Pondering plastic free, the cause of clutter, and a recycled top tip. 

I know I use too much plastic, and the more I hear about the damage plastic does to the environment the more I worry about how much I use. But it’s so hard to avoid. And so easy to slip up. So I decided to sign up to Plastic Free July

I knew when I signed up that completely avoiding plastic would not be possible, not least because I didn’t sign up until July had already started and my fridge was already full of plastic wrapped food. So my aim is not to avoid plastic completely, but to be far more aware of it and identify the single use plastics I can easily avoid and those I’m going to have to work harder at. 

It didn’t start well. In hindsight starting on the day I returned to work after several weeks off sick and had to get my son to his work experience was not the best plan. Neither me nor my son are good with changes to our routines or mornings! There I was congratulating myself on remembering reusable shopping bags when I realised I’d just filled the reusable shopping bags with prepackaged lunches covered in single use plastic. Oops! I’d failed on the first day!

But these days I don’t give up that easily. Today I took homemade lunch to work, in a reusable box; remembered my water bottle as well as my shopping bags; and chose to sit in and have a cuppa in a proper cup rather than get a take away. Several lots of single use plastic avoided. I’ll build from here.

I’m hoping avoiding plastic will also help me avoid clutter. I’m trying to purge my house of clutter, which is a very gradual process, and in doing so I’ve realised something really important:

The most important part of decluttering is not deciding how to get rid of the clutter, developing organisational methods to rearrange clutter, or reading lots of online decluttering advice. The most important part of decluttering is STOP BUYING MORE CLUTTER! It doesn’t matter how prettily you organise it, if you have more stuff than you need you’ll end up with mess, stress and expense. 

I am both an impulse shopper and a hoarder. I love a bargain, and I hate to get rid of anything that might one day be useful. Hence the amount of clutter grows and grows. Its a habit I need to break, especially as my recent reduction in work hours means that our already tight budget is getting ever tighter. 

And I’ve found a way to stop myself spending that’s working for me (so far!)

It’s a variation on thesecretblogofa30yearsee‘s BIGGEST tip on saying NO. Deceptively simple and incredibly effective. She gives the tip about saying no to unhealthy food: 

Get yourself a notebook and pen, throughout the day every single time to resist something naughty, write it down… Then at the end of the day add up the syns you said no to, you will be amazed at what that number on the bottom of the page says. 

Read the whole blog post here

I tried it with food and it works. And then I expanded it and found it works for saying no to buying stuff I don’t need too. 

Take today. I had an hour to kill in town before I collected my son, so I wandered round the shops and went for a cuppa. There are so many sales on at the moment, and so much lovely stuff at bargain prices. 

I saw a gorgeous lamp, less than half price (still over £30!) And I said No to myself. 

I saw the whole of the range of one my favourite, treat myself, can’t afford it full price toiletries was at least half price and the perfume 66% off! Last time this happened I spent more than £50 stocking up. And I said No to myself. 

I mooched around T K Maxx where I can always find multiple things I could buy, but I knew I didn’t really need any of them. And I said No to myself. 

Total non essential things bought : cuppa and scone £5 (no single use plastic)

Total non essential things NOT bought: at least £100 (and a lot of clutter)

I think this works because generally we remember our failures rather than our successes. We remember we ate the one chocolate bar, but forget all the cookies we said no to. I could quite easily beat myself up for “wasting” £5, and never remember how much more I could have wasted. I see all the clutter that is in the house, and forget how hard I’m working to stop more being added. Writing it down and quantifying it makes it more concrete, and you can see that really you’re doing quite well, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I find that helps me a lot.

Now if I could just persuade the rest of my family not to add to the clutter we might get somewhere! 

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Baking Cookies to Declutter!

After a bad week last week I’m trying to get myself into gear and move forward this week. I’m going to do things, even if they’re only little things. I’m picturing it as the first positive pebbles which will hopefully begin an avalanche of positivity (possibly not the best metaphor, what with the crushing and all, but it’ll do for now.)

One of the things that makes me anxious and guilty is the amount of clutter in my house. I struggle to get rid of anything, have raised two kids who also struggle to get rid of anything and chosen a partner who, guess what? Yep, struggles to get rid of anything. I constantly want to do something about this, but don’t know where to start. I read blogs and articles, and I would be happy if my house looked like the ‘before’ picture, never mind the ‘after’ one. I spend ages doing things that seem to make little difference, and then I give up. 

The anxiety and depression doesn’t help. The anxiety makes me worry and feel guilty about the house, but the depression drains any energy to tackle it. A never ending spiral of:

LACK OF ENERGY > GUILT > WORRY > MISERY > LACK OF ENERGY > GUILT >>> ad infinitum

I’m putting the breaks on that. I’m going to try and celebrate the little successes, rather than dwelling on the outstanding failures. This is going contrary to my normal pattern of thinking, and is going to take practice. But I managed to make changes in how I act to improve my physical health, so I’m sure I can make changes to how I think to improve my mental health.

So. Baby steps. 

As a result of struggling to throw anything away my fridge has multiple almost empty jars. You know the ones – too much food to comfortably throw away, too little to do anything with. Wasting food was a big no when I was growing up, and I’ve held that belief with me. 

So rather than throw all these jars away I decided today is the day I’m going to use them, or some of them at least. I found this recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies and decided that would do nicely. 

The first thing you’ll notice looking at the finished cookies on that website is that they are beautiful, delicate things, carefully shaped and crafted. I baked them with my teenage son and our approach was a little more… let’s say rustic, rather than cack-handed, shall we? Baking helps my son practice fine motor skills, which are difficult for him due to his undiagnosed genetic condition and severe dyspraxia. So we went big and bold rather than small and delicate! 

At first the dough was far too dry, and I ended up adding the egg white as well as the yolk. This still made delicious biscuits. 

We used up the dregs of five jars of jams, chocolate spread and curds, so that’s five less jars cluttering the fridge. 

Unfortunately they are now cluttering my bench until I can pass them on to a jam-making friend, but still, it’s progress. 

Baby steps!