Since starting this blog in February 2018, I have slowly become more and more aware of the climate crisis and my environmental impact. What started out as a blog about decluttering some of my stuff, has shifted towards a greater focus on sustainability and reducing my carbon footprint.
So it was a great start to the year when I found out that I had been accepted on the Climate Ambassador programme. This programme is co-ordinated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce to give training and support to approximately 80 new climate activities this year. I am really excited to be taking part and I am really looking forward to meeting some of the others on the programme and taking some positive action in my community.
I also decided to join in on the ‘Nothing New In ’22’ challenge that is organised by the author and climate activist Jen Gale who wrote the book Sustainable(ish). I really like her practical and imperfect approach to sustainability. I didn’t put extra pressure on myself by including the rest of my family on this challenge, so I just did it for myself. And I wasn’t sure exactly how long I would do it for, but having completed January, I will continue with this challenge. The new diary that I eventually located in Vincent’s Rathmines is entitled ‘One Day At A Time’ which couldn’t be more appropriate!
Some of the Positive Actions Taken:
Litter picking in Marley Park on 4 January.
Recycled 47 Christmas Cards into Christmas tags for next year.
I re-used two postage envelopes from my stash of envelopes to send presents.
With the children, we made 4 birthday cards for my sister’s birthday.
I bought book ends for my son for his bedroom in The Dundrum Village Charity Shop (Women’s Aid).
My daughter and I did a second litter pick locally on 16 January.
I bought The Importance of Being Aisling and The Shoestring Club for myself in Vincent’s.
Tried Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Southern-Style Chicken nuggets for a Meatless Monday meal.
I bought a Russell Crowe DVD in Vincent’s Dundrum for a friend for her birthday.
I bought four cards for €3 for my stockpile of cards in Vincent’s in Rathmines.
I bought Mum Hacks book in Oxfam Rathmines for €3.
I started my Climate Ambassador training on 21st January.
I went on a third litter pick with a friend and the kids on 22nd January around Marley Park.
I sent my sister a beautiful bird box, homemade card and Iris brooch (Vincents Terenure) for her birthday in a reused box.
I finally found a beautiful ‘One Day at A Time’ 2022 Diary in Vincent’s Rathmines for €1.
I bought 8 children’s books in Oxfam Rathmines for my kids to gift to them later in the year.
I received more old Christmas cards from fellow Freecyclers to recycle into gift tags/cards for next year.
I bought an old game from my childhood ‘Go For Broke’ for €2.50 in Sue Ryder Charity Shop in Blackrock to play with my kids this weekend.
I think I have made a positive start to the year. I think by joining in on the Nothing New In ’22 challenge, I became very conscious of my purchases and it made me look and plan ahead for the rest of the year by stockpiling certain things like cards and gifts. So as a result, my home is looking a little bit on the messy side! So next month I think I will be doing some decluttering and I need to think and plan want I would like to achieve this year as a Climate Ambassador.
I focused my attention on clothes and fashion in Feb and March with the intention on learning more about the problems with this industry, and to try to be more sustainable when it comes to clothes/fashion in my own life.
I really enjoyed doing a deeper dive into this area. On the learning piece, I think The True Cost (which is available to watch on YouTube) is by far the best documentary for explaining the problems with the fast fashion industry; environmental, health and social justice issues. It was about my fourth time to watch it and it never fails to make an impact. The Rana Plaza collapse and the unethical working practices in garment factories is really heart wrenching.
I watched the Textile Mountain Film for the first time which explored the sale of second hand clothes to developing countries. It looked at the massive waste issues this is causing as well as the detrimental impact to local businesses.
I also listened/re-listened to various podcasts and webinars. I can recommend the fashion related podcasts done by The Book of Leaves, The Climate Ambassador and The Climate Queens. Also the Green Fridays 4 Future webinar with The Useless Project is was also well worth watching. It is full of information on the problems and on the solutions.
Learning about the detrimental impact of the fast fashion industry not only on people’s lives and health but on the environment is really overwhelming at first. Initially when I watched The True Cost (around 4 years ago), it didn’t really sink in that my fashion purchases was contributing to this problem. But now I have fully digested it and the message is really simple – our over consumption of clothes needs to stop and that the business of making clothes needs to change for the better. People should not be dying so that we can wear the latest trend. Workers need to be paid a living wage and to work in safe and healthy working conditions.
