The detoxing of stuff
Ray Georgeson looks at the modern obsession with accumulating 'stuff' and how much better we can feel after having a clearout.
This summer, my family moved to a new house within our local town. Like all house moves it came with its own stresses and strains, but eventually it settled down and so did we. We took a decision to downsize a little, like many people trying to prepare as best we can for the forthcoming Brexit chaos (or maybe not – we live in hope). The Victorian terraced house we moved to is reasonably substantial as those properties often are but offered less storage space than our old home.
So, part of planning to move involved the inevitable decluttering and removal of stuff we didn’t really need to be hanging on to, in order to make space in the new home and start afresh; a common tale in modern life, even for many ardent environmentalists who you would think wouldn’t be as wedded to the possession of stuff.
Well, generally we aren’t, but ardent environmentalists create their own brand of material excess, insofar as, over time, we simply don’t throw stuff away that might come in handy one day and find a good route for reuse.
In my case, once I started diving into cardboard boxes of stuff that had been secretly stored away, the process of detoxing of stuff proved easier than I thought. I had prepared myself for an onslaught and shaped in my head a tight strategy for retention of the stuff that really meant something and that I’d still want to keep. So for example, this meant that old Waste Watch membership leaflets were sent for recycling (I kept one for the archive, the organisation hasn’t existed separately for several years) but the old Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark box of gig programmes, tickets and cuttings from NME, Sounds and Melody Maker was retained! You get the idea now?
So, an assorted collection of unwanted children’s toys (still in good condition), odd small pieces of furniture, bits of old computers and phones, viable clothes and various bits and pieces all made their way to the very well managed Leeds City Council recycling and reuse centre (civic amenity site) at Ellar Ghyll and on for resale and reuse at the city’s Revive reuse shop in Seacroft.
The guys at Ellar Ghyll started to recognise my face; we started to get onto first name terms after a few trips, culminating in a conversation about the nature of modern excess of stuff with one of the chaps on duty in which he reflected that yes, when he split from his partner and moved into a one-bedroom flat, he wondered whether he really needed his 200 t-shirts and 40 pairs of jeans! Think about that for a moment.
Anyway, he is not alone and nor do I condemn him – the absurd quantities of old clothes we all hang onto have been well documented in recent years, but this was a great, real example.
I have to say, I do feel better for having had a serious clear-out and making sure that most of it was either recycled or sent for reuse. It is a modern disease and even the ardent environmentalist is not immune from it – we just have different odd piles of stuff.
Next on the detox list: alcohol, biscuits, vinyl records (not the OMD), meat, cake, chocolate, driving, screen time (delete as applicable).
Do come around for a cup of tea sometime – we do still have a spare chair for you to sit on!