and keep them to a minimum, with the aim of making the packing and moving process as painless as it can be.

The latest home had minimal space to store things, which led us to believe that we really didn’t own that much stuff. In addition, knowing that we would have to pay for storage for 2017, we decided to sell about half of our furniture which we were able to do successfully thanks to Gumtree, (Jason even managed to sell a used rubbish bin for $10, can you believe it?) and we donated three bags of our clothing to the op shop. I took books that I knew I would never read again to the “book nook” at the local shopping centre. We sorted into three piles, take with us, storage, recycle, donate and finally bin. The phrases “if in doubt, throw it out”, “if you haven’t used in twelve months, bin it” were never far from my mind.

There was something deeply satisfying about this ruthless cull of items, the feeling of stripping away of all material possessions and setting off into the distance with a couple of bags by our side and a couple of boxes in a storage facility, freedom from the trappings of the consumerist lifestyle. However, when it came down to it, there were two things that prevented me from discarding with wild abandon.

The first was items of sentimentality. Every time I’ve moved, there has been one box that never gets touched, rarely gets looked at except when it comes time to move, but I can’t bear to throw away. It’s the box of trinkets, letters, photos from years gone past. Relics like my old game boy and mini disc player from Japan, items that conjure up memories of a different time and are nice to reminisce over from time to time but take up space and serve little other practical purpose. A good piece of advice I once heard was to take a photo of these items for posterity and then get rid of them.

The second was waste. Little bottles of hotel shampoo and conditioner and body lotions, random pantry items, jars of tea, yet to be used candles, all stuff that we neither wanted to store or take with us, or throw straight into landfill unused. We have worked really hard together to reduce our ecological footprint with our worm farm, keep cups, avoidance of single use plastics and elimination of food wastage since we moved in together and my conscience was prodding me when it came to this unwanted stuff.

But….sometimes you just get over it. After a week of packing and moving our stuff to our storage space we were tired, wanted to get going on our journey and had limited options to get rid of unwanted stuff fast. So more than a few garbage bags ended up in landfill and the food and toiletries that we could use on our trip are with us, even though it’s resulted in bulking up our load. At the end of the day it will get used eventually and money will be saved.

The roller door on our 2×3 metre storage space that we rented and thought would be plenty of room for our leftover belongings only just scraped past the last couple of items that we realised would need to go in there as we brought it down. Vacuum, hand mower, bag of cleaning items, planter box and a handful of other items that we realised “what about this??” at the eleventh hour of packing.

So at the end of the day, we still have a lot of “stuff”. But we have reduced it by at least half and what we still have is useful. Going forward, I think we will be far more mindful about what we accumulate and be more proactive in using what we have rather than going out and buying more, particularly when it comes to food and toiletries. I’m loving the concept of stores such as “The Source” where you can buy as much or as little as you want, meaning you don’t end up with a jar of cloves that you use once and throw out a year later. Actually, I ended up bringing our jar of cloves with us. Mulled wine anyone?

I’ll be interested to see how I feel about this topic at the end of this journey.

 

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