Why Holding On To Things is Wasteful

The increased visibility of decluttering brought by TV shows and social media, all filled with images of trash bags pilled up has also spurred a growing criticism that decluttering is wasteful.

In our consumer-driven culture, it’s viewed as wasteful to give up “perfectly good” things. Particularly if the items are unused or unopened, and even if you know you won’t use it or even forgot about it, it can be hard to let go. Many people struggle to declutter because they feel they should hold on to things to prevent being wasteful

I’d like to share the story of my wedding dress.

decluttering wedding dress 1.jpg

Like many brides, the wedding dress was a big part of the celebration of marriage. I loved wearing it. I love my wedding. I love the photos of me wearing it. But after the event, I didn’t feel I had a particular need to keep it. But it seemed like one of those things that I “should keep”, so I did.

A few years after the wedding, I thought about how much space it took up in my closet, so I tried to sell it. I didn’t get any offers. A few more years went by. I read an article about donating dresses and was excited by the idea, and looked them up. They didn’t want my dress, and only wanted dresses less than 5 years old. How disappointed I was! If only I would have known sooner, it could have gone to a good home!

Still holding on to the dress, I moved to a new house and it was shuffled to the very back of a rarely-used guest closet. A few more years went by.

Then, my husband and I started to pack and prepare for a cross country move. Let me tell you, moving 3000 miles and taking only what you can fit in an RV is a sure way to reconsider if you truly need and want to keep your belongings. And I knew my dress was one of those things that did not spark enough joy to warrant the space.

Unable to sell it and unable to donate to a bride-focused charity because of its age, I consented to donate to a thrift store. Perhaps, a bride would find it there and it would bring joy to their wedding. I took it out of its bag to wear one last time- actually, the only time since my wedding- and I was dismayed to find that it had yellowed and had other large spots of discoloration.

It was no longer fit for a bride. I still took it to the thrift store, hoping someone might snatch it up for a costume, but in all reality, it will likely end up in the trash.

I had waited too long.

Now that, is waste.

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Perhaps you don’t have the same experience as my wedding dress, but I bet you’ve done something similar.

Ever save expensive olive oil for a special recipe, but all the times you cooked never seemed special enough and so it sat? Finally, when you decided to use it, it had gone rancid?

Yea, me too.

Sending everything to the landfill instead of recycling or donating is waste, but decluttering isn’t the problem.

By the time things are in the home, waste has already occurred. Money has been spent, the ecological resources have been used. What’s wasteful is to buy things that weren’t needed in the first place. It’s wasteful to let item expire in the pantry, dry up in the makeup box, or go out of style in the closet. 

Cherish things, use things up, or let them go.

If you don’t want to keep something, let it go as soon as you are ready. If I had decided I really wanted to keep my wedding dress, I should have hung it in a spot I saw everyday so I could celebrate it.

Don’t let things sit around. It’s dishonorable to the item, whether it’s a book, a shirt, or, a wedding dress to hide them away in the back of a shelf or a closet. Allow them to be used up as they were intended, or pass them along while they are still in style or are usable to someone who can use it!

If you are looking for ways to reduce waste in your daily life, let's talk! Over a phone chat, I can help you manage your waste and transition to reusables and plastic-lite living.

It’s wasteful to let item expire in the pantry, dry up in the makeup box, or go out of style in the closet.