How to Live Without Stuff and Why You Should
Recycling, throwing out and gifting stuff
I have a huge problem with accumulating stuff.
You'd think that being a penniless artist would make it better but no.
Everyone knows I recycle fabric and allsorts of junk in my art and craft work so I get given A LOT of stuff and I find it hard not taking stuff when I know that often it's me or some landfill site somewhere.
I barely have any of my own money but I always have the things I need and more somehow. This is a blessing but it can also be a curse. Don't get me wrong, if I did have my own money I would be bringing home all sorts of junk all the time and I'd be even more miserable than I am right now surrounded by *STUFF*
What about you?
The Story of Stuff
99% of everything we buy ends up in the trash 6 months later.
Story of Stuff
Guilt is the number one reason why we hold onto a lot of the stuff we don't need.
I suffer from guilt a lot - especially when it comes to money I've spent on stuff in the past.
I've never had so much money as I did when I had a student loan and I was also pretty miserable at university. I'd go into town and buy stuff to make myself feel better - ridiculous stuff and I still have a lot of it hanging around now.
My main waste of money was books. I love books but not all books are made equal!
I've had to learn that I can borrow books from the library - it's not imperative that I own them all. If I really enjoy a library book, maybe I'll buy it so I can enjoy it again and if I do buy a book it doesn't mean I have to hang onto it - I can give them away to charity shops or to friends.
The guilt comes in when I consider how much money I've spent on one particular item.
I hang on to these things I don't want because I spent so much money on them. So I keep them around and every time I look at them I resent them more and feel even more guilty for not enjoying them.
But you know what?
As soon as you get rid of said item (sending it to a charity shop is quick and easy) the guilt just disappears - you're not confronted with that mistake or waste of money any more.
The Guilt Poll!
Have you bought something that you now feel hugely guilty about?
The Lure of Shopping
Top Tips for Avoiding Shopping!
Like most people I used to go shopping every weekend.
I noticed that if I came away from town without having bought something I'd get really miserable and feel like I'd wasted my day. Now I look back at those days and think about how crazy that was.
I felt bad if I didn't buy something but then if I did buy something I felt tremendously guilty for spending the money. Where is the fun in that?
I didn't have any major revelation, I carried on like that for years, but when I left university, went back to my Dad's house to live and had no money I learnt that I couldn't buy anything no matter how badly I wanted it. Sounds pretty miserable, right? Well it was pretty miserable and it took me a long time to realise that I didn't need anything and what I did want was just rubbish anyway.
I get the same sense of excitement about making something as I used to about shopping. However making things doesn't come with any guilt, doesn't have to cost you a penny and you're constantly learning and have the satisfaction of a new skill.
Be a producer, not a consumer.
Time Spent on Making Stuff
If you make things then you can end up with a lot of space hogging experiments/bits that went wrong/projects you find ugly.
I find it harder to let go of stuff I've made than letting go of stuff I've bought.
I know the ridiculous amount of time it's taken me to make something. Usually with my projects I end up making something that in terms of time is worth far more than the price I put on it on my website.
And what makes it worse is that often I will make a decision about getting rid of something and then as soon as I tell someone that's what I'm going to do they say something along the lines of "You can't possibly do that! Think of all that time and effort you spent".
How to Let Go of Stuff You've Made
1. RAK someone.
If someone mentions that they really liked a piece that you want to get rid of then how about giving it to them in a Random Act of Kindness?
Don't think about how much time you spent on it, don't think about the money you spent on craft supplies, think about how that piece will make the recipient happy. Don't think about them "owing you one". They did you a massive favour by getting it out of your house.
My mother has a lot of my textiles pieces in her house where visitors often admire them - who knows maybe you will get some interest and "free advertising" by giving your made objects away.
2. Shove it in a bag for the charity shop quick and hope your heart doesn't break.
I've got rid of a few of my knitted items and textiles projects this way.
Think about sewing or gluing a label with your web address on the piece - maybe someone will come across your website this way - you may benefit in the long run.
3. Offer the piece up as a prize on your blog.
This is something I'm thinking of doing eventually - as well as sending one of your pieces to someone who wants it, you might ramp up interest in your blog and work.
4. Consider it an experiment.
If you get rid of something you've made it's not the end of the world.
You haven't wasted time and energy. You needed to experiment with your craft to get better and better.
Make sure you take photos of whatever you're getting rid of so you can refer back to it.
5. Take it apart.
If the piece you've made isn't good enough to keep can you reuse parts of it? I've often taken apart failed attempts to make something new and just consider it an experiment. I tried to make something, it didn't work and now I can make something new.
