Am I allowed to “waste” things?

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Given my interest in decluttering, today I found myself pondering over a dilemma. At what point is it acceptable to get rid of something which is useful, but which you don’t like? For me, this issue tends to arise particularly around toiletries. At the moment, for example, I’m using some Dove body moisturiser which was given to me as a Christmas present. I don’t particularly like the smell or the texture, but not to the extent that I refuse to use it. More subtly, I don’t enjoy using it. That has a knock-on effect with my moisturising regime, in that it removes an incentive for me. It’s not enough to make me actively procrastinate on moisturising, but if it’s a bit cold when I get out of the bath, or I feel like it’s a bit later than usual, I’m less inclined to bother, and having something unenjoyable to use seems to push me towards skipping it for a day.

Compare that to my current bubble bath, which is marshmallow-scented and which I absolutely love. it becomes a reason to look forward to having a bath. A more accurate comparison might be with my current hand cream. Again, I love the smell of it, so if I’m teetering on the edge of putting cream on, that might just push me over.

Now, body moisturiser is fairly cheap anyway, and this specific one cost me nothing as it’s a present. Therefore, in concrete terms I lose nothing if I throw it away. In opportunity terms, I’ll have to buy a replacement moisturiser sooner, but again, that’s not the kind of expense that’s going to break the bank. If I didn’t like it at all, I could have happily given it to the charity shop unused, and the cost wouldn’t have been an issue in any way. Still, I feel some resistance to throwing it away. Perhaps it’s the waste element. I feel bad that neither I nor anyone else will get any benefit out of the remaining part of the bottle. However, if I take into account the disbenefit to me – the reduction in moisturising regularity – that would seem to outweigh the benefit of using up the rest of the bottle. Environmentally, the unused moisturiser will go in the bin and end up somewhere undesirable. But I suppose that even the used moisturiser gets washed off when I bathe, with the chemicals going down the plughole. So it doesn’t seem to make a big difference to anyone or anything, except in terms of my enjoyment level. Yet I still feel some level of resistance to throwing it out.

I’m sure a professional declutterer would tell me to throw it out if I don’t like it. I suspect an environmentalist would tell me that the damage is already done when the moisturiser is produced, and that I should switch to more eco-friendly products, like soap nuts. I can’t think who would tell me to keep it and use it up, except perhaps an older person with a “waste not want not” attitude carried over from the Second World War and rationing. So how have I internalised this message that I’m giving myself?

It’s an interesting question, and even after writing it all down and giving myself all the logical reasons to get rid, I still feel like “Maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow and see how I feel then”. What would you do? Do you know of any uses for half-empty toiletries that I haven’t thought of, and that would mean I could put mine to good use?

Project 333 – going forward

10 tops hanging on the wall

This month, I started tracking what I wear with Project 333 again. I’ve now been doing Project 333 for over a year, and have found it very effective. However, at this point, I’m starting to feel like I don’t need to track my wears anymore. The benefits of Project 333 have become fully embedded in my wardrobe, and when I do go outside of my prescribed items for the season, it’s invariably for a good reason, such as having to dress up for a more formal social occasion, or needing something smarter for an event with the most senior people at work. I’m therefore going to continue with the Project 333 principles, but without tracking what I wear each month. I wouldn’t go back to having a “free-for-all” wardrobe as I have got a lot out of Project 333:

Wardrobe space
Almost everything I can wear for the season is hanging in one wardrobe (Barring outerwear, shoes and scarves). Although logically that can’t save me a huge amount of time, psychologically I feel like I can choose what to wear much more quickly in the morning. I also find it quicker to put away my laundry, as it all goes into one place, and I hang everything instead of folding it.

Clothes maintenance
Following on from above, the new space in the wardrobe and the fact that I hang everything, means that my clothes don’t get wrinkled or squashed together when I put them away. I can be confident that everything I take out of the wardrobe will be ready to wear. This is especially useful for me as I stopped ironing my clothes at least a year ago. I hang them straight to dry, then hang them in the wardrobe, and that’s usually enough. I do have the odd thing that’s the exception, such as formal dresses for weddings, but I wear those so rarely that it’s not an issue.

Clarity
In two senses. First, I can see everything available to wear, and I no longer have the experience of forgetting something because it’s been in the back of the drawer for a while. Second, I can see what I actually wear, and what I keep for theoretical reasons. For example, I had a few formal shirts which I gave to the charity shop. I had kept them for years, in the theory that if I needed to go to a formal meeting at work, I’d want to wear a shirt. However, when that situation does arise (very infrequently), I’m much more likely to wear a more casual top with a jacket to smarten it up. I never picked those shirts, even when the exact hypothetical situation for wearing them came up.

