Preparing By Simplifying: Sometimes Less Is More
By Anthea Hudson
Some people react to Peak Oil and possible shortages and interruption to supply by deciding they have to keep everything they own forever, and buy large quantities of all kinds of things. It's an understandable response and has some elements of merit, but needs to be a well thought out planned action, rather than a knee-jerk reaction.
Stocking up is indeed a worthy aim, however we need to stock up on items appropriate for our family and situation.
Holding on to the RIGHT items and allowing them to serve a useful purpose longer, and not just replacing them with the newest, shiniest model every so often is also commendable. However, many items do not really serve us, or no longer have a place in our lives. We need to be able to evaluate our possessions and make conscious decisions about them.
Too much stuff, simply put, unnecessarily complicates our lives. Simplifying makes living sustainably much easier. Stuff costs us time, money, physical and mental space... and often our peace of mind... to store and care for. It impacts our lives and can cause family conflicts. Health can suffer because of dust accumulation, or vermin who move into inaccessible corners and boxes of "stuff". Stuff can sometimes even end up "owning" us in many ways, rather than being useful tools for our lives.
An over-abundance of stuff also tends to be awkward to access, or even find, because of all the other clutter around it. Storing it practically and keeping it in good condition becomes more difficult. As does trying to access parts of your house or outbuildings to carry out repairs. Even doing simple things such as opening windows and having good cross ventilation can be hindered, thereby costing you in comfort, and possibly energy use.
Here's an excellent in-depth presentation on simplifying your home.
Simplify your Home Webinar
Stocking up on, or keeping, things we will use, or we can see a probable concrete use for in the future to create potential resilience, is fine if we have the suitable space and time to store it and care for it, without it adversely encroaching on our lives. If your stockpile is well planned and managed, it is different to just having too much random stuff.
One of the biggest things to take into consideration with the things you own- and hope to own well into the future- is quality. Will it last the journey, or is it more likely to break or fall apart? If supplies do run short and certain items become much more difficult or expensive to obtain, you don't want to be in a position where you often need to replace items because of inferior workmanship or materials. Go for quality. One good item will save you needing to stockpile several spares. The cost for the quality item will most likely be higher, even maybe significantly higher, but you will save in the long run, with both money and peace of mind.
Also, how easily can the item be repaired... would it be easier to repair another of a similar item, with a slightly different design, while the one you are considering would require specialist tools or skills to fix? How readily are spare parts available, and likely to be available in future scenarios, or can you make or find other things to be used instead?
So, let's start looking at the things we are going to take with us on this journey into the future!
STEP ONE: SORTING
The first step is to basically go through your possessions and to either physically group, or just on paper, like items together.
For example, shirts together, scissors together, cans of soup together etc. Make a note of anything relevant about the item which may help you make decisions in the next step.
If you have a large number of possessions, this can take a long time, so you may prefer to do it room by room, over time, stopping and going through the decision process once you have sorted a room. If you come across other items that should have been included in that sort, at a later date, you can make decisions concerning them at that time.
This video gives a few tips on avoiding some common pitfalls you may fall into when doing this sorting process.
3 Pitfalls of Sorting Out Your Stuff!
Some points you might like to consider recording are:
- You like one item more than another, maybe because of its colour, ease of use, size, or it matches other things.
- The item has additional features that are either more useful to you, or unnecessary to your purposes.
- The item is broken or otherwise damaged, or shows signs of extensive wear and tear.
- The item has sentimental value, or value other than its current or obvious use.
- The item is part of a collection or other display item that you REALLY still love and value in your home.
- The item does not actually belong to you personally.
STEP TWO: DECISIONS
Once you have a good idea of what you own you are in a better position to decide what you need and what you don't need, what you love and what you have little liking for.
What stays and what goes.
Sometimes parting with things is hard, because they have been a part of your life- maybe part of something you no longer do, but are reluctant to let go of. Perhaps because someone gave it to you. Or maybe because you feel wasteful, or even mean to the item for getting rid of it. Keep in mind however, that an item that is never used, or stuffed away in a dusty corner, is not being given the chance to be useful and it is more beneficial to allow it to become useful in someone else's life, or be recycled, or be disposed of in a suitable manner. Turning your home into the extension of a landfill does not save the planet.