Are You Holding onto Something that You Hate because You Made it?
Mapping Out What You Own
Do you even know what you own?
I didn't until I started pulling boxes out from the cupboards and under the bed.
Most of us probably don't give any thought to the clutter around our homes, we just shift it about or shove it up in the attic or the spare room.
I'm trying to make an effort to go through everything so I know exactly what I have.
I think it's important to know what you own so that you don't end up buying 2 of everything and wasting more money, time and space.
You would not believe the amount of craft supplies that I forget I have - it's usually a nice surprise but it's annoying when I think of a project which really could have used something I only just found.
Everything I have - By Simon Evans.
Artist Simon Evans mapped out everything he owns in an appealing way in the art piece linked to below.
I have a bad feeling that if I did this I need 5 times as much paper!
What about you?
Hoarding is something that I have to deal with as a craftsperson - it's hard to throw things out or give them away if there's a possibility that you might use them one day to make "something fabulous".
These days I try to think really hard about what I definitely will use in the future and what I definitely won't!
If you have friends who are craftspeople too then you can often find someone who can use the stuff you won't.
You can also try listing items on freecycle to see if anyone else wants them.
If you have craft supplies that children can use then consider giving them away to local playgroups and schools.
I've also had to deal with living with someone else's hoarding in the past - not even useful hoarding - I'm talking about hoarding boxes of junk mail from the 80s, 90s and 00s.
It's all junk!
Recently we went through all our cupboards and drawers, tugging out all the clothes that make us feel uncomfortable or ugly. We also found a heap of stuff that we haven't even worn in about 2 years and I was also surprised by the sheer amount of duplicates we had - t-shirts that look exactly the same etc.
We had two enormous bin bags full of clothes for the charity shop and there's still more I could get rid of.
I found clothing relatively simple to go through as I'm not really big on dressing up or trying to look "fancy" but I imagine it's a tough challenge for a lot of people.
Little Brown Dress
Alex Martin's Little Brown Dress Project is one of the most enjoyable things I've found recently.
Alex spent a year wearing the same dress (made herself) as a rejection of consumerism and fashion trends.
And yes, she did wash it!
She spent the following year wearing clothing that she'd made from recycled fabrics and clothes and you can check that out at the Little Brown Dress link too.
Below I've also included the Uniform Project - which is about wearing the same dress with different accessories and the Grey Sweatsuit Revolution which was also a stand against fashion.
- Little Brown Dress
Alex Martin spent a year wearing the same brown dress, that she'd made herself, day after day, as a rejection of consumerism.
- The Uniform Project
Seven identical dresses, one year, so many different looks!
- The Grey Sweatsuit Revolution
An anti-fashion experiment that took place in the spring of 2004.
Make Do and Mend
What about when your clothes get worn out?
What about holes in socks and stains on clothes?
Mending Holey Clothes
How to Darn a Sock
As I'm learning to knit socks and evetually only want to wear my own creations, I thought it was important to learn about darning.
Invasion of the Plastic People
One of my greatest fears about becoming a parent was the slow invasion of plastic toys.
I can remember my own childhood - having a bedroom that was about a foot deep in toys and books that I rarely ever played with.
My ideal for children would be to have a few toys and books - mostly educational stuff - and things like a nature table where we could collect fossils and shells etc.
I don't want my children to end up having to buy stuff to be "happy".
The Horror of Christmas
If you're going to give someone a gift then really think about what they would want.
I wish I didn't have to say this but it's true.
Christmas has become a nightmare.
If it was a day about just sharing with your loved ones and spending time together it would be great but it seems like it's become another day to judge and create ill feeling and spend money we don't have.
Christmas has become a day where we feel forced to get gifts for people to keep up appearances and it's ridiculous because most of us have more than we need - more than we can cope with, even.
It makes me feel miserable that people have spent money on stuff for me that I have no use for. I want my friends and loved ones to pay off their debt and be free and happy. I don't want to contribute to their misery and I also don't want to have to keep all this stuff around me just because it was a gift.
I don't have the money to spend on gifts myself - I like to make things because it feels like the time and effort I'm putting into something is so special - as if I'm putting all the love I have for that person into an object. I love it when someone truly appreciates something I've made or when I get something that someone has made just for me - that's special - that's something that could become an heirloom. That's why Random Acts of Kindness are better for everyone - there's no need to rush to get everything done for this one day in the year.
I know not everyone can make things and not everyone likes handmade stuff - for some reason some people think that you're somehow insulting them - as if buying some sort of plastic junk from a third world country, made with slave labour is worthier. I just think we all need to really think about what someone wants or needs and really listen to them to make Christmas a special time of year again.