Commercialism is a big part of modern life. The packages look so cool, and you have mastered the art of convincing yourself you need to buy something more. I have done it, and you likely have too! The point of this article isn’t to point fingers because it’s a western problem; it is ingrained in us to buy things.
Dont get me wrong, I love living in a place where you can get virtually anything to make your life more convenient. I am not going to be ungrateful, because I need this convenience after a long workday. But, some things are just in excess.
The more things we buy that we dont need, the more the landfill gets filled with plastic bottles and materials that take decades to go away. A plastic bottle takes at least 450 years to degrade completely.
Think about that for a minute, that case of water that you recently bought will be here when your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grand kids die of old age.
Ok, how do I start?
The first thing you can do is to care. If you believe that’s the problem for the next generation, then stop right now; you will not be motivated to make any changes. Please do some research and come back, but I hope to see you soon.
But, if you realize that today’s issues will be a burden for the next generation and you want to do your part in helping your kid’s grandkids to have a better life, then let’s move on.
1. Buy fewer water bottles
I am not sure why so many people are obsessed with buying water in a bottle. For one, water soaking in a plastic bottle for what could be months doesn’t appeal to me at all. Also, your water bottle might end up in the landfill, contributing to an already dire problem. Testing on some brands of commercial water bottles doesn’t find them any purer than tap water.
You can buy a filter for your fridge at home or use this stainless steel filter to pre-filter tap water. If your water is not safe to drink from the tap, you will need to boil it first, and then filter it to make it safe to drink. You can also filter your water using a pitcher like this one that is made out of glass. Boiling water dont remove heavy metals, so filtering eliminates toxins such as lead, which is quite damaging to human bodies.
2. Maintain only one of each consumable item
If you find yourself with five bottles of lotion for each person in your home, you might be over-shopping. Cutting back helps the landfill and saves you money. It is most likely that you are not using all the products at once, as a few will be forgotten, and you will eventually discard them.
If you have this situation now, dedicate the next few months to using all your products, and then stick to having the bare minimum you need.
3. Have a yard sale, sell or donate your stuff
You might think the things you have in your house is junk, but one person’s trash is another one’s treasure. You can sell used items for cheap, but if you have a lot of things to get rid of, the money adds up. The best part is that it saves someone else from purchasing something new and creating more waste.
You can list some items on eBay, but generic used items don’t do well there. If you have name-brand items that are worth more than the cost to ship it, you can try listing your item on that website. You may decide to sell your item for the cost of shipping to get rid of them. I sold my maternity clothes on eBay for a profit of one dollar.
Lastly, but not least, you can donate your items. While giving might seem to be the most logical and selfless option to take, you might need to research the company before you donate. Try and stick to known names such as the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army. Some unscrupulous companies profit from donated items, rather than helping others in need.
4. Repurpose your items
You can find so many creative uses for things you would normally discard. For instance, you can use old clothes as cleaning rags. You can decorate old coffee cans and use them as piggy banks for your kids. You can turn wool sweaters into diaper covers for babies and toddlers, or any kid that wets their bed at night. Wool covers are known to be bulletproof against leak, and it is plastic-free.
The number of ideas is infinite, but this blog post has some creative ideas. You can always search the web for “how to repurpose [insert your item here].”
5. Make Toys for your Kids
Toys are probably one of the most common ways to waste your money. Children are fickle, and the ‘must-have’ toy of today becomes the ‘dont want’ toy of tomorrow. Kids that have easy access to large retail stores are familiar with the shiny, inviting toys on a shelf, and nagging for toys is familiar to many parents.
You can use cardboard, toilet paper rolls, old plastic bottles, and more to make toys. If this appears too ‘less than’ for your liking, building toys is a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activity, and it is also fun.
I am not stating that you dont buy any toys for your kids, but there is more enrichment to making toys, and you reduce clutter. Homemade toys dont last very long. You can make them from compostable material like cardboard, and you can continue to build new ones, increasing your creativity as you go along.
Kids that are very used to getting toys in a box will be excited about making their own. You can search the web for toy making ideas.
6. Develop Self Control
Self-control is one of the hardest things to master. But, knowing when to by-pass new products will help you to buy fewer things. I get it though; I like new stuff like most people. I grew up in an environment where we survived off the basics, and we did alright. But, moving to the United States where there is easy access to virtually anything, I have fallen in the trap.
If you are unable to find any shelf space in your home, its time to declutter and avoid buying items you will use once per year or never. Only you can decide which things fall into that category. Keep in mind that your harmless purchase is negatively affecting the way of life of generations to come. One person’s contribution is small enough to be insignificant, but when you multiply that by billions of people alive today, the impact is substantial.
7. Turn down gifts
Wait; what? No way, this is the highlight of my life! Who says no to free? Ok, backup, this recommendation isn’t all or nothing. But, if your kid has a zillion toys and a great-aunt from miles away want to send yet another toy truck, you can graciously decline. Better yet, you can open a college fund and ask for a donation to that instead.
Do you have a party for your child and invite all her classmates? Most party-goers will feel obliged to buy a gift. That gift might be a replica of the one you already have, or isn’t something your kid is interested in at all. You can, instead, ask for a homemade card to be made by each child. You can even provide a card-stock like this one, and leave the creativity up to them. This project is exciting for the party-goer, is less expensive, and saves your home from more clutter.
I am not suggesting that your child should not receive any gifts. Every child wants to open up that wrapping paper to see the fun that is inside. If you decline gifts from party-goers, parents or close relatives can still buy a gift or two.
8. Teach Others
If you have children, friends, relatives, or coworkers, you can share simple habits that work for you. I have switched all my lunch containers to glass, and one of my coworkers took note. I brought a lunch container like this one to work and piqued his curiosity. A few days later, he arrived with the same one. Even without trying, I made a tiny difference by reducing the plastic bought by one person.
Similarly, when I texted my friend one of our homemade toys, she was interested in doing the same at her home.
Decluttering your home is not only eco-friendly, but it also saves you money, and it enhances your creativity. You dont have to feel like transitioning to a life where you live on less makes you a hippie, and your friends will avoid you.
If making products are too extreme for you, you can focus on reducing what you purchase. As an added incentive, you can deposit your savings in an account, so you feel the benefits of your efforts. Use that money and go on vacation at the end of the year. A bottle of lotion might be ten dollars, but that adds up. Hawaii, here we come!
A benefit to decluttering I hadn’t mention yet is a mental one. A cluttered home is claustrophobic and frustrating. There is nothing more peaceful than coming home to a home without boxes crammed in every corner.