So what next? Personally I’m not going to be buying any new clothes this year. I already got through January, February and March without needing to buy anything new. I will be wearing all the clothes that I already own, looking after them and caring for them. That said, I will continue to explore pre-loved fashion. While I have been in a lot of charity shops in the past year or so, I have been primarily focused on the homeware and books. So I’ve enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone and looking at the clothes in a new light. I went on a charity shop crawl with a friend which was very enjoyable. I also bought a gorgeous Phase Eight dress on Depop for €16 (including postage) which I wore to a friend’s wedding. I was absolutely delighted with it.
I love the pin and brooch that I bought from 100 Percent Re-loved. I will continue to wear it when I am showing off some of my pre-loved clothing purchases. Hopefully it will help to open up the conversation about buying pre-loved and try to dispel any stigma or misconceptions.
On caring for my clothes and prolonging the life of our clothes, I’ve been educating myself on care instructions and following them! I’ve been drying clothes on my clothes horse instead of using the dryer. I’ve also invested in a beautiful darning mushroom to help with mending my clothes.
When it comes to the Climate Ambassador programme and my climate actions this year, I do have thoughts about doing some sort of event focused on fashion. Since starting to look at clothes in charity shops, I do think the larger sizes that I wear, are in short supply. So will be exploring this idea more in the coming months. X
Saint Patrick’s Day on Tuesday saw our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar give an incredible speech. As he said ‘This is a Saint Patrick’s Day like no other.’ I have to admit, the reality of this pandemic set in for me during his speech and I shed a tear or two.
National Address by the Taoiseach, St Patrick’s Day
This is a Saint Patrick’s Day like no other. A day that none of us will ever forget.
Today’s children will tell their own children and grandchildren about the national holiday in 2020 that had no parades or parties… but instead saw everyone staying at home to protect each other.
In years to come… let them say of us… when things were at their worst… we were at our best. Our country is making big demands of our healthcare staff… big demands of every single one of us.
Tonight I want you to know why these actions are being taken and what more needs to be done.
We are in the midst of a global and national emergency – a pandemic – the likes of which none of us has seen before. So far the number of cases in Ireland has been relatively small. However, we believe that number will rise to fifteen thousand cases or more by the end of the month and rise further in the weeks thereafter.
The vast majority of us who contract Covid-19 will experience a mild illness… but some will be hospitalised and sadly some people will die.
We cannot stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back. We can, as you have heard by now – flatten the curve. But only if everyone takes sustained action. Nothing less will do.
We all need to take steps to reduce close human contact. That is how the virus is spread. Not just at public gatherings or public places but also in our own homes… places of leisure and work. Large public gatherings are cancelled. All pubs and bars are shut.
We have also asked people to curtail or cancel social gatherings like parties, weddings and other celebrations. I know these choices won’t be easy, but they are necessary.
More will be required in the coming weeks to reduce the spread of the virus. At all times we will be guided by and take the expert advice from our Public Health Emergency Team led by the Chief Medical Officer.
We will always put your life and your health ahead of any other concern. All resources that we have… financial and human… are being deployed to serve this great national effort.
We are watching what’s happening around the world and will learn from the experience of other countries affected by Covid-19 before us – what works and what doesn’t.
We know the best strategies focus on testing… contact tracing and social distancing. So, that is our strategy. We will keep our essential services… supply chains and utilities operating.
Many of you want to know when this will be over. The truth is we don’t know yet. This Emergency is likely to go on well beyond March 29th. It could go on for months into the summer so we need to be sensible in the approach we take.
We will deploy our full resources to ensure that essential shops… workplaces and public transport can continue to operate. People will still need to buy goods and avail of personal services in the weeks and months ahead.
However… to do so… we need your co-operation and that of business and industry to make social distancing workable. This may mean changing how you do your business… but we will work with you to find safe and creative ways to do this.
This may mean adjusted opening hours… Staggering breaks… phone calls rather than meetings… and if possible working from home.
As you plan your life it will mean avoiding unnecessary journeys. Shopping online from local businesses and getting things delivered rather than physically going to the premises.
