I’m no saint when it comes to living consciously. When I brush my teeth, I regularly leave the tap running, which is then most often turned off by my angry son (an act that is always accompanied with a reproachful glare). I have no idea where he learnt that from—probably at school, because it certainly wasn’t from me. I also sometimes hide the empty honey jar in the trash, because my partner wants us to recycle all our glass, but he never actually takes it to the recycle point himself. We do separate plastic and newspapers, but that is due entirely to the other people in my home. I simply want to sneak them into the bin. Why? Because that way, I know, they will actually be gone from the house.
But I can also be good in other matters. We have got rid of our car and do more by bike, or via public transport. I pay through the nose for organic meat, because I really can’t get my head round eating anything else, and we never have candy in the house anymore. And I’m proud to say I can cook up a mean mega-thick Spanish tortilla de patatas, with all the week’s leftover vegetables.
But on to decluttering. I’ve got pretty good at it now, so thinking about what must go is no longer a problem. I truly believe that you can be happier with less, that we are all too busy collecting stuff and that it’s good to be conscious in the way we deal with that. But… What do you do with all those things that you want to get rid of? Things that are often too good to throw into the trash. Store them away for a flea market or yard sale? Bombard your neighbors, friends, colleagues with apps asking them if they want your rollerblades / Playmobil castles / toasted sandwich makers? Take them to the charity store? Sell them online? I’d love to, but it’s a huge undertaking that takes up so much time. And that’s the tiresome part of decluttering: actually getting all that unwanted stuff out of your house.
I may look a little enviously at the people around me who manage to get rid of their stuff in a clever – and what’s more, profitable – way by tirelessly drive back and forth to thrift shops, putting sales posts up online, hanging notes on the supermarket noticeboard or by being part of exactly the right Facebook group or neighborhood group app. I envy colleagues who, during lunch, answer a query from the online marketplace and then come evening time, have managed to sell their old sofa. I admire people who get up at the crack of dawn on their day off to set up a stall at the local flea market or car boot sale (the only time I did it, I was so freezing cold after just two hours that I went back home with most of my stuff and only five euros richer). So I have a great deal of respect for those who brave the cold with their thermoses of coffee and fingerless gloves just to sell their collection of fat lava vases. And actually have a nice day out of it too… I would love to be like them, but I’m not. I confess. I’m a semi-declutterer; one without any commercial drive or backbone, but with a pathetically huge “this stuff really must go” pile in her barn.
Astrid, together with Irene, is the founder of Flow Magazine. She lives with her partner and two children. Each Tuesday, she writes about the sense—and nonsense—of decluttering.