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Day 23

We’re now into the last week of our challenge! Wow! How have you been going with your pledges?

I have to admit, I recently almost buckled under the pressure of my #1 pledge: no packaged chocolate bars. I was bored and procrastinating and so I did what I always do: took myself down the chocolate aisle of the supermarket. It had been so long there were several new flavours just asking to be taste tested – the novelty! The allure! But..I couldn’t do it. What kind of a role model would I be? So, I took the higher ground and looked for a loophole: an unpackaged chocolate bar. I found one that was just packaged in paper, and got that charge of rebellious victory over…myself…but after three weeks of homebaked sweet treats, the supermarket’s offerings just tasted like gritty sugar capsules.

Lesson learnt?
Recognise and acknowledge the times I am bored and procrastinating and give myself something else to do. Keep abstaining from commercial chocolate so that my palate recognises it for what it is – artificial junk food – and rejects it on sight. Stay away from the supermarket. Knowing that I was on the challenge shamed me out of straying from my pledge, but in a week’s time when I lose that sense of accountability, it’s going to get tougher. This is where making zero waste a habit can make the transition easier – when you’re no longer used to doing that thing that is convenient yet wasteful, you build up a resistance to it which can help you to think twice and look for an alternative in the heat of the moment.

Now, on to this week’s challenge!

We’ll be looking at energy efficiency in the home, and we’re going to start small with the humble power point.

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How many of them do you have? Are you currrently using the item they are attached to or are you merely powering a machine on standby? I did not even realise my rangehood had a power socket until I did a thorough investigation. Standby electrical items are said to account for 10% of residential electricity use, so make a habit of turning power points off at the switch and see your bills and your carbon footprint shrink.

All my power points are off thank you very much – where’s my challenge?

How about rethinking an item that you currently power with electricity? I use an electric toothbrush, but recently bought myself a compostable toothbrush to use instead. I was always under the impression that your teeth get a better clean using an electric toothbrush, but after some research online, they say that it’s actually the brushing technique and not the implement that makes the difference. If I can avoid using fossil fuels to create and power my toothbrush just by brushing properly – with my home made toothpaste, no less! – then that will be a big eco win, especially given that I use this every day.

Now, over to you!

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Day 22

Happy World Environment Day!

This year you can really celebrate the day in style knowing that you’re making the change and doing your very best for our incredible environment. MJ and I salute you!!

Today’s challenge is super simple:
* Wish someone a Happy World Environment Day and mention that you’re doing the Zero Waste Challenge *
I promise I’m not saying this is a sneaky or creepy ‘join the cult’ kind of way. Part of the challenge of caring for the environment can also mean being an advocate for it and potentially addressing people who don’t, or don’t always show, that they care. If you’ve ever been frustrated by behaviour that seems distinctly un-environmental, you might have wondered how to address it in a non confrontational/preachy kind of way. Your friend/family member/co-worker might also have wondered if their behaviour is un-environmental but don’t want to bring it up or ask you because they:

a. Don’t know what else to do
b. Don’t want to look stupid
c. Don’t want to incur your eternal wrath
d. Don’t want to get you started

If you can open up a conversation in a very light way that inspires curiosity, then you can have a chance to have a discussion about an issue that does not directly challenge someone’s behaviour but invites them to find out about an alternative. You can mention your pledges, things that you’ve learnt along the way, behaviours that you’ve changed, initiatives that you’re keen to explore.

You can tailor your discussion to aspects that you might have noticed about their behaviour, but please, be discreet and respectful about it! People tend to be pretty resistant to shaming, so keep the discussion general and make it about you. If you say how you’ve given up using plastic bags and that’s been hard but x y z is how you’re making it work and you’re so content because your actions now align with your values, the other person is much more likely to enter the discussion or at least go away and think about it privately than if you say ‘I’ve noticed you’re still using petroleum laden plastic bags – how do you sleep at night?’ N to the 0.
The other thing that might happen is they might not say anything about it and that’s ok. Just putting the concept out there is enough – the rule of seven says that it takes people at least seven times to hear about an idea before they start to take notice of it, so you might be the first person who’s ever mentioned the zero waste challenge. Here’s hoping you won’t be the last – so log out of here and go spread the word on waste!

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Day 21

Welcome to Day 21!

We’ve now arrived at the final category:

– sentimental items –

These items aren’t waste to me!
I would wholeheartedly agree. The focus of today is not so much getting rid of stuff, but choosing what to keep. The hope is that having decluttered all the riff raff from your home that was just getting in the way, now you will have the opportunity to see and use the special things that are truly beloved. What items are important to you now, and what items do you feel that you are ready to let go?

*A word of advice from Marie Kondo*

don’t send these items back to your parents’ house. This goes for everything on the list – you can’t really say you’ve properly de-cluttered if you’ve just shifted them into storage space at your family’s home, nor is it fair on them. Unless it’s in a scheduled holding pattern while it awaits pick up, those items should not be leaving your home on anything other than a one way ticket outta there.