In short – we are asking people to come together as a nation by staying apart from each other. The most basic messages of washing your hands properly and practicing good hygiene around sneezing and coughing are still the most important.
And… if you have a new cough that isn’t going away or a high temperature… stay at home and phone your doctor. A test will be arranged for you.
At a certain point… we will advise the elderly and people who have a long-term illness to stay at home for several weeks. We are putting in place the systems to ensure that if you are one of them, you will have food, supplies and are checked on. We call this ‘cocooning’ and it will save many lives… particularly the most vulnerable… the most precious in our society.
It’s going to be very difficult to stay apart from our loved ones. Most grandparents just want to give their grandkids a hug and a kiss – but as hard as this is… we need to keep our physical distance to stop the virus. Technology can help – check in with your loved ones on Skype or Facetime and promise them you’ll see them again soon.
We’ve already seen our fantastic community spirit spring into action. Phone your neighbours… see if they need help… and make sure those who are living alone are not left alone.
To all the young people watching – I know you are bored and probably a bit fed up. You want to see your friends and you might even be wishing you were back at school. You’re going to have to wait a while longer for that.
I hope you remember that this time is tough on your parents as well.
So I’m asking you to ask your parents at least once a day what you can do to help them. Keep up your schoolwork and call your grandparents. Keep up your schoolwork… call your grandparents and try not to fight with your brothers and sisters.
Like you, my family has spoken about little else in recent days. My partner… my two sisters… and both their husbands are working in the health service – here in Ireland and in the UK. They are all apprehensive. They have heard the stories from China and Italy of hospitals being overwhelmed and medical staff getting sick.
I am so proud of all of them. Not all superheroes wear capes… some wear scrubs and gowns. All of our healthcare workers need us to do the right thing in the weeks ahead.
Our community services and hospitals are being tooled up. Essential equipment is on the way. Retired staff are returning to service. People are training for changed roles. This is the calm before the storm – before the surge. And when it comes – and it will come – never will so many ask so much of so few. We will do all that we can to support them.
I am also grateful to the many people who have joined this great national effort. Not just our healthcare staff but also our army cadets… librarians and civil servants who are learning how to do contact tracing.
The early education and childcare workers offering to look after the children of our front line staff so they can go to work. The teachers and lecturers finding new innovative ways to teach students on-line and putting together contingency plans for the Leaving Cert and College exams.
The people who are stocking our shelves every day… and those who are serving customers. Our hauliers… who leave their families on a Sunday evening and travel across the continent to ensure that we have the products, medicine and equipment that we need. All who have kept our supply chain moving… we thank them… a different kind of frontline service.
Our journalists and broadcasters who are helping to inform and educate. All are deserving of our respect and thanks.
Coronavirus is already having a deep impact on jobs and economic activity and will continue to do so.
Some people watching will have seen their jobs lost… businesses closed… or their working hours reduced. More will be worried that this might happen to them too… especially as we do not know when the Emergency will end.
I know this is causing huge stress to you and your families… on top of fear of the virus. While we do not have all the answers now… we are doing and will do all we can to help you through the time ahead.
You will receive income support as quickly and efficiently as possible… and when we are through the worst… we will work as hard as possible to get people back to work and get business open again.
Everyone in our society must show solidarity in this time of national sacrifice. For those who have lost their jobs and had their incomes reduced temporarily… there must be help and understanding from those who can give it… particularly the banks… government bodies and utilities.
We went into this crisis with a strong economy and the public finances in good order. We have the capacity and credit rating to borrow billions if we need to.
I am confident that our economy will bounce back… but the damage will be significant and lasting. The bill will be enormous and it may take years to pay it. The government has already signed off a 3 billion euro package for health, social welfare and business – we will take further action as needed.
Tonight I know many of you are feeling scared and overwhelmed. That is a normal reaction, but we will get through this and we will prevail.
We need to halt the spread of the virus but we also need to halt the spread of fear. So please rely only on information from trusted sources. From Government… from the HSE… from the World Health Organisation and from the national media. Do not forward or share messages that are from other, unreliable sources. So much harm has already been caused by those messages… and we must insulate our communities and the most vulnerable from the contagion of fear. Fear is a virus in itself.
