Zero Waste House Move…

The best way to move towards a Zero Waste life is literally ‘to move’. Ideally, to a much smaller house than your present one. But in my opinion, unless you live in a tent, I don’t think a ZW house move is possible. Maybe, just maybe, if you already are a hardcore zero waster, you can do it. The rest of us, unfortunately, will definitely face some unplanned rubbish.

A good thing about this is that moving house is an amazing opportunity to think about, see and physically become aware of all your possessions (and I mean ALL). This leads to a natural second step – reducing them!

It’s seeing all the stuff that you have somehow collected over all the years of your adult life stuffed into numerous boxes, crates and bags that does it. The sheer fact that you have to transport them from one place to another makes you wish you had so much less.

In my case, we moved about a year into my ZW journey which helped because a good portion of my stuff was already donated, given away to friends or repurposed. To my surprise though, I still own a lot.

movingboxes

Not proud of this much…

It’s up to you to decide what’s ‘a lot’ and ‘enough’. Lindsay from treadingmyownpath.com said it perfectly: “Minimalism, decluttering and finding our “enough” has nothing to do with going without, or holding back. It is about finding our “enough”.”

For each of us, this means something different. In some people’s eyes, I have a lot of glass jars. But, they are essential for me and I use them a lot. My boyfriend has a lot of books and they are essential for him. In comparison to other people, we might not have enough clothes or not enough bottles in the bathroom. We have a good range of gardening equipment but no TV. It’s all about personal preferences.

Sorting

When you know what’s important for you and what is not, start sorting. I am not gonna lie, this is a tedious and time-consuming job. You have to go through all your things in a true KonMari fashion and question the effect on your life of every single thing you own. Yes, it might take aaages. But, if you can do it, you will be rewarded with a clutter-free home.

Changing hands

You hit another dilemma – on one hand, you do want to reduce the amount of stuff you own but on the other, you don’t want to create waste!? It’s not sustainable to throw things out just to own less!

So, once you have your ‘give away’ pile ready, start looking in your social circle. Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours. Functional things in good order might just find a new home…the Star Wars cushions, random kitchen accessories you never used and three sets of placemats….they all have hope.

Use the power of internet – post an ad online on local sites (Donedeal.ie and Adverts.ie are a godsend!). If you have brand new things that don’t fit, duplicate items or decent working electronics, they might even generate a little bit of cash!

teddybears

Teddies that found their new home…:)

I had a bunch of teddy bears that made their way into my home one by one but weren’t happy as nobody played with them. With a little bit of time spent internet exploring, I found a teddy bear hospital who took them and they will be a part of an annual charity event for to help people with MS. I was really happy with that I can tell you!!

Ask in your local charity shop what type of things they accept (the answer in my case was: pretty much anything except furniture) and bring the rest there.

Back in the cycle

If you have items that didn’t make it into any of the above categories, see if you can reuse them (old clothes as rugs, old pillowcases to be sewn into produce bags, etc.).

It’s inevitable though that you still end up with some stuff, hopefully suitable for the recycling bank – small electronics and broken cables, broken glass – and for the curbside recycling – the takeout containers from when you were too tired to cook and all the jars were still boxed up :).

Last resort

After all this (and I did do my best), we still created waste – from broken things that were, let’s be honest, never going to be repaired, things that were just not suitable for a charity shop or a second hand exchange (worn shoes, etc.), things and materials that couldn’t be recycled because they were too small, plastic wrap, dust bunnies (or rather elephants), it all piled up. I am dedicated to Zero Waste but there was a line between it and retaining my sanity by making the move as quick and smooth as possible. The compromises!

The good news is, we did manage to avoid some of the usual wastefulness associated with moving. I got the packing boxes second-hand from a shopping centre and will try to pass them on to someone in need (internet should take care of this). All the cleaning that had to be done in the house was successfully completed with the well-known combo of vinegar and baking soda, no bleach or other nasties needed. We organised the stuff properly to minimise the car runs (ok, more or less…).

Lessons learned

What did I learn for the next time?

  1. Organise the stuff you’re moving properly – content of boxes clearly marked, screws of disassembled furniture securely stored!, etc. – it will save you a lot of time when unpacking.
  2. Deep cleaning your new house will make you feel instantly better. Especially when you only need 2 ingredients and hot water. Don’t forget the appliances – your washing machine, fan extract and dishwasher will thank you.
  3. Opt for paperless billing and opt out of promotional emails when first contacting your new energy providers – it will cut the junk mail. Speaking of which, get a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign for the door if there isn’t one yet!
  4. Be ruthless with your possessions – find a new home for anything you haven’t used in a year. Seriously.
  5. Make new friends – find a charity shop in your new neighbourhood and talk to the butcher showing him your glass jar 🙂
  6. Don’t get too upset when you create waste, moving itself is stressful enough. Do your best and bin the rest.