I have so many photos..where do I begin?
It might be a really nice opportunity to get together with family and go through them together. As per usual, gather all the photos together and make a timeline – this is where it’s useful to have other people on board that might remember details you had forgotten. You could then divvy up the photos between you and decide which ones stay or go. It’s also fun to get kids involved too – they could make collages from all the photos destined for the bin or picture frames for the ones you want to keep.

But such-and-such gave me that…surely I should keep it?
Once the act of giving is over, you have the freedom to decide if you want to hold onto it or not. I used to keep things for years, certain that if I didn’t my friends were going to come looking for that vase they gave me for my 25th birthday. I thought that right up until I went to help a friend sort out her stuff for a garage sale and found a gift I’d given her unopened in a box. We had a laugh about it, and I realised that it wasn’t really a big deal. If someone gives you something that doesn’t suit your tastes, it’s more instructional for them if you don’t have it on display so that they don’t continue to give you things that really aren’t your scene. Not only was it liberating to let go of things I’d kept for ages out of guilt and freed up so much more space, having donated the items means giving someone else the chance to use and appreciate them, which means less items that need to be manufactured and purchased, which saves the embodied energy of the resources produced to create the very item that you don’t even want in the first place!

As we come to the end of the declutter challenge, you might find it’s easier now to identify what items have meaning and purpose in your life and what items you’re just holding onto out of habit or duty. Think about the person you are now and the space you want to come home to. Keep that vision in mind anytime you go to purchase anything, accept a hand-me-down or store a gift. The top tier in the 5Rs pyramid is Refuse, so when it comes to keeping waste out of your home, that’s your first port of call.

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Day 20

It’s the weekend, you’ve got time free for you, so let’s take a look at what you do for fun. Today’s declutter challenge is

– hobby paraphernalia and equipment –

Don’t think that I’m going to ask you to give up your hobbies so you can spend more time earnestly composting or zero wasting yourself into an empty room devoid of all possessions. Today’s challenge is about making use of the things that bring you joy, not so much by having them but by using them.

If you have a bike in your garage, do you use it?
Do your ever listen to the singles that you purchased on CD circa 1995?
What about the snorkel you got three birthdays ago?
The postcard collection in a shoebox?
Your Nintendo?

Go through your house and collect all the items that represent hobbies. Into a giant pile they go. Now, pick up each one and ask yourself:

Marie Kondo:
Does it spark joy?

Me:
Does it need a new part?
Do I not have time for this anymore?
Have I lost enthusiasm for it?
Am I just out of the habit?

Really think about what place these hobbies have in your life now and moving forward. If you’ve outgrown them, it’s ok to admit that, remember all the good times, and pass on the equipment or collection to someone who is as passionate about it you once were. You could pass them onto friends of family, op shop them, garage sale them or sell them on Gumtree.

If you find yourself curious but hesitant, now is the time to make a date with yourself to take that hobby up again, whether that means booking into a class, buying a replacement part, or simply creating a habit of putting this item into use.

Now that you have more space in your home, you can surround yourself with more of the things that you like to do. Having de-cluttered also means that the time that you used to spend sorting through piles looking for items or frantically stashing things in your cupboards before your friends visited you can now be spent putting on your favourite vinyl and having a boogie on your roller skates. 0% time + energy waste, 100% fun!

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Day 19

Today we’re going to tackle the magical ‘miscellaneous’ category. You know all those odds and ends that don’t ever seem to have a home? You’re going to have to make one for them, or rehouse them.

If you have a collection of assorted buttons but don’t sew and have never needed to use them to repair an item of clothing, then to the op shop they go. Piles of wool from a knitting phase that you’ve never been motivated to take up again? As above.

Of course, if you know of a person or a group that would gladly make use of your items, then it’s so much more rewarding to give them directly to a grateful recipient than do an anonymous drop off, but the main thing is to get them out of your home and make space for the things you do use. I can’t tell you how good it is to finally be rid of all those small niggly items that I never seemed to use but accompanied me on every move I’ve ever made and took up both physical and mental space. Every time I looked at them they reminded me of an unfinished project and demanded a use I didn’t know how to give them. Letting them go has been such a freeing feeling!

What about all the items I’ve been meaning to recycle but probably can’t?
Seriously – go online. You’ll be surprised by the inventive ways you can re-use and upcycle existing items to keep them out of landfill.

Got an unseemly amount of batteries? Do the drop test: if you drop the butt of a battery onto a hard surface and it bounces, it’s low on charge. Got a swag of dead batts? Take them to ALDI where they can be recycled.

How about all those burnt out candles? Here’s my top upcycle trick to date: take an empty egg carton, line it with shredded paper (you’ll have a ready stash from all the paper you discarded in Day 18), melt down your candle wax and pour it over the top of the shredded paper. What have you got? An instant firelighter! Don’t have a fireplace? Not a worry – you’ll know of someone who does. I gave mine to a workmate and he reckons that he gets about five minutes of flame out of each one. If you fancy a spot of winter camping, It’s an infinitely less toxic way to get your fire started and is quick and easy to make for kids and big kids alike.

How about you? Have you got an upcycle trick up your sleeve? Or maybe you need some advice about what to do with that puzzle with the missing pieces? Feel free to post here!