Please take regular breaks from watching news and media, and from consuming social media. Constantly scrolling on your phone or obsessively following the latest developments… is not good for anyone. Look after your mental health and well-being as well as your physical health.
Tonight on our national holiday I also want to send a message around the world that we are all in this together. To the people of China, Spain and Italy who have suffered untold heartbreak and loss – we are with you. To all of those across the world who have lost a loved one to this virus – we are with you. To all those living in the shadow of what is to come – we are with you.
Viruses pay no attention to borders… race… nationality or gender. They are the shared enemy of all humanity. So it will be the shared enterprise of all humanity that finds a treatment and a vaccine that protects us.
Tonight I send a message of friendship and of hope from Ireland to everyone around the world this Saint Patrick’s Day.
So two weeks ago I wrote about the morning shopping with the kids to various charity shops in our local area. On that trip, one of the kids bought The Magic Toothfairy Game for €2. When we took it out to play with this week, we discovered that although it had a lot of its contents, it was missing a few essential things from it. This was a little disappointing but unfortunately that is the risk you run buying second hand from charity shops and part of the reason why people are put off from shopping there. Ok so it was only €2 but that isn’t the point.
During the week The Society of St.Vincent De Paul in Ireland who run ‘Vincent’s’ charity shops all over the country, put up a good post on Instagram with three questions to ask yourself when deciding what to donate:
I think these questions are great:
1) Am I donating this stuff because I know it will help someone else? Are you getting rid of it because you no longer need it or is it rubbish? When it comes to donating items, one mans trash may not be another mans treasure if it is indeed trash! You should dispose of things responsibly and not give that job to charity shops. They have enough work to do already.
2) Does this item need repairs? Is it chipped, cracked, broken? It costs charity shops money to dispose of broken items. Do you honestly believe someone would pay money for your chipped vase? You might get away with it if is Ming Dynasty, but otherwise you should find an alternative home for it.
3) Would you be able to look someone in the eye and gift them the item you are donating? If the answer is no then you shouldn’t donate it to a charity shop. Would you be able to give a child a board game with missing pieces as a gift without being a bit embarrassed? My answer to that question would be no, especially when the pieces are essential to playing the game.
So this board game shouldn’t have been donated without all the pieces. Yet it had most of its pieces? Is it not useful to someone? I think the answer is yes, but the place for it is not in a charity shop.
Part of the problem is that people only know about these two ends of the scale when getting rid of their stuff – either donate it to a charity shop or put it in the bin. There is an alternative which I was not aware of up until about two years ago and that is communities such as the Zero Waste Ireland Freecycle community who have a group page on Facebook. This is a community of people all over Ireland who post on this group both things that they are getting rid of and things that they are searching for. There are other more local groups such as this around the country but this one and the Zero Waste Baby/Children Freecycle group are the two which I have used.
They have been extremely useful in finding a home for things that I know would not do that well in a charity shop. Things like:
Kids Clothes – I’ve read plenty of articles about the excess amount of second hand clothes and how only a small percentage of clothes donated actually make it onto the racks at the charity shop. So I prefer to offer them on Freecycle as a ‘bundle’ to someone who will use them.
Chipped/Cracked/Broken Stuff – I’ve managed to find homes for a range of things that were not in perfect condition to say the least. I’ve given furniture that is the worse for wear, chipped crocery, jigsaws that were missing pieces, games missing pieces, opened or slightly used toiletries, food that was past its best before date, rusty old biscuit tins, old tester paint pots and a broken musical jewellery box to name but a few. People in this community are very creative and they upcycle or find alternative uses for things. They are conscious of reducing waste in whatever way they can, so I have been able to find homes for most things quite easily.
Bed Sheets – Any of the bed linen that I am getting rid of has been in good condition, otherwise I would bring it to the textile recycling centre. But I’m hesitant to give them to a charity shop as they are not the sort of thing that I believe would easily sell. Maybe I’m mistaken but I figure by offering them on Freecycle then I know they are being used and not just going to textile recycling straight away.
Kids Toys – I’ve only given toys to charity shops that are complete. If they are missing anything then I find another home for them on Freecycle. I’m currently trying to find a home for The Magic Tooth Fairy Game and the ideal home would be to someone who also has an incomplete set.
