Monday, March 24, 2008

Letting Go and Just Saying No: Eco-Thrift via Organization

Discardia is happening right now -- let's join in! To celebrate Spring, clear out old clutter and ideas and make room for the new: new ideas, new life, new (truer to one's) self.

Discardia is the time to get rid of things that no longer add value to your life, shed bad habits, let go of emotional baggage and generally lighten your load.... One thing you might like to consider is the idea of culminating the Discardian season with a particular act of letting go. For example, on the Discardian new moon you might decide that you won't buy anything or bring anything into your home and that you will instead just enjoy the fact that you have enough. (metagrrl via LifeHacker)
Definitely my kinda holiday. I love how the stars align sometimes to reinforce mutual objectives. In my case, organizing, thrift, and ecological awareness all dance together like elusive plums almost within my grasp. But no guilt here, just excitement at the baby (feotal?) steps I've taken and those I plan to tackle. If you know me IRL, you know that I am about as messy as a person really can be in this universe. I love the creativity that spontaneity can bring, and I won't give it up. I love sacking laundry in favor of a walk in the woods. Yet I also want to honor the side of me that loves structure and order. I truly believe that organization can free you up to be creative. I want, therefore, to fine tune my balance between the two.

Here are some resources I've gathered to help me build structure into my life:
  • Getting my mind around valuing what we already have is a key part of my strategy; I find that whenever I organize and purge -- be it toys or clothes or kitchenware -- that I rediscover old favorites. I use what I keep more effectively because I can access it, I remember where it is, and I've consciously chosen to have it. Rotating our toys -- both within our house and among friends and family -- also increases their entertainment value.
  • No Impact Man recently interviewed BC Professor Juliet Schor, author of Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture and co-founder of the Center for a New American Dream. As they discussed America's planned obsolescence-based materialistic culture, Schor mused, "If we treated the material as sacred, we might become more spiritual about the way we consume and that might help us solve some of our problems." I like this image. Valuing, even revering the items we choose to keep in our homes. As we've chosen to live in a small space, this resonates with me. With a couple kids, we are at the point that we have to consider our physical surroundings.
  • This post links basic principles of leading an organized life (acquiring less, purchasing items of high quality so you can use them for longer, trying to use virtual storage/bill-paying, simplifying, saying no to things you don't need, and downsizing by giving away or selling your unused stuff) with a basis for respecting the environment. Reminded me of the great quote by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, who, when asked if he wanted a goody bag for his keynote speech at an enviro conference, said, "Thank you, but I have everything I need." (via Treehugger)
  • A Parent Hacks post on the Top 20 Tips for Organization, Kid Optimization, and Happiness included the following promising tips: attitude-wise, remembering to be on your kid's "side" when defining a problem with entropy (ie the child is never the problem); creating toy libraries so the next toy to be played with has to be checked out; using timers to easily carve out manageable chunks of time for children (we do this for toy cleanup/tooth brushing with intermittent success and I'd like to build on this); and creating calendars so that even small children can visualize the flow of their days.
In general, I'm finding that to really change our habits, instead of reacting to the chaos, I have to step outside of what I think a house ought to look like. A small example? I work in our living room since our baby sleeps in our former office. But I hadn't adapted to that reality. Now that I've cleared out an entire bookshelf of parenting books (smile) to allow for filing and office organization, every horizontal surface in our living room isn't covered with papers. Another example? Slapping up 5 hooks at my kid's height so that she can hang up her own backpack and coat when she comes in the door. As it turns out, the hooks don't punch holes in the wall by the back door. They don't look strange. What they do is empower my child to take control of her own environment. Today, after hanging up her own coat (and her brother's!), she walked around the house "picking up and organizing" without my asking!

What do you have in mind for this season of lightening your load?


Cathy Mullins said...

This "discardia" idea is kind of the way we chose to live a few years ago and then we've added to it as we grew in awareness about conservation. That is, recycling is not a solution -- not using resources in the first place is a solution.
Plus, we're moving, so lots of letting go is happening.
Plus, I quit smoking a few months ago, that definitely feels like discardia.
Thanks for the work that went into this. Great post.

MamaBird said...

Cathy, good luck moving *and* quitting smoking. Talk about hard work!

Mrs. G. said...

I had no idea that my yearly spring fling had such an official title. I have been going through each room giving my stuff the "do I really need and love you" test.

Susannah said...

We just had a teachable moment in our house related to this. Our 2nd grader is very into spy gear and has amassed a pretty cool array of high quality motion detectors, periscopes, and other devices (thanks to eagle-eyed, shopping grandmas).

When the Scholastic catalog came around, he spent his own money on their very cheap spy kit (against our advice and therefore w/o our funding) and then (surprise!) none of it worked or broke immediately. He was so disappointed, but agreed that he would not buy plastic c*** ever again. Yes, we will probably have to remind him next time he's tempted by the siren call, but hey, it was a good moment!

MamaBird said...

Mrs. G - you just put your finger on why I am so disorganized! Instead of just cleaning up, I philosophize and write and essay about it!

and Susannah - I am so impressed by the plastic cr*p lesson! excellent parental restraint and such wisdom for him at such a tender age.

Melissa said...

Okay, I am officially celebrating Discardia--it sounds so much better than saying I am working on decluttering my entire house and trying to organize my life!

Michele said...

I am a little late to the party, but I love the idea of Discardia and realize I was practicing it already on my own. I applaud whoever said that recycling isnt enough, we need to not use the resources in the first place. Amen.