Don’t forget, a new house is a new start, so it’s onward and upward now!

Wardrobe conundrums

I often think the concept of seasons is totally lost on Ireland. Here, you get rain for about 6 months of the year, snow in April, a heatwave in May, one week of temperatures over 25 degrees in June or July (the Irish summer) and for the rest, a mixture of all the above…

As far as my wardrobe and I are concerned, there are only two seasons in a year. One season with black tights and one without them. End of story. These can, as they did this year, switch in about 2 days flat. The whole month of April there was rain, hail and freezing cold temperatures and just as the calendar turned its page to May, the non-black-tights-season arrived. Sun shining, birds singing and all that jazz. Of course I’m delighted – but somehow suspicious!

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The Box. It survived two house moves and holds together only by willpower 🙂

This also means that I have to pull out a cardboard box where I stash all my ‘summer’ clothes. All the coats, jumpers, hats, gloves, long-sleeved dresses and black tights must now make space for light T-shirts, summery dresses and reasonably long shorts.

It has to be said that I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe, definition of which is ‘a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion’. If you fancy some reading on the topic or some reading with pretty pictures, go ahead! However, I still think that this might be one step too far for me for now. For starters, I kinda need two sets of clothes – for work and leisure. Because I work in an office, half of my wardrobe consists of shift dresses (I love their versatility, you can dress them up or down as you please), suit jackets, the occasional pair of pants and some tops. The other half would be more of the jeans-and-a-top type – for leisure. I try not to have clothes that I don’t wear cluttering my space but I do have quite a few occasional (aka not very versatile) pieces.

I mean – something like this would be just great:

capsule

Photo: polyvore.com

Every time I change my seasonal wardrobe, I try to take out pieces that I don’t wear, don’t love or they have passed their wearability date and pass them onto someone – a charity shop or a clothing recycling bank. But, let’s be honest, there is still much to do! Even though I haven’t bought many new clothes in the past year (only some essentials), there is still enough for about three capsule wardrobes – if not more!

So, with the aim of upping my game this time around, I plan to cut down the ‘winter’ wardrobe as I store it in the box for the summer. I’m thinking about actually counting all the pieces and cutting it down by about a quarter. I’ll see how it goes and I will update you on the progress!

I have also decided not to buy any new clothes. If I find a need for any garments, I will do my best to get them second-hand. As I never was a second-hand shop girl, this will be new to me. You see, the second-hand outlets in Slovakia are quite different to the charity shop concept here in Ireland. I remember going in and swimming through oddly sized and shaped garments that didn’t catch my imagination so I stopped soon after. When I had a peek into few charity shops in Dublin, there were perfectly fine pieces of brands that I actually recognised 🙂

When I was a student, I somehow unintentionally had a good habit of buying less clothes – I only spent money on things I really liked because couldn’t afford more. However, once the fast fashion industry made its way into my life, all my unintentionally good habits went out the window. All the nice pieces for next to nothing were there for me to have 🙂 After a period of buying cheap clothes in fast fashion chains (well, we are talking about most of my adult-with-earnings years), last year I started to learn about where my clothes really come from and how much they really cost. As a result, I gradually stopped buying them. At least in Penneys.

Looking ahead, the ideal situation would be to have enough money to build a capsule wardrobe from sustainable pieces that were ethically manufactured and would last for years – we are talking about Alden from EcoCult levels here…well, I suppose it’s good to have a goal.

Until then, with the help of the internet and a strong will, I will somehow get my existing garments into a small(ish) wardrobe that is timeless, flexible and loved – it’s a good start, don’t you think? Do you have any tips for solving wardrobe conundrums? Let me know!

:: UPDATE ::

So, I did it. I went totally nerdy about it and there is a spreadsheet to prove it. I counted all my clothes in all ‘categories’ – winter, summer, all-year and sport (mainly for cycling). The things I didn’t count were undies, socks and shoes (they got pared down last year quite considerably though). Even without them I came to a total number of 168!!! That’s 5 capsule wardrobes right there. I really didn’t think it was so bad! But, as promised, I took one quarter of these clothes (all 42 pieces) and divided them into the charity shop/clothing bank/rags categories. According to my calculations I need to add 13 more to achieve a one-third-clean-up….and I think I am going to do it! I know, in the grand scheme of things it isn’t much but it’s a great start!!