Welcome 2015. For the third year, I cleared my flat’s cabinets and bookshelves on New year’s day. It might become a tradition, like having panettone for breakfast during the Christmas holiday. Books, unwanted presents piled up in the last few years, notebooks from workshops, freebies, obsolete technology items, a spare cup inherited during a house move are a few of the items I have given away, or binned. I noticed on Instagram that I am not alone: Louboutin shoes bought during the sales and never worn – too uncomfortable – unsolicited presents and, frankly, just plain junk went on sale through microsites, blogs and the usual channels such as ebay and amazon.
The truth is, we buy a lot. Too much. My office is a great observation deck of how people buy and when. Two patterns: shopping happens at lunchtime in front of the computer or when drunk on a night out, on the smart phone. As ever, we buy more than they need. No one seems to want to give up on this ritual called Christmas shopping and January sales, with the addition of American imports such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I shop, ergo I am. Opportunities to buy are everywhere. If we do not find them, they find and follow us, on our laptop, on our phone, so we can buy when we are lacking motivation at work, when we are happy, when happy and in drunken despair, in the back of a cab. Lots of things are far cheaper than they used to be, everything is available in many price ranges, from a car to a lipstick, with a choice between new or preloved. No obstacles between us and a new something, facilitated by virtual payments, of course.
I am not condemning shopping, but a certain way to handle it. I would lie if I said that the scented and upmarket candle and the designer bag I received as Christmas presents were not an appreciated gift. I really like them. However the best gift I received was a goat. I am not starting an urban farm, but a friend of mine made a donation in my name that will to buy a goat for a family in Africa. It might sound cheesy and obvious, I know. I am not trying to demonstrate how amazing my friends are (which they are, btw).
It is going to be very useful for one family, made me and the friends who bought it happy. It hasn’t generated any extra paper, cardboard and wrapping. No child labour in Southeast Asia was involved in its making. All pretty valid reasons to make me feel good about it.
We are not running out of money, we are running out of space. And if you live in a large and densely populated city as I do, you probably know what I am talking about. Unless you inherited your house or are the beneficiary of a large inheritance, you are likely to live in a place smaller than the one where you were born and raised.
Living with less is the way forward. Emptying spaces and clearing surfaces make us feel a lot better, especially at this time of the year. I do not think it is a case that pretty much every radio programme I listen to or newspaper that lands on my lap, has a reference to the prophet of decluttering Marie Kondo, who spreads the verb of tidying and cleaning. Lots of her recommendations are, on one side, pretty obvious, on the other hand pretty disturbing.
There are two or three things that I have realised independently, but that were confirmed in Marie’s bible. Here is what I think:
We can get rid, without feeling any guilt, of everything that we do not like. No matter if it was a present, or we liked it when we bought it. If you do not like it, you shouldn’t live with it. Keep what you enjoy looking at.
Do not keep clothes because you think you might use them for gardening or DIY. Ask yourself the question: “if I was meeting my ex boyfriend wearing these clothes, how would I feel?” If the answer is ashamed or unconformable, get rid!
Do not keep stuff just because you think it will be fashionable again. It might very well make a come back, but the chances are that your body will be different, your proportions might be different and fabrics age too. I experienced it last week. I thought I could use a pair of gloves from the 80’s, but they fell apart in front of me. The fabric just spilt!
Old phones, old technologies. Your old kit will not make it into the Design Museum for an exhibition on icons from the 21st century. Throw them away with no remorse, just do it responsibly, using the dedicated bins.
I think a goat is the prefect present for any occasion in 2015.