I’m not at all innocent by the way. I’ve given things to charity shops in the past that in hindsight I shouldn’t have. Some accountants out there may remember the blue set of books that you used to get with all the auditing standards and accounting standards you needed to learn? Yes, not the kind of thing that would sell easily! No doubt that charity shop put them straight into recycling. Sorry about that! I know better now and if we truly wish the charity shops to make money from the stuff we no longer need, and to encourage people to shop there more often, then we need to give them decent stuff to sell and find alternative homes for the rest of our stuff.
Don’t put the burden to dispose of our stuff on charity shops or anyone else for that matter. You bought it, so you deal with it. And if you can find a home for something without it having to go into the bin then everyone wins.
It is mid-term break from school this week and the weather has been pretty cold and wet. So instead of staying in all day, one of the mornings I decided to give the kids €10 each and bring them shopping to a number of charity shops in the area. To say they were excited about this idea was an understatement! I wasn’t sure how it would work out if I’m honest, but it was great!
We went to five charity shops in Dundrum: Oxfam and The Dundrum Village Charity Shop (Women’s Aid) on the Main Street, Vincent’s on the corner at the Luas Bridge and then Human Appeal and the Sue Ryder Foundation on the Dundrum Road opposite from Vincent’s. They struck it lucky in nearly all of them. Books, board games, dragons, a drum and a skate board were among the purchases.
I think the thrill of it for them was rooting around and looking at all the different wierd and wonderful things. It was a good lesson in spending their money wisely. They were asking the shop assistants the prices, figuring out what they would spend their money on and working out how much money they had left.
When my 5 year old found a skate board, he was ecstatic! When he produced his find to me, he said he would give away some of his toys so that he could buy it! He didn’t realise that it was within his budget as it was only €1. His excitement was unreal. It made his day.
They didn’t end up spending all their money. They spent a total of €14.50. I’m not sure they would have had much change from €10 in any other toy shops in Dublin or have as much to show for it.
Also there are lots of things in charity shops that you just don’t see any more. I found a beautiful Peter Pan board game in Vincent’s which looked interesting. Neither of the kids were prepared to part with their money for it so I thought I’d buy it (€4) to check it out with them at home. Google told me afterwards that it was produced in 1989. This is why I like shopping in charity shops – you never know what you might find.
Buying second hand toys may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. It’s probably the matter of cleanliness that is the main concern (although my kids couldn’t have cared less). But if you think about it, how many kids have played with the toys and books in the school classroom over the years? Or in the creche or Montessori? Or in the indoor play areas?
I’m not immune to these concerns and I try to steer towards those that are in good condition or can be easily sterilised or cleaned. I have found that kids jigsaws, craft sets, board games, DVDs and books have, by and large, been in good condition. Some have even been new and unopened. I have a bottle of Milton sterilising fluid for any plastic toys. I don’t like to get any teddies or soft toys even though they can be washed in the washing machine or put in the freezer. They have too many teddies as it is anyway!
I’ve only started going to charity shops recently since becoming more interested in living more sustainably. I have found that some charity shops are better than others in how organised they are and the quality of the things they have. If you haven’t checked out your local charity shops in a while then go see what they are like and what they have to offer. Don’t knock shopping in charity shops until you’ve tried shopping in charity shops. Whats the worst that can happen? You leave the shop without buying anything? You get a jigsaw for €2 that is missing pieces? What’s the best that can happen? Maybe you have a fun morning with kids on a cold day, find a few hidden treasures, spend less than €20 and support a good cause and help the environment! I think it’s worth trying.
So it is two years since I started decluttering my house and @rachelwithless on Instagram to document it!
While votes were being counted in Ireland this week, I was doing some counting of my own as I hadn’t done an updated count since this time last year. When I started decluttering two years ago, I never would have guessed that I would come to declutter over 14 thousand items! Fourteen thousand, two hundred and fifty three items to be exact. I’m such a nerd I know. 😊 But this is mind boggling stuff.
This week I’m looking at the top categories that I have decluttered in a bit more detail.
