I realised a few weeks ago during my house move that I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I had collected over the years. After several years of living in a two bedroom flat and storing many of my possessions at my mum's house because "one day I would have a bigger place to put it all", the time has come where I now have that bigger place I was dreaming about and I still feel like my stuff is a burden.
I was looking for some inspiration and decided to read Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home after reading an article about it in a magazine a few months ago. Bea begins the book by explaining why she opted for the simple life after living what she describes as her 'American dream' for a while. Even though my lifestyle is very different to the one she was living then, I could still identify with her feelings towards her life and possessions.
After this initial introduction, what follows is a detailed 'how to' guide on simplifying your home and life and in turn becoming healthier and happier by following a simple system - "refusing (what we do not need), reducing (what we do need), reusing (what we consume, recycling (what we cannot refuse, reduce or reuse) and rotting (composting) the rest".
I found the chapters Kitchen and Grocery Shopping and Bathroom, Toiletries and Wellness to be particularly interesting. I am guilty of collecting kitchenware like you wouldn't believe. I'd need a Jamie's-Ministry-of-Food-size-kitchen to accommodate it all and I don't have one. Food waste is also something I'm guilty of although I'm getting better with this one. Bea lists the type of kitchen tools and dishes that you actually need and I admit for a family of two with occasional visitors, I have far too much.
The chapter on Bathroom, Toiletries and Wellness discusses the chemicals in our beauty products (something that does concern me) and lists the ingredients to look out for and avoid.
The other chapters cover Bedroom & Wardrobe, Housekeeping & Maintenance, Workspace & Junk Mail, Kids & School, Holidays & Gifts, Out & About, Getting Involved and The Future of Zero Waste.
Overall, I would recommend this book if simplifying your life and reducing waste is something you are interested in. The tone of the book isn't preachy at all, just informative. Although I found some of Bea's methods to be a bit extreme for me, for example making many of her beauty products and food items such as condiments from scratch (I will still be buying make-up and mustard) I did find it motivational and inspirational.
I will never and have no desire to be zero waste but I am adopting the following practises as a starting point:
- Keeping a re-usable shopping bag in the car and in my handbag at all times so that I never have to use plastic.
- Switching to more natural and chemical free beauty products such as deodorant to avoid the harmful chemicals in the more common brands. However, I'm not professing to do this with all products because I a bit of a beauty junkie.
- Using a bar of soap rather than hand wash in the upstairs bathroom. I feel the need to explain this one a bit - I am really squeamish about the public use of a soap bar for hand washing because I believe that bacteria stays on the bar of soap. However, I don't mind if it's just the two of us using soap for hand washing. From now on it will be soap upstairs and a bottled hand wash downstairs (for visitors). This will save a lot of waste over time because I wash my hands ALL the time at home.
- Reduce the amount of stuff in my kitchen. As well as the kitchenware I mentioned before, I am guilty of storing things like tins of baked beans etc like someone preparing for a zombie apocalypse. I live within easy reach of shops and supermarkets so there is absolutely no need to store tons of food supplies. I will be keeping this to a minimum.
- Make more of an effort with composting. Our local council does provide a food waste recycling bin and I do use it but not as religiously as I should.
- Finally, I am going to make an effort to avoid using chemical cleaning products where possible and opt for vinegar instead (as Bea suggests).
I will also continue with my reducing/de-cluttering efforts by donating and listing on ebay.
"The things you own end up owning you"
- Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club)
Here's to a more simple life!
If you are interested in reading more Bea's blog can be found here - www.zerowastehome.blogspot.com