Now that the Christmas rush is over, I hope you’re able to look back on Christmas as a memorable time with family and friends and not one of frivilous spending and excessive gift giving.
Many years ago I came to realise that Christmas was just one giant hungry consumerist vehicle, travelling along at break neck speed, dragging most of us along with it whether we liked it or not. I became increasingly critical of the whole charade, not to mention the expense and stress it caused me so some time ago I made a conscious decision to break from the clutches of the Christmas over consumption.
Today, there is no way in the world you’d get me anywhere near one of the big shopping centres at Christmas time. Firstly I can’t deal with the crowds and the amount of stuff for sale in the shops makes my head spin. And why anyone in our society would want or need to queue up in the streets of Sydney from 9pm on Christmas night so they can be first through the door at the Boxing Day sales is beyond me. Didn’t they get enough stuff for Christmas? I read yesterday with horror that Australian’s will spend around 1.8 billion dollars, not million but billion dollars at the Boxing Day sales. Can you just imagine what wonderful things could be done for humanity with that money. It’s insane.
Anyway, our family loves getting together for Christmas day and for a few hours we enjoy catching up, sharing a home cooked meal, a glass of wine and a good laugh. We keep things simple and affordable and exchange gifts which are mostly hand made these days or at least well considered and useful and the simplicity of our Christmas makes it a pleasure rather than a chore.
On Christmas night when dinner was over, the kids had gone and the cleaning up was done, I turned my mind to the first of our projects for the coming year…decluttering our home. I have to admit, I’ve been dreading the thought of it really as we seem to have accumulated quite a bit of stuff over the years. I guess that’s what happens when you allow it to.
As I sat devising a plan, I looked around at the little stacks of accumulated junk lying in the kitchen, in the lounge room and dining room and then thought about the even bigger piles of stuff up in the garage and in the study. This prompted me to think back to only a few months ago when my brothers and I made the agonising decision to move mum into a nursing home. It was at that moment I realised that out of necessity, mum’s possessions had been reduced to the size of a cardboard box, the rest didn’t matter any more. There’s no greater catalyst than a conscience and while I have no intention of going quite that far just yet, I now know the time is right to scale back on our accumulated matter and I’m looking forward to the freedom that will bring.
The last 18 months for us as a family has been fantastic. Our decision to leap into a sustainable life has opened our eyes to the wonderful world of Permaculture but also the magic of simple living. We’ve developed an awesome garden where we grow some of our food, use something from the garden every day and cook and bake everything from scratch; we’ve learnt to preserve, make cheeses, our own ginger beer and ales and a lot of our own cleaning products; we harvest water, recycle waste including composting and worm farming, we use the sun’s solar energy to heat our water and to cycle water through our ponds; we reuse what we can, we buy second hand, recycle as much as possible and avoid plastic bags. Through Permaculture we’re looking after the earth, taking care of ourselves, sharing with others and saying no to consumerism and excess. The skills we’ve developed and changes we’ve made have taken our lives to a rich and meaningful level and it’s a very good place to be, especially knowing we don’t need stuff to make us happy.
This next stage for us will be one of learning to let go of our no-longer-needed stuff. Sometimes the hardest step is knowing where and how to start so last night I decided that we would begin with a small challenge and that is for Chris and I to each get rid of at least five things every day for one week. Now I know five is a very low number but if we get through the first week it will mean that we will have rid our lives of seventy useless, unwanted or pre-loved bits and pieces. That sounds more like it. If we survive the first week we’ll keep going into the next week and so on and maybe we’ll reach our ultimate goal of purging a month’s worth of junk from our home and lives. It’s ambitious but we’ll see how we go.
How we dispose of these items is something we’re also mindful of as some of them will be perfectly good, just no longer needed by us. So some things will be straight out rubbish and those that are recyclable will either be donated to our local charity, offered to friends or gifted to the local second hand book store. For some of the larger items, we might try to sell through Gumtree or our local noticeboard.
Looking for five items each day isn’t going to take us all that long so in the meantime we’re going to get stuck into the annual ritual of cleaning, decluttering and organising the fridge, linen closet and pantry. The pantry is a really important one as we move towards bulk purchasing and storage.
Well last night I made a start and found my first five, okay six items in a few minutes: a useless cheap Aldi ravioli kit, a roll of bubble wrap, an old aluminium dish of mum’s, a broken grater handle, an empty box and a microwave omelette maker that I’ve never used and never will. At least three of these items could be useful for someone else and will be off to our local charity store no doubt with a stack of other stuff we find over the coming weeks.
Sometimes these tasks are easier to do knowing you’re not alone and I hope you’re inspired to join us in your own decluttering challenge. I’ll be keeping you posted on our progress and I’d love to hear from you too. If we work together we can achieve great things.
Oh, and the compost post is coming soon….I promise!