Top of the list are photographs. The total number of photos decluttered include both printed photos and digital photos from my iPhone/Cloud. For me, photographs are still a total mess. At the moment I have thousands of photos in different locations. My older photos are printed, some in albums and some photos in shoeboxes, with their negatives in a box, I have digital photos on my computer and some are backed up on CD and USB and I have photos on my IPhone, backed up to the Cloud. That’s the way it goes I guess when you are of a certain age and you have had to deal with changing mediums of photography. It’s hard to know where to start really. Head wrecking stuff. Honestly I think I can probably declutter another couple of hundred if not thousand of photos. Added to this problem is that photos are still accumulating as life goes on. Tackling this category is a priority for me this year.
The majority of the paper I decluttered consisted of kids colouring pages and art work. Again another category which is a work in progress. There is still a large enough volume of it coming into the house each year although I’ve found it has slowed down somewhat as my kids have gotten older. This is another category that I want to tackle this year. My goal would be to scan and discard most of it and organise it into photo books that will take up less space.
All sorts of everything! From furniture and baby equipment to cups, cutlery and random bits and bobs and everything in between. I still have one box full of random junk that I need to sort out and then I should be pretty much finished this category.
I’ve done such a massive clear out of toys but another bit of a cull is required in the coming weeks. In general, I ‘disappeared’ the toys that the youngest kids were not playing with. The only thing that has been missed is the enormous blow up dinosaur. Thank you Zoe for that one! When it came to my eldest, I only got rid of the toys that she was happy to declutter for the most part……I may have decluttered a few of those squishy toys and any slime that came into the house without her knowing because I simply don’t like them but again, none of these have been missed.
Clothes and Shoes
This includes my clothes and the kids clothes. I did a massive cull of my wardrobe and I am now happy with the amount I have. Same goes for the kids. I still have one box of sentimental baby clothes. I have culled them already but I’ve kept some with some vague notions of turning them into teddies or a memory blanket or something like that. I’m not rushing into that decision as they are not in anyone’s way at the moment so this one can wait. I’ve bigger fish to fry as they say.
This includes both my books, some of my husbands books and the kids books. I am happy with the progress I have made in this category. The kids still have plenty of books and we go to the library most weeks to add a bit more variety.
I still have more books than I’ll ever get through so I will continue to cull them but I’ve done a great cull already and books are not taking up as much space in our home as they used to.
I have a problem with throwing a newspaper in the recycling before I have read it. If they didn’t come into the house in the first place then I probably wouldn’t miss them! So this is why I’ve ‘decluttered’ newspapers and magazines as they pile up in my kitchen waiting for me to get around to reading them. The pile has gotten a lot smaller and are all relatively current but this is a continuous challenge for me.
Donations / Freecycle
In terms to getting rid of things, I’ve tried my best to declutter responsibly.
Anything that was in good condition and would be sold easily, went to local charity shops or parish fetes. So this was mainly good clothes, bags, bric-a-brac, books, CDs and DVDs. I sold a couple of things on Adverts but I found it took up a lot of time so I would only do that in future if items were of high enough value to be worth my while.
Things like second hand kids clothes, furniture, toys, sheets and blankets, hangers, tapes and LPs, I have generally been able to rehome via the Zero Waste Freecycle Ireland Facebook group. This is a wonderful community of people who are using second hand items to reduce their environmental impact and reduce waste.
Clothes that were in bad condition and only good for the rag trade, I brought to my local textile recycling centre.
I watched ‘Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things’ on Netflix on 16 February 2018. Nearly two years ago! That same night I set up @rachelwithless on Instagram and I decluttered my first two items the next day. This started my year long decluttering challenge where I challenged myself to declutter at least one item a day and to post it on my Instagram account. Shortly afterwards I set up this blog to write about it. I didn’t get around to blogging as much as I would have liked. But I did stick to my challenge and decluttered something each day for a year and posted it each day on my Instagram account with the exception of (I think 🤔) maybe one day.
It was such an interesting documentary. I had never really heard about Minimalism and it gave such great insight into different types of people in different situations all applying their own minimalist principals to fit their life. Because there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to Minimalism.
