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.
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.
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.
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!
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 :).
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…).
What did I learn for the next time?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Be ruthless with your possessions – find a new home for anything you haven’t used in a year. Seriously.
- Make new friends – find a charity shop in your new neighbourhood and talk to the butcher showing him your glass jar 🙂
- 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!