Trying to move towards zero waste last year it was becoming more and more apparent that leading the lifestyle was going to involve bigger changes than I had first expected. Originally I just thought that if I swapped out some basics for zero waste alternatives I would be well on my way. While this is true to an extent, for example just cutting out buying bottled water, some changes were just a lot harder, such as not buying bread wrapped in plastic. At the same time I found myself looking more and more into the concept of minimalism. In November I threw myself into a full on declutter of my house. In all honesty I am not a hoarder and didn’t even think I had much clutter, but I can’t believe the difference now that it is done. The interesting thing to come out of it is, having done my minimalism piece I have found it is actually making me a better zero waster, which I never saw coming, the ways in which I am sharing with you today.
Seeing what you have
My house has never been “cluttered”. I buy less than most people and have the least overflowing home out of most of my friend group. With that said, I was not immune to totally loosing tops forever more, holding onto socks with no pairs or having kitchen cupboards with out of date food. Clearing out everything in my house meant I found the lost forever tops, got rid of the odd socks and freed up the vital cupboard space for in date food.
In turn, this means having less stuff, which means actually being able to see what I have. Such a simple concept, but genuinely life changing (at least for me!!). It has stopped me from buying duplicates, from the top to replace the one which was lost forever, to a new face cream because I forgot there was a spare somewhere. Likewise it has stopped me from buying things I just didn’t need. A great example of this was my constant need for new work clothes as I had nothing. Turns out I had loads, I just could not see it crammed in an overstuffed wardrobe. They were so packed in it was little wonder I forgot they were there! Now my cupboard is a manageable size I can pick from the full spectrum every day. This has meant, so far, I have not actually wanted to buy anything else. I have everything I need. Anything which stops you having to buy less is a zero waste win in my eyes, but for me the biggest was not buying so much make up and skincare which generally always come in plastic packaging. I have so much more than I thought I did!!!
When it comes to food, only replacing what I need when I need it because I can actually see what I have, has been amazing. Each month we near enough empty the cupboards of all their contents so nothing is ever out of date. I can also properly meal plan as I can see exactly what I have. Each Sunday I now take 30 minutes to plan what we are eating for the week using up what is in the cupboard and making a shopping list for the fresh ingredients needed. Or if I have something which I can see needs used up or is going out of date, I can meal plan around those particular products so nothing is wasted. The food waste in our house is now basically at zero.
Being better organised
Due to being able to see what I have and having space, I can go that bit further and actually be organised! Being organised has been the real piece holding me back from my zero waste goals. I am a much more reactive than proactive person so thinking ahead to go to the bulk buy shop for that vital ingredient for dinner has never really been a strength of mine. But as above having organised cupboards allows me to meal plan and buy everything in advance. The plastic packaging we have to buy has more than halved since I decluttered. It also means I can easily get to my bread maker for example, so I am now much more inclined to make bread rather than buy it plastic wrapped. It may come across as lazy not making something as it is too much effort to get the bread maker out, but this is my reality and I would hazard a guess many of yours too! We are all so busy even just an extra few minutes really puts us off!
Another way being organised has helped me to be better at zero wasting is being able to find everything I need to take out with me. For the most part it is just a wax wrap for my sandwich or my cup for my coffee at work. But there are other things too, like I always want to bring my reusable plastic bags to the shop, but if my cellar is full to the rafters of things (which it very much was) trying to actually find them is a totally different situation altogether! None of us are perfect, and in this circumstance it is often just so much easier to say sod it I will just buy a new reusable one.
Creating more head Space
For me the biggest underestimation in my decluttering was just how much it was going to free up my mind. While I do not have any stress or anxieties in general, the amount of ease and happiness not having clutter has brought to me is just immense. Not seeing things out of place or in a place I would rather they were not, just makes my life so much simpler. Everything in my house has a place and I feel as though I can just breathe easier for it. Having this unused brain space in any given day, has allowed me to think more consciously where before I may have had more of an inclination to think ah stuff it and buy a take out, my head is in such a better space that cooking that meal is an option! But remember even if you do buy that take out, we can’t throw in the towel as it is impossible to be zero waste, we keep going. Every little change makes a difference and this should not be forgotten!
This head space has actually manifested itself into actual real time too. Previously, even if I vowed I would just sit down and enjoy a slow night in, I always found something to move, clean or organise. I no longer feel that urge. When I look around my space and everything looking back at me is something which I genuinely love, this is no longer an issue. Having the decluttered happy space allows me to actually sit down and enjoy a movie, book or just rubbing my dog’s bellies. Obviously having more physical time allows more free time for me to take the trip to the bulk shop or mend clothes rather than buy new too.
Can you be zero waste and throw all your belongings out?
Just to answer a question which I know some will have, can you actually throw all your belongings out, yet still call yourself a zero waster? (For a start, I think anyone trying to move towards zero waste can call themselves a zero waster, purely because I don’t know what the other options may be? Moving towards zero waste is just such a mouthful! Zero waste is the term used so whether you have a jar of rubbish a year or a bag a month, if you are trying I think it is fine to refer to yourself using the term). Obviously zero waste means not just throwing things out to landfill, which minimalism may appear to encourage. But it doesn’t have to. Things you no longer need can be given away, sold or put to charity shops. If something really has no purpose, it can be recycled. Another option is to see if a local arts and crafts group, or playgroup could use the old products. I even saw a request on Facebook for random old electronics to make a set for a university film. For most things, there will be a home somewhere if you look for it. Also, being zero waste does not have to mean keeping things for just in case or because you already own it. Yes something may have a use, but if you will never use that something, despite its great zero waste use it is dragging you down! Give it to someone else who will use it!