The documentary is centred around two young guys, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka ‘The Minimalists’, as they crossed America doing talks and meeting people promoting their first book on Minimalism. But the documentary also looked at other Minimalists such as Leo Babauta, Joshua Becker and Courtney Carver amongst others. Everyone they interviewed were adopting minimalism but in extremely different ways. But the resounding theme was that minimalism is not about how many things you own or the size of house you live in. It is about not placing importance on all the things/stuff/items in our lives but rather placing importance on the people in our lives instead. It’s about focusing our attention away from things and on what really matters. As the Minimalists say:
‘Love People. Use Things. Because opposite never works.’
The two year anniversary of @rachelwithless is coming up. I can hardly believe it really. I am experiencing all the benefits to a clutter free home. I still have some decluttering to do but my mountain of clutter is now a molehill of clutter! Updates to follow in the next few weeks on how much stuff I have actually gotten rid of in the past two years. The mind boggles!
I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the Instagram decluttering/minimalism community. Thank you to everyone for supporting me over the past two years. All the encouragement, both on and off Instagram, has really helped keep me going.
I have the TV all to myself this evening so in anticipation of this I bought myself Working Girl on DVD in a charity shop the other day. One of my favourite movies from the 1980’s. Why would I bother buying a DVD of a movie I’ve already seen countless times when there are a multitude of things to watch on Netflix? I mean my list of things I want to watch is pretty long. I could watch The Crown, House of Cards, Luther, Peaky Blinders, Fargo, Grace & Frankie, Homeland, How to Get Away With Murder, Call The Midwife, Derry Girls and Messiah to name but a few! But I’ve had enough decision making for this week thank you.
‘Decision Fatigue’ was coined by social psychologist Dr. Roy. F. Baumeister and refers to how people struggle with their choices after making too many decisions over the course of the day. We make so many decisions that by the end of the day, we find it hard to make a decision and we lack will power. Is that why I get to the end of the week and I can’t decide what to have for dinner or what to watch on Netflix?
Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg famously used to wear ‘a uniform’, the same thing each day, in order to reduce the number of decisions in their day. Barack Obama had multiples of the same suit. Steve Jobs used to wear black turtlenecks with jeans and sneakers. While Mark Zuckerberg is well known for grey t-shirts.
Barack Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012:
“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Mark Zuckerberg explained in a public Q&A in 2014:
“I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”
They realised that by wearing the same thing each day, they could save their mental energy for more important decisions. Important when you are running a country or a large social media company maybe, not so important if you are little old me? But I think there is something to it and that everyone can learn from it no matter what their job.
I first heard about decision fatigue when I started decluttering my clothes. I did another little cull there this week. I’ve now downsized my wardrobe to the extent that I don’t quite wear the exact same thing each day – but I’m not too far off it. I usually wear my brown boots, dark jeans, a top, an extra jumper or fleese if it is cold and a navy jacket. So not quite a uniform but a capsule uniform? Everything easily mixes and matches and I have multiples of the same jeans and some tops. I find it so easy to get dressed now that I don’t have to think and it takes me no time at all. A bit boring I hear you say? If being a bit boring with your clothes is good enough for Barack Obama, former president of the United States of America, it’s good enough for me. 😊
But each of us make so many decisions each day – so many that we hardly realise we are making them. What to wear is just one out of many! If I think about my usual morning – Will I wash my hair or is it ok?Tea or coffee? What mug? What to eat for breakfast? What bowl? What jacket to wear? Will I bring an umbrella? What will I pack the kids for their lunch? Will I put a load of washing on now or later? Will I bring the recycling with me or will I drop it off later? And this is before I have even left the house. So while I’m not making big life or death decisions each day, I am still making plenty of little decisions and they build up. Having a boring capsule uniform helps me at least. It’s one less thing to think about.
The kids at the moment don’t go asleep before 9pm usually. So really I only have about a two hour window if I want to watch something on TV before I need to go to bed myself. So I don’t want to waste precious time and energy scrolling Netflix trying to decide what I want to watch only to finally select something an hour later and then fall asleep half way through it!
So Working Girl it is. Decision made! We all have decisions that we have to make each day, there is no getting away from them but maybe there is a lot to be said for saving our decision making energy and being a bit boring. So wear the same thing, eat the same thing, use the same cup and be a bit boring. And instead of scrolling Netflix and having Netflix indecision, re-watch one of your favourite movies for a change. Fingers crossed that DVD works now!
