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Tackle the monster lurking in the cupboard

Saying goodbye to clutter is a good way to free up space while reminding ourselves of what we really need 

Iain Gulland | 12 Mar 19

Our Pass it on Week campaign is now in its fifth year and this year it’s all about ‘The Big Declutter’. Every year during this week, I take the time to think about the items I have in my home and why I’m really holding on to them. Inspired by the recent Marie Kondo Netflix sensation, my daughters have also been asking whether the things I keep ‘spark joy’. What we don’t need anymore, children’s toys or kitchen utensils for example, could make somebody else’s day.

Aside from the social benefits, there is a great environmental imperative to stop our hoarding addiction. On a global scale, we consume far too much at an unsustainable rate. Our clutter is made up of valuable resources that are going to waste, gathering dust at home or ending up in landfill.

Whether it is the loft, cupboard or the garage, we have already made a conscious decision that the stuff we don’t need anymore is too valuable to throw out, yet we cling onto it, often overwhelmed by our possessions and anxious at the thought of having to deal with it all.

In the fight against waste, every item counts. Thousands of re-usable goods end up in landfill every year in Scotland, including around 125,000 sofas and 365,000 TVs. Re-use has a key role to play in Scotland’s economy and environment. A sharing economy could save Scottish people money, relieve pressure on scarce raw materials and produce less waste.

It feels like we’re making progress, however. This year we’ve smashed our target for Pass it on Week and over 500 events have been registered across the country. These include donation drives, upcycling events, swap shops and repair cafes. For example, Gift your Gear are running events up and down Scotland to collect unwanted outdoor equipment, such as tents, backpacks and waterproofs. The donations are then passed on to community organisations, youth groups and charities working with young people in the outdoors.

Head along to a swap shop event if you’re looking for a revamp, there’s even one for house plants taking place in Glasgow. Inspired by the Marie Kondo movement, there are also workshops with professional decluttering experts. There is a huge variety of events to choose from this year that celebrate swapping, donating, sharing and repairing.

It’s important to remember though that decluttering is a symptom of our overconsumption, not a cure. To tackle our overconsumption, we should stop buying so much stuff in the first place.

Last year, the extent of our shopping habit was laid bare when it was revealed that the UK buys more clothes than anywhere else in Europe. What might seem like a quirky fact at first, is really a sobering reminder of the way we consume new materials without a thought for the environmental implications.

We are a society consumed by consuming – our constant need for bigger and better and for many, this is a hard-to-break habit. Fast moving fashion, shifting trends and cheap accessible products keep feeding the consumerism monster. A few simple differences in our shopping habits and the quality of the products we buy can create a greener, more sustainable and fairer society for everyone.

So, next time you’re at the shops, I challenge you to pause and think, do I really need this? Or, could it be bought second-hand? After all, second-hand doesn’t mean second best.

As for the clutter at home, I’m going to sort it out into different piles: charity shop, swap shop and upcycling. 

For top tips on how to declutter, visit the Recycle for Scotland website and join The Big Declutter by sharing pictures of your sustainable clear out on Twitter using #TheBigDeclutter and #PassItOnWeek 

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