Decluttering with Astrid 37

Anything with a plug

Actually, there are lots of things that we don’t have at home. And it’s not because we are such a good “uncluttered” house, it’s more because we are often so reluctant to organize things. Because it’s so tedious to do so. Which means we have no dryer because we aren’t avid fans of the white goods shop. And the washing dries just as well without one, because Mother Nature does that for us. We do not have a decent widescreen TV—the same white goods store reason—and upstairs, we have no TV at all because I had let myself be talked into an all-in-one subscription over the phone by a deviously clever KPN salesperson, and did not realize that it meant we needed a separate, additional box for TV number two. And now, I just can’t be bothered to organize that. Anyway, you can watch Netflix perfectly well on your smartphone…

We have no lamp on the landing, because removing the old one seems far too much effort, and the garland of Christmas lights placed round it does the job very nicely indeed thank you. We have no microwave, no raclette grill, no juicer, no citrus press, no deep fryer, no pressure washer, no electric hedge trimmer. In fact, the entire “handy household equipment” department seems to be completely non-existent at ours. I have no idea why; seems that we just don’t get all worked up over anything with a plug.

But with two sons nearing adolescence in the house, the time came when the complaints began to roll in and a PlayStation needed to be installed. My partner suddenly, and rather conveniently, disappeared, leaving me to bear the brunt of the task. Which was all well and good until I found out that our prehistoric television missed some HDMI inputs (err, it missed what???) and I had to drive to the electronics store twice for the necessary connectors and whatnot. Naturally, I cursed all guilty parties: the electronics store, Sony and my partner. But afterwards, I was also overcome by an uneasy feeling: granted, the whole thing finally worked, but I myself felt two years older. It was a sensation that I had never felt before, not after having read a book, nor after having painted a closet, or any such thing: that someone (a manufacturer) had stolen my time from me.

A few days ago I met Babette Porcelijn. She wrote a book, called De Verborgen Impact (The Hidden Impact) about the impact the production of goods has on the environment. I already mentioned her book in last week’s blog, and we ended up together in a radio broadcast. In her book, she showed me what some items with plugs actually do to our environment. And we’re not necessarily talking about the use of electricity here, but about the production of these goods. And then it’s not the factory process, but the mining industry we’re looking at. Even when it comes to a laptop, raw materials need to be mined. Babette says in her book that if we continue at our current rate, certain commodities (such as gold) will be spent in the coming decades. I never even realized that gold can be found in our laptops. In fact, two trucks full of discarded laptops is equal to 3.5 kilos of gold.

I immediately felt less perturbed about not having so many electrical appliances at home. If anyone raises an eyebrow at our hopeless “household equipment” department, I just throw a Babette tidbit in the air. Her tips for dealing with these kinds of gadgets in a wise way are:

  • Use your old device fully or have it repaired.
  • If you’re not using something, pass it on to someone else or take it to the thrift store. This way, it still remains in use, and replaces the purchase of a new one elsewhere.
  • Opt for used instead of new, or choose to rent or lease.
  • And finally, consider whether you really need it. So: just buy less.

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.

“Week 37 – Anything with a plug”