As you might have been able to tell from all the thingless-Christmas posts I recently made, these days I’m working on reducing my material stuff. So I decided to centre my New Years resolutions around becoming conscious of my addiction to stuff and ultimately reducing the amount of stuff I have in my life.

What’s wrong with stuff? Well first of all, stuff takes natural resources and energy to produce. A lot of stuff requires storage facilities (such as book cases) or requires maintenance, both of which cost money. Some stuff-addicted friends of mine have had to move into bigger apartments or houses just so they had more room for their stuff! Bigger houses take more resources to build, maintain, heat, cool, and clean and they cost more to buy or rent. A lot of stuff also takes up space after it’s been “disposed of” in landfills. Plus making, using and disposing of stuff can produce pollution that poisons air, land and waterways. If you want to know more about stuff and how our addiction to it is destroying our planet check-out the short on-line video “The Story of Stuff” with Annie Leonard.

So how am I addressing my own addiction to stuff? First, I’m keeping track of every penny I spend. This stops me from being in denial about how much of my money and energy is going towards stuff and its maintenance. For more on the cost of stuff in your own life and the importance of keeping track of your spending see the simple living classic Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.

Second, in order to help me reduce the amount of stuff I’m acquiring, I’m bringing a list of questions with me when I go shopping. I have adapted my questions from a great little book called 30 Days to a Simpler Life, by Connie Cox and Chris Evatt (which they used to have at the Ottawa Public Library, but which has mysteriously disappeared from their catalogue).

My own personal list of 10 shopping questions is as follows:

  • Does this purchase meet my values of environmental sustainability and social justice?
  • Will purchasing this object help me to meet my goals?
  • Will it create more work?
  • Will it create more costs?
  • Will it make my life easier?
  • Am I willing to scrap what it is replacing?
  • Do I need it?
  • Would I buy it at full price?
  • Would I buy it if it did not reduce shipping costs for other items?
  • Do I want it because I believe it will make me feel better?

Again, following the sound advice of Connie and Chris, when I have the desire to make a big purchase I am going to wait a month to see if I actually need it or if it was merely a passing impulse.

My final strategy for this year’s resolution is to get rid of stuff that I no longer use which is taking up space in my house.   Again, I have turned to Connie and Chris for tips on how to tackle such a life-simplifying task.  However, my motivation comes from Annie Leonard who cites a U.S. study that found only 1% of the stuff people purchase is still being used 6 months later.  One Percent!

To help me reduce the stuff in my house without increasing the stuff languishing in landfills I’m going to make use of the Ottawa Full Circles community.  Full Circles is an on-line group that helps people get the things  they no longer use to people who need them, thereby reducing purchases of new items and reducing the stuff going to landfill sites.  All for free.

So there you have my new year’s resolution and my plans for carrying through with it.  I’d love to hear other people’s resolutions…

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