Goodbye buy buy - Responsible Decluttering Pt 1

It appears we have once again reached peak Kondo. Marie Kondo's Netflix series has created a second wave of people around the globe discarding possessions that don't ‘spark joy'. We totally agree that the things in our homes should enhance, not detract from our lives. But it's concerning to watch the families Kondo visits, as a wall of trash bags mounts up. While some of these bags are being donated to charity, many will end up in landfill. And charity shops - in New Zealand at least - are bulging, many not accepting new donations.

Black plastic bags are the ambulance at the bottom of the clutter cliff. And effective stuff-reduction starts with buying less in the first place. In this two-part series on responsible decluttering, we'll give you a few strategies for reducing your consumption at the source.

The Mother Hubbard test

Isn't it funny that when you're on holiday, you actually seem to have more outfit options? When you have a lot of stuff, it's very easy to forget what you own, because you can't physically see what's already there. This often leads to us repeat buying. If you feel yourself being taken in by a tenth pair of skinny jeans, reacquaint yourself with your possessions. Make like Mother Hubbard - look in the cupboard. And only buy if you find it bare (of whatever's tempting you).

Spend wisely, shop well

This habit might sound counterintuitive, but when you do buy, spend more. What we mean by this, is buy the best quality you can afford, and if you can, get the exact thing you want. Sometimes this means saving up, or searching to find the right thing. If you can't afford what you want new, consider second hand. Settling for cheap or ‘not quite right' leads to feeling unsatisfied with our purchases, which can lead to more shopping. Invest only in things you'll love, and then enjoy using them. Check out Nic Turner's philosophy for living a life less cluttered.

Distractions stop transactions

Next time you hear the sweet, siren song of an online sale, divert your course with a distraction. Anyone who's raised a toddler knows how effective this can be. Start by deleting the ad/email if you can, and then step out mentally or physically for a few minutes. Try walking around the block - unless you live next to a mall - making a cuppa, or playing some calming music (up-tempo tunes can have the opposite effect). Once your head is clear, reconsider how and how much you'll actually use the item, against your priorities. If your goal is a house deposit or becoming debt free, think about how the purchase sets you back. Still tempted? Try sleeping on it.

Turn off tech-tation

Willpower wears down, and requires a lot of energy. So rather than relying on your willpower to steer you through a gauntlet of digital temptation, simply remove it. Delete your credit card and address information from your browser's autofill function. Delete shopping apps from your devices. Log out of any shopping sites and don't save your complicated-and-unmemorable-for-security passwords in your browser. Having a separate email address that you only use for subscriptions etc. means you won't see it every day, and makes unsubscribing easier.

Divide and conquer

Try this next time your finger's hovered over ‘add to cart'. Do a little simple division to see how much of your work time and effort, it takes to make a potential purchase. For example, if you're eyeing a new pair of shoes costing $250, and you earn $25 an hour after tax - those shoes will cost you 10 hours of work. Are they worth it? Could you put that time/money towards a holiday, or into a savings account? Being fully aware of the real cost of a purchase may help you rethink it.

Don't even go there

Sex & the City's Carrie Bradshaw declared that ‘shopping is my cardio'. And shopping at a physical, brick and mortar store (remember those?) takes physical energy. Not to mention your precious time. Which can feel like time wasted if you don't come home laden with bags. Malls make it way too easy to stop for one item and then just pop next door to check out that 50% off sale. But buying something you don't need creates more waste and more stress. If you do have to head to the shops, withdraw the cash you need and leave your credit and debit cards at home. Spending with cash is a tangible reminder of the energy you put into earning it. (See point above.)

Lastly, feeling that your life is already filled with abundance is a proven antidote to impulse buying. By regularly practising gratitude and seeking calm, you're less likely to try and fill any emotional or spiritual gaps by accumulating stuff.

In the next post we'll share our suggestions for responsible decluttering - from the highly practical, to the deeply personal. See you then. In the meantime, we'd love to hear from you. Did you find these suggestions helpful, and would you like to add any we've missed?