10 Tips to Clear the Clutter

Venu Gopal / Flickr

According to Sierra Club’s Dave Tilford
, a child born in the US will create thirteen times as much ecological damage over the course of his or her lifetime than a child born in Brazil. That’s because Americans consume, on average, significantly more resources than other citizens of planet Earth.

Many Americans are questioning this habit of over-consumption and making efforts to downsize, minimize, and simplify. Here are some tips that will help you clear out the clutter and live lightly on the planet.

* “Respect Your Belongings”. This tip, from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up author Marie Kondo is less an action, and more a perspective. When we buy lots of cheap products, we value them less. Be thoughtful about the things you bring into your life.

* Educate Others on Where “Stuff” Comes From. The Story of Stuff Project has lots of great videos and resource guides that explain why rampant consumerism is hurting people and the planet, and what we can do about it.

* Inventory and Cull. Courtney Carver of bemorewithless recommends putting your belongings in four categories: 1. Items you use and love; 2. Items you want to keep this but don’t know why; 3. Items that don’t fit your life or style; 4. Items that aren’t in good condition. Donate, repair, or recycle categories 2 through 4.

* Buddy Up. Paring down with a partner can help you both stick to your plan. Try the 30-day Minimalism Game or Project 333 with a friend or family member.

* Digitize. Books, music, videos, and photographs can all can be stored in digital format. For an easy DIY method, try an app like Google’s PhotoScan, or hire someone near you to go through all those shoeboxes and albums for you.

* Step off the Shopping Treadmill. Retail therapy is a powerful drug, but it often leaves us unsatisfied. After minimizing your belongings, don’t buy more unless it’s absolutely necessary. Here’s a creative way one artist resisted the urge to buy.

* Avoid Disposables. From bottled water to razors, coffee pods to take-out containers, we’ve grown accustomed to single-use items. Check out the Center for a New American Dream’s Conscious Consumer Guide for smart alternatives to throwaway products.

* Switch to Sharing. New apps make it easy to dispense with ownership altogether. From cars to tools to bikes, we compiled a list of the most common items people are sharing and how to take part.

* Practice Gratitude. Much of our compulsion to shop comes from feeling like we’re missing something in our lives. Keep a gratitude journal to cherish the things you already have.


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