Monday, June 18, 2018

Downsizing, Purging and Why It's Not The Solution to Too Much Stuff

This post started out as a Facebook post, and I have continued to think about the topic of downsizing since writing that post. So here is the original post with a lot of edits, additions, and links.

This whole downsizing/minimalist trend is thinking from the wrong end of the problem. Getting rid of stuff only means more stuff for someone else to deal with. And then those who shed it just get more, different stuff. 

Purging sounds like a great idea but then perfectly good things end up in the trash and landfills. We say, "Oh but I DONATE it to charities." Uh-hunh. Ever been at one of those charities to see the mountains of things they have to deal with, and how much hits the dumpsters or gets sold to rag dealers (there really are such people still, they take it to places that recycle it)? Or how much ends up being shipped overseas, where it becomes someone else's problem when it's all used up? Or if, as is the case frequently, the piles and piles of clothing create a new hazard in these places, and often results in loss of the local textile industry. Remember the photos of the flipflops washing in on the tide? 

And yes, thrifts do dump perfectly good glass, crockery and other items. I've seen them doing it. Because what else can they do with it, when they are pretty much the place of last resort? Recycling stations are getting pickier and pickier about what they will take and a recent article noted that recycling isn't profitable any more--it costs more to recycle some things than it does to just make new, as this article in Forbes explores.

The other part of this is that while we feel all cleaned up and organized, what we have really done is shed our responsibility for the stuff we got rid of. It's become someone else's problem. But it's still here because once the stuff is in the world it doesn't go away--maybe out of our life, but it's going to be somewhere, in someone's life. The real key isn't shedding our stuff, but not buying new stuff in the first place.

So instead of downsizing, purging, or whatever word currently in use, what we need to be doing is using what we already have on hand and if we need to replace something, buy used. We have to take responsibility for our stuff, and that is a lot harder to do than dumping it off at a thrift.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Boud said...

I totally agree. I've been unpopular when I've said you don't need more storage, you need less stuff! And if you pass on items, pass them to people who can use them. Don't buy clothes at retail, since that enslaves people including children, in sweatshops on the other side of the world.

You rock!

Jenny said...

If only we could learn this lesson when we're young! After 30 years & cleaning out two houses that did not belong to us (our parents) we have more things than we could use up in three lifetimes! So...we are purging. Hopefully we'll never have to downsize since we live in a little 1200 sq ft house already.

Tipper said...

Interesting post! I've never taken the time to think farther than the act of getting rid of stuff, but now I will :) I believe in using stuff till it's completely wore out and unusable.

Brig said...

I've always tried to use what I have up before, getting anything else. Make due with what you have has been around here for a long time. I had to sell, give away to friends, and donate a lot of stuff after dad died, in order to have a manageable mess. Still not back to where I was with stuff but getting there. We often shop the second hand stores for things.

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