31 March 2013

Ten of Tens: Retrenching

This month, I'm going to try to take on reducing clutter.  It's part of the "reduce" leg of the green triad.  Usually I interpret "reduce" to mean reducing purchases, thus making it arguably more important than "reuse" or "recycle" because it hits consumption at the knees rather than addressing its effects.

But "reduce" also means getting rid of stuff that's lying around unused, so as to simplify life and limit the need for storage space.  I generally resist getting rid of stuff that's perfectly useful because I fear I might need it some time.  My mother is a war refugee, my father a depression baby -- hanging on to anything that might come in handy some day is deeply ingrained.

But recently I've been taking another look.  On sabbatical in Cambridge a few years back I was invited to a May Ball, for which I bought a gown at a thrift shop and (oh my) schlepped it back to New York.  Really, I'm never going to wear it again.  T-shirts and turtlenecks with holes in them, that I keep around for pajamas and weekend wear have to go.  Why do have a package of weatherstripping, anyway?  Do I really need all those old towels, baby blankets, kid toys, books I'll never read again? The goal: to take every single thing off shelves and out of drawers and boxes and crates and see how much I can send to thrift shops or recycle bins.

De-cluttering wasn't on my list back in January, when I hatched grand plans for adopting new habits that would lead to greater environmental awareness and sustainability in my personal life.  I vowed to take on a new habit, task, or challenge -- albeit a small one -- for each of the next ten months.  So far, I've done better at things that weren't on the list.

In January, I attempted, and failed, to eat more local food.  On the other hand, though it wasn't the plan, I did a lot better at packing my lunch, and avoiding the vast amounts of waste (and the not-so-healthy meals) that go with take-out.  In February, I tried, and failed, again with the local food, but also went off-piste by returning to yoga as a daily habit, and that one is sticking, though it's not really an environmental commitment. In March, I aimed low at reducing water waste, with reasonable success.

So April's task will be to try to get beyond the fear that I might want [item x] some day, and spend some time each weekend unpacking the cabinets and closets to make them more useful by virtue of being less overstuffed.  I'm starting with the pantry, trying to eat my way through the food already stored there before buying more.