My last six months have been a flurry of packing, boxing, storing, moving, unpacking and buying. Three weeks ago I moved into an unfurnished flat, with my possessions consisting of:
- Clothes (including a sizable occasion dress and coat collection)
- Potted plants
- Korean rice cooker, big enough to cook for ten people (a gift which moved with me but I would like to part with soon)
- Some kitchen bits and bobs (such as a big bottle of washing up liquid, refilled in a zero waste store; and an extensive herb and spice collection, but no plates, forks or glasses)
Much like Kerry in Simple Year One, I wanted to unpack only what I knew I need, and more importantly, I wanted to buy only what I need. Which, after having access to all of the modern conveniences in a string of previous accommodation arrangements, didn’t seem like a long list. I was very wrong.
Let’s start with house cleaning. Many of you probably have a broom, a mop, a dustpan, some cloths and sponges, and perhaps you are considering replacing those with some new ones, made with more environmentally friendly materials, or just less knackered.
I had none of these, but I consider those necessities, which cannot be easily substituted (with an old t-shirt on a stick for example). To do justice to my simple year resolutions, I researched online, considered each item in terms of durability and environmental impact. In the end, I bought all those in a local hardware store, supporting local business and choosing items with little packaging.
And although I consider this a big win, I am also acutely aware that I could have done better, by not ordering a fancy steel and bamboo dustpan set from a well known online behemoth of a retailer, which shipped in a plastic bag — tainted love.
Furniture is another story. Some lucky second-hand finds from Gumtree (online listings, much like Craigslist) came with no packaging and from local sellers. And although I have tried to avoid buying new not having a dining table or chairs is difficult. Eventually, several flatpack pieces were purchased, and I found it very surprising how little non-recyclable packaging came with it. I have disposed of mountains of cardboard, which is one of the few materials which is successfully reclaimed and recycled in Europe; but had to deal with perhaps one stuffed carrier bag of plastic film packaging. All these thanks to a massive corporation which is taking significant strides to put themselves at the forefront of tackling the sustainability and pollution crisis we’re in. Read more here if you haven’t guessed who I’m talking about yet.
Finally, there seems to be a never-ending list of things which turn a house into a home. A rug for the tiled hallway (very cold for the feet, especially middle of the night on the way to the WC), a grater, a colander, recycling bin, a full-length mirror, a wardrobe (instead of a rack and some temporary shelving), etc. However, since being able to comfortably sit down with a cup of tea or eat a meal at a table, the urgency to buy all of those home fillers has significantly eased. I will continue to look for things second-hand and/or unpackaged, and meanwhile, as the English say, make do.
And for you, my friends here are some things I have recently read and liked the look of:
- How to be a frugal zero-waster
- The scrunch or fold debate, because the news is not ridiculous enough these days
- Vegeware (compostable single-use takeaway) is not the answer to the plastic crisis