I recently commented to my hubby that we live in a walk-in closet. I was partly kidding, partly feeling overwhelmed with the stuff in our space, which, in the absence of an actual closet quickly added to our clutter and stress. I’ll talk about my process of getting rid of stuff later, but today I want to share the unexpected gifts of letting go.
Surprisingly, the insights we gained from moving into a small home, made de-cluttering easier this time around because I knew the end result would be well worth it! As I sorted through out-grown and worn-out clothes I thought what would happen to our excess stuff once we let it go. Not surprisingly, a study in the International Journal of Consumer Studies showed that the volume of textiles produced, purchased and disposed of in landfills is increasing. This is a direct influence of the increase in consumer purchases and the tendency to keep clothing for a shorter period of time. Yet, there is a suggestion that some consumers are growing tired of relentless consumerism.
There are many ways to let go our stuff.
Donate. This is the standard, right. You call your local second-hand store for a pick-up of un-wanted items in return for a neat little tax receipt. You get rid of unwanted items, and someone gives your items a longer wear life. The stylish, quality baby loot in this post’s header was a great second-hand score! But, let’s pump the breaks for a sec…what if your stuff doesn’t make the cut? I still feel the sting of the girl at Buffalo Exchange who harshly judged my donation loot. “Seriously, my wide leg pants aren’t making the cut? Say whaaa…?!”Do these items get tossed in the dump? Turns out that 95% of the clothes that end up in landfills can be re-used or recycled.
Recycle. I’ve been heading to my local H&M to recycle my old clothes since it first opened its doors in my area. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit, but when the clerk told me I was the first customer to participate in the store’s recycling program I got Gold-Star giddy! You know the kind they gave out in grade school. Yes, I’m cool like that.
I don’t have an affiliation with H&M. I just really love the flexibility their fashion recycling program gives me. I get rid of un-wanted and worn-out stuff, score a 15% coupon, and come away with a sweet deal on something I truly need.
I also like that donated clothes are used in a variety of ways; clothes that can be worn again are sold second-hand; worn-out clothes and textiles are turned into other products, like cleaning cloths; everything else is turned into textile fibers used in insulation. Money made from this service is invested into other social projects. If you’d like to learn more about H&M’s sustainable fashion recycling programs click the link. Do you know other retailers who have similar programs?
Hand-me-downs. Moms (and dads) are pretty extraordinary, resilient and generous humans. Handing down gently-used baby items has been happening for ages. Currently, though, the baby industry’s push to consume “new and improved” items adds unrealistic pressures and encourages the idea that “good” parents are measured by the amount of stuff we buy for the babes. But in a counter-cultural move to all the “Baby Must Have” lists out there, moms continue to support each other by passing on items that allow more babes to use and enjoy things for as long as they we’re built for.
Not only am I big on giving; I’m also open to & appreciative of getting. Particularly in those early years when the babes go through clothes, toys and accessories like nobody’s business! I’m grateful for every mom who lovingly handed down things to my kids. Almost as much as I love letting go of stuff that’s outworn its use in our home. Hand-me-downs support minimalism and sustainability. And more importantly, help build community.
Helping Hand Coats. If you read my initial posts on our family’s minimizing process (thank you!), you know it’s taken a while to follow-up on where we’re at. And the piece coming up is why. While I felt it useful to share, I wanted to make sure to share for the right reasons. What we do to help others is best done in private, I believe. But I’ve decided to share as an encouragement and testament to the power that giving has on the giver.
We moved into our small home in the middle of the summer heat wave, which meant our coats went into our 5×7 storage unit. But, as the unpredictable weather patterns led to a really cold winter in otherwise sunny California, we went sorting through our coats. I could have certainly donated many coats, but I was inspired by a woman dear to my heart that’d recently made a batch of tamales & burritos (those delicious treats are LOVE wrapped in foil!) for the people in our community going through tough times.
I knew the jackets had to find their new owner. So, I set off with my bag of jackets, sweatshirts, and thermals, to where our community’s homeless congregate. “Could you use a coat?” I asked; one by one, gifting an item that would make someone’s day (and night) a little warmer. Every one of the men and women I met impacted me in a profound way. It wasn’t a hand out. It was an offer of warmth, and perhaps a bit of hope. The last person I met was a young man, whose blue eyes cut through to my soul. I almost broke down when he incredulously asked, “For me?!” I couldn’t help but feel that this small act renewed him in some way. And, it certainly renewed me. In the middle of the holiday season, it was probably the most meaningful gift I could give to him and myself.
And so, in getting rid of my stuff I continue to gain much more. Minimalism is not just about the removal of clutter. It is a cultural shift; an act of sustainability and connection.