Reality check
When I first started doing Project 333, there were some clothes in my wardrobe which were not actually for me at all. They were for my 20-year-old self, who wore t-shirts with quirky slogans, or my fashion magazine self, who wears tailored jeans with a white shirt and a belt, or my alternate reality self, who wears a party dress more than one a year for the Christmas do. Getting rid of those clothes meant getting rid of my imaginary selves, which was hard at first, as it felt like getting rid of opportunities or possibilities. However, I found that when I let go of those imaginary selves, I let go of the feeling that who I am right now isn’t enough, or isn’t as good as I used to be. Actually, present me still wears a lot of nice clothes, and they are all a lot better suited to what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis.

I definitely got a lot of benefit from Project 333; enough that I’ll continue with the principles and keep the pared-down wardrobe that I’ve developed over the last 13 months. For now, I can trust myself to stick to it without any official rules or tracking. Of course, there’s always the option to go back to that if I find myself slipping. But I enjoy it enough that I expect to carry on without any effort.

How to do Project 333

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I’m coming to the end of a full year of Project 333 and have found it very easy. Here are my tips if you want to try it out.

  1. Give yourself a chance to trial it before agreeing on the full three months
    If you’re feeling apprehensive, or are not sure if it’s not for you, why not try it for a month, or even a couple of weeks? I find that a trial period gives me the confidence to make mistakes, without making me feel like “I can’t do this, I give up”.
  2. Don’t feel bad about switching clothes in and out
    Depending which country you’re in and what season it is, weather can be very tricky. For most of this year, I’ve allocated myself a row for one outdoor coat, but I switch between my lighter and heavier coat, depending on the weather. In the UK, we can have warm sunshine for a few days, followed by a temperature drop and pouring rain, so if I had to commit to one coat for three months, I’d never manage. Equally, since I only ever want one coat, why keep them all on my list?
  3. Try the clothes that you don’t normally wear and see how you get on with them
    I had tops that I kept to one side for going out, or weekend wear, but wouldn’t consider for work. When my wardrobe reduced, I started wearing them for work and they were absolutely fine. Bonus: I get to wear them much more often.
  4. If there are clothes that you never wear, do you still need them?
    Why do you never wear them?
    I’ve moved evening and formal wear into a separate capsule. I might only go to a wedding once a year, but when I do, I need an appropriate outfit, so I keep it to one side. In fact, I only have one appropriate outfit, so once I’ve worn that to all wedding combinations (my family/his family/my friends/his friends/my work/his work), I’ll sell it on eBay and get something else.
    If you don’t wear them because they fit funny, or wrinkle easily, or show up sweat, or need a zip to be replaced, just accept that you’ll never wear them and get rid.
    If you don’t wear them because you don’t feel like you look your best in them, it doesn’t matter how much you love an item itself, it has to go. With a capsule wardrobe, there’s no place for something you don’t feel great in.
  5. Take some time before you identify gaps and buy items to fill them
    When I started Project 333 a year ago, I was convinced that I needed some jeans and a white cardigan. The more I got used to my capsule, even without these “essential” items, the more I realised I could get on fine without them. On the other hand, I don’t have enough comfortable trousers and am on the look-out for a new pair.
  6. Modify it for you
    Particularly in the winter, I have several scarves, hats and pairs of gloves that I alternate. If I’d added them all to my list, I’d have had very few actual clothes in my 333 for that season. So I made a decision not to count winter accessories, and the world hasn’t collapsed because of it. If you find yourself adapting the rules so that you can keep 60 items per season, maybe you need a rethink. But if you love earrings for example, and can’t consider wearing the same pair every day, don’t let that stop you from trying Project 333.

January 2016 declutter total

Sold on eBay

  • 2 knitting magazines

Given to charity

  • 1 calendar
  • 1 folding mirror
  • 1 pair pyjamas
  • 1 pair socks
  • 1 crossword book
  • CLIC charity items: pen, badge, teddy

Thrown away/recycled

  • 1 cardboard box
  • 1 stereo aerial
  • 3 Merry Christmas banners (tatty)
  • Christmas cards
  • 1 pair tatty underwear

Exchanged

  • Slippers

Used up

  • Old moisturiser that’s been at my parents’ house for years

Total: 19 items

A fairly slow month for decluttering, but I kept progressing.

 

December 2015 declutter total

Given to charity

  • 3 pairs of glasses with the wrong prescription
  • 8 notebooks
  • 4 fiction books
  • Set of coasters
  • Bookmark
  • Set of Christmas cards
  • 4 toys
  • 4 necklaces
  • hanging storage item

Thrown away/recycled

  • 4 tins of expired food
  • 4 packets of expired food
  • Empty bottle (used contents to top up other bottles)
  • Tool for removing exercise ball plug (already sold exercise ball on eBay months ago)

Used up

  • Half-packet of walnuts used up in a recipe

Total: 38 items

This was my last session of the year, I’m always happy when I can get rid of more things than there are days in the month. However, I still have a way to go. I still have belongings which I haven’t used in the last year, so those will be the first things to look at in 2016.