The video below shares some interesting ways of thinking about what to keep.
How to Decide What to Get Rid of
If you have serious issues with decluttering or keeping your possessions and home under control, you might like to visit http://takeonestepatatime.proboards.com/index.cgi
To ease yourself into the job of deciding, start with something you have less attachment to, and maybe with only a few similar items to consider. Think about each one, referring to your notes, if any.
Here are a few things to think about:
- Do I use it, wear it, love it, value it, display it with pride, or otherwise give it the use it is due? And do I want to keep it enough to dedicate the time, effort and cost it will take to do so?
- Are there too many... do I really need all of them? Do I actually use 13 staplers?
- Do I need any of them? Are they things I actually use, or can see myself using in the next year? Do they fit the resilient life I am trying to create? If you don't tend to buy clothes that need ironing, do you really need a large ironing board... or even an iron?
- Do I have something else that can do the same job, double up on purpose? For instance, if you have a stab mixer and a large mixing appliance, do you actually need both, or could one do the job?
- Which item do I tend to naturally go to when I need one? This is probably the one you will continue to use, unless the only reason was because it was the only one you could find.
- Are any of the items in better condition, or of better quality? Or just feel better to use?
- Are all of them really inferior, or not up to the job? An item that you don't use because it doesn't work properly, is just a waste of space. If you really need that sort of item, would you be better off obtaining another one?
Just because it's the "norm" for a household to have a particular item, or because you "have always had one", doesn't mean it's obligatory. Think seriously about whether the item fits the life you are trying to create. Current society tends to be massively materialistic, from being bombarded with advertising about all the things that will make our lives simpler... and much happier... but often that is simply not the case. If you are seriously trying to create a simplified and less dependent life, many common household items are just not necessary.
If you are uncertain about some items, try putting them away in a box and labelling it with the date. If you haven't gone to the box to retrieve and use it after a relevant time-frame (this will depend on the item) let it go.
With clothes, you can use the backwards hanger trick. Place all hangers with the hooks facing a certain way- in or out. As you take an item off to wear it, turn the hanger around. Any that haven't been turned around within a chosen time-frame, go to charity or a garage sale. Of course, there are certain items that will not fit the time-frame, because maybe they are only used once a year, or on certain occasions such as funerals, but you can use your judgement on these. Seasonal wear will of course need to be dealt with "in season." For drawer items, you could use separate drawers and relocate them after wearing and washing, or have them in a bag, which you then remove them from to wear.
Organize Your Closet : Deciding What Clothes to Keep
STEP THREE: UNWANTED ITEMS OUT!
Once you have decided what you no longer want to keep, it's time to decide how you will dispose of them.
If you are dealing with a serious clutter problem, the time and effort involved with trying to find new homes for items may seem like too much to deal with. At these times you might decide to declare "amnesty" on having to find the ideal way to deal with your unwanted stuff, and just deal with it in the simplest way possible. However, if you have the time and feel able, it is far better to allow your items to be reused or recycled, than to send them to landfill.
Please make sure that any item you are giving away is clean, safe and in good condition, as so many donated items are not suitable for reuse and it then falls to the charity to either clean/repair the item, or more commonly- as they often don't have the time, skills or finances to do that- they end up having to pay for landfill disposal.
The following are some possible options:
- Give your item away on Freecycle or other give-away sites.
- Take your items to a swap event, where these kind of items are allowed.
- Set up an informal exchange between family, friends, and neighbours. Maybe a monthly or quarterly swap day, where people can come and revamp their wardrobe, or pick up something they were looking for. It's a good opportunity to build community too and get to know the people you live near, and what's happening in the area that you may otherwise not hear about.
- Donate to charity bins or shops.
- Contact places such as churches, homeless shelters, women's shelters, refugee organisations etc. to see if they collect clothes and goods for needy people.
- Have a garage sale... join forces with others to have a mega garage sale between several families in the street, or among relatives.
- Take a bunch of stuff to a Trash & Treasure market.