Links below are to good articles on Decision Fatigue and how to help prevent it:
On 16th February 2018, I watched The Minimalist’s documentary on Netflix ‘Minimalism – A Documentary About The Important Things‘. That evening, I resolved to declutter once and for all. I set up an account on Instagram @rachelwithless where I would post a picture of what I decluttered every day for a year. A bit each day for a year, that should do it I figured.
So each day for a year I posted a photo on Instagram of what I was decluttering. I thought that if I got rid of at least one thing each day then that would be enough. I soon got momentum and it was usually multiple things per day. I was accountable to my followers. That feeling of obligation kept me going along with all the fantastic support and encouragement from others on Instagram decluttering like me. At one point I thought that I wouldn’t have enough stuff to declutter each day for an entire year, but I did. I had more than enough. I had too much. And nearly two years later, I still haven’t gotten through everything. So why haven’t I finished what I started?
Part of this reason is that I took my foot off the pedal once the year was up. I didn’t need to declutter each day. I wasn’t accountable to my followers any more as I had completed my year long daily decluttering challenge. I didn’t have to post anymore. A few more mins games kept me going alright but there was no urgency to finish. Things were fine. The house was in much better shape, we had less stuff, things were organised, the house was easier to keep clean and I wasn’t feeling as overwhelmed.
But I haven’t got through the sentimental category of stuff. I haven’t finished. Old toys, clothes, books, photos, papers and diaries from when I was younger. The hardest category to face and the most time consuming in my mind. It is stuffed in boxes in a few cupboards, out of sight but not out of mind.
So yes Will Scarlett, I am going to finish what I started. As Magnus Magnusson would have said:
‘I’ve started, so I’ll finish.’
To help me do this, I’m going to start another decluttering challenge of decluttering 2020 items in 2020. I’ve seen a few others I saw on Instagram who have already started it including @NourishingMinimalism @Vickie_Declutters @Minimalistmouse_pipamini and @Debtissopasse
So I’m going to join in with them. I think it’s a realistic and achievable target and we can encourage each other along the way. It will help to keep me focused, keep me accountable and help me finish what I started.
I’ve started reading ‘The Sustainable (ish) Guide – Everything you need to know to make small changes that make a big difference’ by Jen Gale to get more tips on living more sustainably. So far it’s very good by the way. But I liked what she said on her Instagram during the week, that she didn’t want people to buy the book for
‘Buying a book, in itself, changes nothing. Even reading the book doesn’t ensure that change happens.’
She has a point. There is plenty of information out there already about living more sustainably if you look for it. You don’t need to buy her book, or anything else for that matter, to start living more sustainably. On the contrary, one of the first things you can do to live more sustainably is to buy less stuff.
How many times have I bought things before making a start? How many times have I told myself ‘I’ll start exercising when I buy gym membership. And sure I can’t go to the gym until I buy new gym gear. And sure I may aswell get new runners too while I’m at it. Or I can’t go walking without getting a good pedometer, so I’ll start walking once I get one.’ Or thoughts to that effect.
I said this last excuse to a friend of mine before Christmas and she kindly gave me a spare Fitbit type tracker that she had. I still haven’t even gone out for one walk let alone go to the gym. 🙈 What is my excuse now? The weather? It is pretty cold these days!
These are common enough thoughts of mine over the years and that’s only relating to exercise. I have had plenty of other similar thoughts when it comes to other things I’m aspiring to do. I’ll start crafting when I buy a sewing machine. Or I’ll buy this months slimming magazine and then I’ll start my diet. What is it about spending money on stuff to feel better about my lack of action? Is it just so I can get an immediate sense that I’m taking a step in the right direction without actually taking any step?
So whatever it is you have resolved to change or do, you don’t need to buy anything at all. You more than likely have everything you need to take the first step.
My Mother would often paraphrase Benjamin Franklin when she would say ‘
Never leave to tomorrow, what you can do today.‘
I’d like to change that to:
‘Never put off until after you buy new stuff, what you can do right now with all the stuff you already have.’
And as Jen Gale goes on to say very simply in her post, ‘GO AND DO!’. As for me, I’d already taken small steps in becoming more sustainable before I’d bought Jen Gale’s book. I’m now off for that walk around the block with my Fitbit type tracker finally. Thanks Catherine. 😊