The two main things you will need today are creativity and resourcefulness, so have fun with it!

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Day 18

Welcome to Day 18!

Today we’re going to de-clutter:

– papers –

Gather up all your paperwork, and I mean everything. Bills, receipts, medical certificates, professional development training booklets – anything that you find lying around AND everything that you’ve got squirrelled away in folders. You’ll be surprised by what you can find tucked away in those plastic pockets, and it’s particularly timely to do this now before the end of the financial year. How much of this do you actually need to keep, how much have you forgotten you have and have never needed, and how much can you probably just save digitally rather than having to keep a paper copy in your home?

Please note: at this stage you should not be going through anything sentimental, so put those love letters aside – we’re talking strictly business at this point!

I used to copies of every receipt in a shoe box, but when I went through them, most of the receipts had faded to the point where I couldn’t even make out what I’d purchased, and many of them were well past their warranty date, if they’d even had one to begin with. Now I’m more selective not only about which ones I’ll keep – or just scan for reference – but also which ones I’ll accept at the point of sale to begin with. The less paper I have coming into my space, the better!

I also used to keep all my PD training booklets and readers from uni, and Marie Kondo’s advice really made an impact on this practice. She said that most people hold onto these thinking they can refer to them later for information, but if you haven’t actually put the training into practice, you’ll probably need to do the whole course again if you’re really wanting to apply it. I took that on board and let the training booklets and readers go. Whatever information I’ve retained from that session is what I’ve put into practice until today, and I can always go to the library if I want to read on up anything that I’ve studied. If I haven’t needed to refer to it until now, it’s unlikely I will in the future.

Sorting through our papers makes us re-evaluate not only how we handle and store paperwork but also what we choose to keep. A lot of our papers represent not just events in our past but also hopes or ideas for the future – a business we might have wanted to start, a hobby we might have wanted to develop, a person in our lives we might have been keeping information for. A big part of this decluttering process is letting go of what we think is important and shifting the focus to what we need now. To be surrounded by things that are relevant, useful and serve us in the present not only gives us a sense of control and order, but also give us as a clarity of focus to what we hope to have in our lives now and in the future.

I’m guessing that you’ll end up with a few empty folders by the time you’re finished this process – I thought I was on top of my game after years of decluttering and ended up with eight empty folders and one less box to have to move – so create that order to make it easy for you to file away important documents and give the rest of the folders away. If they’re still in good condition, they’re great for kids at school and means one less item parents have to knock off their booklist.

For all the paper that is too good to put out for recycling, you can put it through the printer again and potentially save yourself having to purchase reams of new paper in the process: re-use is always preferable to re-cycle.

If you haven’t already done so, put a no junk mail sign on your letterbox and contact the charities, stores and companies in your life who send you mail. So much can be done electronically these days, so if you never read that newsletter or look through that catalogue, just send them an email to request that they take you off their subscription list or simply send it to you electronically instead. One of the best steps to put the brakes on clutter is to limit what comes into your home in the first place. It gets easier with practice and you learn to identify what is useful and what is just waste in the making.

Best of luck!

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Day 17

Welcome to Day 17!
Today’s de-clutter challenge is all about:
                                                                        ~ books ~
Just like your clothes, you’ll have to gather up all your books – yes, even if they’re neatly tucked away in bookcases – and pile them up. If you’ve got lots of magazines you can include them too. You’ll want to have some boxes prepared for packing, so if you don’t have any on hand, just stop by a supermarket or your local shopping strip where they’ll be more than happy to give away their excess carton rather than send it to the crusher.
Go through each item one by one, and consider if you really want to keep them. If you’ve had a book for years having been meaning to read it, ask yourself honestly if you truly want to devote the time to it. If you’ve been avoiding it, maybe you don’t really want to read it but just think that you should – because it’s a classic, because someone gave it to you, because one day you might need the back catalogue of Dogs Life when you finally start your own dogwalking business.
Zero waste also applies to your time, and if you can think of 10 other books you’d rather read, it’s likely that this one is not worth keeping. Unless it’s a rare find, you can always get it out from the library – or the State Library, which houses an innumerable collection of books, papers and magazines.
If you’ve had books just sitting in boxes, only when you’ve come to the end should you think about where to re-shelve them. Let the items dictate the storage space, not the other way around!
Now that you’ve got all these books to go, what should you do with them?
You could:
– pass special ones on to friends or family
– resell them to a second hand bookseller – the closest to Hume/Moreland is Academic and General in Moonee Ponds, and if you’ve got school novels or textbooks you could try Kangan Institute Bookshop in Broadmeadows
– take them to a book exchange store: the closest to Hume is the Niddrie Arcade Book Exchange
– leave them in a street book exchange – or set up your own! There’s lots of little neighbourhood book exchange spots popping up on nature strips or along bike paths – the Upfield bike path is host to one – but the biggest community book exchange which gets the most turnover is the Little Library at Melbourne Central: https://www.melbournecentral.com.au/what-s-happening/the-little-library.
– donate them to the State Library where you can go visit them whenever you want
– donate them directly to an op shop – your one stop shop!
Happy reading!