DECLUTTER YOUR LIFE THIS AUTUMN
April is here and it finally feels like Autumn. The days are gradually getting shorter and the fresh, cooler weather has definitely arrived. In many cultures around the world, Autumn is a time for contemplation and release. As the trees shed their leaves we too can shed what we no longer need to prepare us for the colder Winter months ahead. With this in mind, Autumn is a great time of year to declutter and simplify our homes. Clutter causes mess, stress and robs us of space, both physical and mental. Why not take advantage of a wet weekend (there have been plenty of those lately) to clear out the cupboards and the garage, gathering up all that no longer serves a purpose or which no longer ‘sparks joy’*.
If you don’t need it or use it perhaps it’s time to let it go. However, in our bid to declutter it is easy to contribute to the ever-growing piles of landfill. So how do we simplify our homes consciously without adding to the problem of waste? There is a difference between things we no longer use and things that are completely useless. It’s likely most things you don’t want or need anymore still have plenty of use, just for someone else.
When we can find new homes for our stuff we can help those less fortunate. Finding someone else to enjoy your unwanted stuff is the most ethical and sustainable way to declutter as the items are being given a second (or third or fourth) innings and are being reused which in turn reduces the demand for more of the same to be made. According to Wrap UK** “extending the life of an item of clothes by 9 months reduces its carbon, water and water footprint by 20-30%” so just imagine the impact of choosing to buy vintage threads over brand new as well as passing on your own clothes to new owners.
Here are a few ways to help you extend the life of your stuff and join the pre-loved appreciation parade.
We can use decluttering as an opportunity to earn some pocket money and sell more expensive items which still hold value second-hand.
Hold your own garage sale or join the Garage Sale Trail which is a national Garage Sale festival celebrating pre-loved stuff which happens online and in the community.
Host a stall at a local market selling your unwanted quality second-hand items.
Sell them online via Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, eBay or Etsy.
Do a clothing swap with friends - bring a bag of items to swap or giveaway, make a day of it and bring a plate of food to share too.
Find a larger community clothing swap event such as those organised via The Clothing Exchange. These events enable you to swap your preloved garments or toys at professionally hosted events across Australia and have grown from a small community of devoted swappers to a national network of swapping involving the support of local councils and their communities.
Ask your family, friends or neighbours if they would like functional items you no longer use.
Give items away for free via online channels such as Freecycle or local Facebook groups dedicated to likeminded locals happy to collect unwanted items for free.
Donate to op shops - Op shops are often the first port of call when it comes to offloading unwanted stuff. But this also means they can get inundated with donations of varying quality. Only pass on items that are mould and mildew free and the same quality of items you would be happy to give to a friend, so no holes, stains or undies!
Find a local ‘library of stuff’ to support. Examples include Eastern Sydney’s toy library (which has been running for 33 years) or the Inner West Tool Library in Petersham both of which eliminate the need to store (or buy) clutter causing tools or toys. Not for profit community-run libraries will usually welcome functional items you no longer need. Become a member yourself and gain access to extremely useful but only occasionally used items that are loaned out for a short period of time to members. Everything from practical things (such as sewing machines or cordless screwdrivers) to party supplies (like crates of champagne glasses or chocolate fountains) to camping gear are all up for grabs via the booking system.
Find a lending library near you:
And there are plenty more scattered around Australia.
Recycle Reuse and Repair
There are some incredibly resourceful community groups dedicated to finding a way to repurpose or repair your unwanted stuff. Think crafty creatives or tinkering types who manage to turn your trash into a reimagined treasure.
Check to see if your local community has a collection point, here are two such places in NSW:
The Bower is an award-winning environmental charity in Sydney which is based on the principle of reuse and repair and is committed to reducing landfill.
Hawkesbury Remakery takes donations of clean waste, craft, small metals and more and encourages upcycling objects, furniture and anything that needs a new life.
Reflect and Refuse
We can also use decluttering as an opportunity to reflect on our own habits and consider what may have led to the pile of possessions in the first place. Once you’ve successfully cleared the clutter and eliminated the excess take a moment to appreciate the space that is in its place. Make a commitment to yourself to be more mindful of what you bring into your home moving forward.
Hoarding stuff is fundamentally linked to fears of not having enough. Replace these fears with an attitude of abundance by letting go of things you don’t use with gratitude and generosity. The more space we create in our lives the more room for new growth and opportunities. So let go of the old and make way for the new this Autumn.
*For some inspiration on the art of living a life with only that which sparks joy read Marie Kondo’s books ‘Spark Joy’ or ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’.
**Wrap UK is a charity that promotes and encourages sustainable resource use through product design, waste minimisation, re-use, recycling and reprocessing of waste materials. www.wrap.org.uk
Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.