by Kelvin Belfon
In the United States we throw away 40% of the food we produce. That’s approximately $165 billion worth of food each year. That’s like the average American household tearing up $2,200 in cash each year. That’s mind blowing!
We are also wasteful in our consumption of non-essential goods. This is anything ranging from precious metals, like jewelry, to electronics, trendy gadgets and appliances. It’s a shocking 1.2 trillion a year on things that we could be happy living without.
Yet, economists argue that purchasing them is the key to our economy’s growth. I get it. We have to keep dumping fuel in the fire to keep it going. But, for what?!
Doesn’t that habit only put Americans on a cycle of wastefulness? We buy things we don’t need that give us a temporary sense of fulfillment. When we are tired of them or they quickly lose our interest, we just toss them without giving a second thought to the matter of where they will end up.
One recent article on money shows that about 10.5 million tons of clothing hit the landfills each year! And while clothes are essential, this study includes that Americans are now buying 5 times the amount of clothes than they actually need.
When I began to embrace minimalism, I did so partly because of my concern for how I was contributing to such a wasteful lifestyle. In minimalism, we are called to minimize our needs and haves, de-clutter, downsize, reduce and just simply, get rid of our stuff.
One blogger, after reading Marie Kondo’s, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up took 20 garbage bags of stuff straight to the trash. Some bags contained outdated and obsolete gadgets while others contained items like uncomfortable shoes, never-used handbags and scarves. They were all discarded, even the new clothing. “Out. Out. Out. Damned clutter,” wrote the author.
Such an all-out-war on clutter is a commendable decision. Our clutter mostly comes into our lives as amicable friends. But over time, this innocent relationship quickly turns into an unhealthy obsession, consuming our lives and physical space.
Yet, along with many of Jessica’s readers, I thought as I read, “why such waste?”
As I read, I reflected on my life as a boy. I was raised on little so I had to care for and cherish what I did have. I repurposed old things to make new uses for them… over and over again. I wore shoes till they had holes and then would take them to the shoemaker for repair. So as I read Jessica’s post, I cringed at the degree of wastefulness implicated by her throwing away perfectly good things.
A balance between decluttering and being wasteful was recently brought to my attention by our 8 year-old son. My wife and I had wanted to get rid of extra kiddie cups and dishes, some of which our son was still very fond of having.
As my wife insisted that he make a choice on just a few of his favorite cups that he wished to keep, tossing the rest, he reasoned to her, “Why should we throw away something that is in perfectly good condition just to add it to the landfills, where it will sit there for a long time without breaking down?”
This led me to ponder his question.
Can we become hoarders by sticking to the old waste not want not adage? Yes, yes, yes! But minimalism doesn’t have to be wasteful either. You can live with less without filling up landfills with your want-nots. What to do with unwanted stuff provide some alternatives to throwing out clutter.
If you are like me and can de-clutter your possessions…good. Consider yourself blessed. Fortunate. Comfortable and better off than many people around the globe!
So let’s be grateful for what we’ve been given. Let’s think about others. It’s not always about us, even when pursuing a simple lifestyle. And let’s remember to care for and be responsible to our planet.