- Advertise items for sale or giveaway on noticeboards, free classifieds, online avenues, eBay, craigslist etc.
- If items are new or in good condition (if this is an acceptable option in your circle of recipients)and suitable, use them as gifts for friends and family.
STEP FOUR: WELL PLANNED STORAGE
Next, the items you keep need to be stored appropriately to protect them, keep them clean and to allow easy access for when you want to use them.
The old saying "A place for everything and everything in its place!" is very sound advice.
This video shows a large range of storage ideas.
73 Easy DIY Storage Ideas
Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Do your storage options suit what you have to store, or do you need to adapt, revamp, change, purchase, move or otherwise alter your storage arrangements?
- If you are short on storage space, don't forget locations you may be able to utilise for more, such as wall-space up to the ceiling including shelves above doors, under beds, inside ottomans or under coffee tables, under stairs, make mini storage lofts across hallways- close fitting boards across between two door-frames can work, especially located at the end of a hallway.
- Store each item where it is used most, if possible. It becomes much simpler to get it when you need it and also much more likely it will end up back where it belongs after use.
- Make sure items are clean and maintained when they are stored.
- For clothes, consider storing seasonal clothes elsewhere when not in use, but make sure it isn't damp, dusty etc, and that it is protected from vermin.
- Food stocks should be stored in cool, dry conditions, with closest use-by-date items towards the front. Rotate stock as you buy more, and make sure to use any stored food before it spoils or becomes stale.
- Label freezer items with contents and date of freezing. Make sure you use within recommended time frame for that item.
- If you have limited fridge space, create a cool cupboard or root cellar.
- Don't forget dangerous or fragile items need special attention to location when planning their storage.
- Keep a notebook where you record food purchases and by when the item should be used.
- Keep a general household storage notebook, which lists in as much detail as you can be bothered with, what is stored where. This will make finding what you want much easier, especially if you have a large amount of stuff.
STEP FIVE : REPLACEMENTS AND STOCKING UP
Once you no longer own your unwanted items, and have stored away what you are keeping, you can decide if you need to locate any extra items.
Remember these principles:
- Make sure that you actually have adequate space to store more things in whatever location they belong.
- Try to stick to a certain quality standard and don't be tempted by super cheap sales of inferior items. Remember, it's not only the purchase price that makes up that item's cost. The initial resources used to make it must be considered, including the fact that if you need to replace it more frequently than a higher quality item, the use of resources is also multiplied. And then there is the potential cost of repairing an inferior item (if it can even be repaired), as well as the lost time and frustration if it breaks down.
- Don't buy things on the spur of the moment, or just because they are cheap. Stop and think about it... do you really need or want it? Will it serve you or hinder you in the long run? Will it help you create resilience...or reliance? Where possible, never buy a spur of the moment item at that point in time. Leave it until at least the next day, or even longer, so that you have had a chance to really think about it and recognise if it was just a passing fad, or a truly useful purchase.
- When searching for an item, don't forget second-hand options as a potential source of older, higher quality items. Many things made years ago are of a higher standard than their modern equivalents, and you will probably pay much less too. Of course, there are some items where new (or newer) will be a better option because of advances in technology... such as energy efficient white-goods and non toxic equivalents of older more harmful products.
- Buy only what you actually use. A huge stockpile of freeze dried mushrooms or cans of spam are not much use if no-one eats them, no matter how good a deal you might have found.
- Make sure you don't buy more than you can use within the lifespan of the product.
- Protect your stockpile investment by storing it properly, rotating items and making sure it is not in contact with spoiled produce, toxins and is vermin free.
Great DIY Can Rotation System!
In most cases, the idea behind your stockpile will be to cushion you in the event of supply chain shortages or interruptions, not to provide for you forever. This is impractical in most circumstances.
Keep in mind- there is a difference between a well planned purposeful stockpile and a hoard.
Don't let your stuff hold you back, nor hold you down. Don't let it surround you, control you, or own you. Don't let it define you, rather let it work for you... or be gone! Make sure you keep within the context of where you want to be heading.
Strive for simplicity leading to sustainability and resilience.