We aren’t the most eco friendly family on the planet, but the environment is important to us, so we do try our best. There are places we can improve, and places I feel like we are really rocking. I started making a post about the things we do to keep it green, but that post got way too long way too quick, so I figured it might be fun to do a small series on it.
We aren’t experts, and these posts will just be the things that we’ve found work for our family.
The number one first step for us was minimizing what we have and pushing aside the desire to own the coolest, latest, and greatest thing. In the end, nearly everything one uses will end up in a landfill, so using as few things as possible, and getting the longest life out of what we do use is key to reducing our carbon footprint.
When we first started making a conscious effort to minimize the amount of stuff we brought into our home, I had to identify our problem areas. We aren’t really into technology (going on five years with our phones). We don’t care about super fashionable decor in our home (ya’ll have seen our couch right?). But of course everyone has something, and for us it was mostly kid stuff. Kids toys. Kids clothes. Kids books.
Minimizing your stuff is something I think people really need to evaluate individually, as every family has different needs. The biggest hurdle usually lies not in getting rid of ones belongings, but in getting rid of ones desire to bring more belongings into their life. You can declutter all you want, but if you keep obtaining more things you aren’t really making a difference. Here are a few of the ways we try to stop extra stuff from entering our home:
Clothes – Clothes will take over your life quicker than the whip and nae nae took over America last summer. Which is a problem because about 6% of landfill waste comes from textiles. Yes you can donate used clothing to your local Goodwill, which is awesome, but they actually end up trashing a lot of it, so what’s more important is to not go overboard on buying clothing to begin with. Buy what you need, and wear what you buy. I don’t get a chance to do laundry every week, so I like to have about 2 weeks worth of clothing for my kids. What two weeks means varies by child (Violet has the occasional accident so needs more, James will wear jeans twice so needs less etc). We pass hand-me-downs among friends, participate in a neighborhood clothing swap, and generally try to avoid overbuying (just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean I need to purchase it).
Birthdays – Our kids have gotten to the age where most of their friends give gift cards, so it’s not as big of an issue anymore. When they were young we’d always write “no gifts” on the birthday invitation. Some people listened (thank you!) and some people didn’t (can’t blame them, it’s hard to break with the cultural expectation of gift giving). If the gift was something my kids could genuinely use we kept it, but if not, I allowed myself to exchange the item or regift it without guilt. I never exchange or regift things from family or best friends, but the obligatory board game from that one kid we aren’t that close to is fair game.
Books – Can one have too many books? Yes, actually they can. Having books sitting on your shelf that no one is ever going to reread is not doing yourself or that book any favors. Each of our kids has a book shelf in their room for their favorites, and Rob and I have one we share. Rather than buying lots of new books, we try to frequent the library, swap/borrow books from friends, download digital books or use the website paperbackswap.com. There is something very exciting about a new book, so when someone gives my children a book or when we occasionally pick books for them as gifts, they are certainly cherished. But for the most part we try to bring books into our home on a temporary basis, and then send them on their way for someone else to enjoy. Rob’s got a lot on his plate right now, but I think I may have just talked him into building a Little Free Library for our front stoop.
Christmas – We stick to 4 gifts (something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read).
Toys – I try to avoid situations where my child will be given a junky toy (example: happy meals) and teach them to say no when offered something they don’t actually need. One of my kids is great at saying “no thanks” when the dentist tries to hand them a handful of cheap plastic toys after a cavity free visit, another insists we need those toys. When those little junkie things do make it into our house, I keep them in a box in the closet and regift them in place of candy at Halloween.
One In, One Out – The biggest help for stopping excess toys, books, and clothes from entering our home is adopting a one in, one out policy. When you bring in a new book to keep, you must give away an old book. When you bring in a new toy, you must give away an old toy. When you bring in a new outfit, mom selects the most beat up outfit in your closet to either trash/donate/turn to rags (depending on exactly how many holes are in the knee). This helps keep the stuff at a minimum, and makes our kids consider how badly they actually want something before they buy it.
Anyone have any tactics they use to keep things from coming into their house to begin with? I’m always open to ideas.