Project333 – November 2015 (month 6)

  • 1 Nov- visiting family – black trousers, red/green top, black cardigan, black shoes
  • 2 Nov- work – black smart dress, red shoes
  • 3 Nov- work – grey/silver trousers, black 3/4 top, black shoes
  • 4 Nov- work – grey/silver trousers, purple top, black shoes
  • 5 Nov- work – pink top, black skirt, black strap shoes
  • 6 Nov- home – black dress, pink jumper
  • 7 Nov- home and afternoon out – black trousers, pink top under black/pink top, black shoes
  • 8 Nov- home – black dress, pink jumper
  • 9 Nov – work – I didn’t enter this straight away and forgot what I had worn
  • 10 Nov – work – black smart dress, black strap shoes
  • 11 Nov – work – black/white skirt, black 3/4 top, black shoes
  • 12 Nov – work -grey skirt, black t-shirt, purple cardigan, black shoes
  • 13 Nov – work – green skirt, black vest, black heavy cardigan, black shoes
  • 14 Nov – day out – jeans, pink top, black shoes
  • 15 Nov – home – black dress, pink jumper
  • 16 Nov – work – grey skirt, black t-shirt, purple cardigan, black strap shoes
  • 17 Nov – work – grey skirt, black 3/4 top, black strap shoes
  • 18 Nov – work – pink top under black smart dress, black strap shoes
  • 19 Nov – work and holiday – black top, black trousers, black shoes
  • 20 Nov – holiday – black trousers, red/green top, black shoes
  • 21 Nov – holiday – black trousers, red/green top, black shoes
  • 22 Nov – holiday – grey trousers, red t-shirt, black cardigan, black shoes
  • 23 Nov – holiday – black top under red t-shirt, black cardigan, grey trousers, black shoes
  • 24 Nov – holiday – black top over red t-shirt, black cardigan, grey trousers, black shoes
  • 25 Nov – home – black trousers, pink jumper, black shoes
  • 26 Nov – work – black skirt, black t-shirt, red cardigan, red shoes
  • 27 Nov – work – green skirt, black vest, black heavy cardigan, black strap shoes
  • 28 Nov – day trip – black trousers, pink top, black shoes
  • 29 Nov – home and cinema – jeans, black jumper, black vest, black shoes
  • 30 Nov – work – black skirt, black short-sleeve shirt, red cardigan, red shoes

Summary of wears

  • Bottoms – black trousers 7, grey skirt 3, grey/silver trousers 2, grey trousers 3, black skirt 3, black/white skirt 1, green skirt 2, jeans 2
  • Tops – pink 5, red/green 3, black 3/4 top 3, black t-shirt 3, red t-shirt 3, black top 3,  black vest 3, purple 1, black/pink top 1, black short-sleeve shirt 1
  • Dresses – black smart dress 3, black dress 3
  • Jumpers – pink jumper 4, black cardigan 3, purple cardigan 2, black heavy cardigan 2, red cardigan 2, black jumper 1
  • Shoes – black 17, black strap 6, red 3

I’ve started summarising my wears as I enter them, which is a lot easier. It is showing me which are the real workhorses of my wardrobe and which are not pulling their weight. For example, I’m not planning on buying more jeans when these wear out. I only wear them at the weekend, and only them as second choice to the rest of my trousers. Thinking about it, I probably bought them as magazines always say they’re a wardrobe staple, but for me they’re really not.

October 2015 declutter total

Sold on eBay

  • 1 knitting magazine
  • 1 meerkat toy

Given away

  • 4 cloth napkins
  • 1 book
  • 3 mugs
  • 1 jacket
  • 2 sets of dividers in wrappers
  • 2 folders
  • 7 notebooks (one in wrapper, 5 unwrapped but completely brand new)
  • 1 cloth bag
  • 4 unused pens in wrappers
  • 2 lanyards
  • 3 rubber balls
  • 1 set of headphones and carry case

Recycled/used up/thrown away

  • 1 sellotape dispenser my husband brought home from his work
  • Tub of butter which my husband bought and doesn’t like (I don’t eat it)
  • 2 lettuces he bought which are going off
  • Saucepan with broken handle
  • Crumble mix – I think my husband got it off his mum, it’s been in the fridge for over a week, neither of us are going to eat it…
  • 5 hanging files – my husband keeps bringing these home from work. We already have stacks which he doesn’t use so I now have a zero tolerance policy. Until he uses the old ones, any new ones go straight out the door!
  • 6 packets of yeast – out of date and I don’t eat flour anymore
  • 1 pack casserole mix – as above

Total 51 items

Not bad going this month, I got quite a lot done one day at the beginning of the month and that set me up for the rest of the month. It’s not quite two items a day but it’s getting there. We are at a really high clutter point at the moment, my husband has filled up the majority of the rooms in the house with his stuff. We had a gas engineer come to the house, and I was genuinely ashamed to have a stranger see how we live. At the same time, I feel like I don’t have control over my husband’s belongings and the right to just get rid of everything. I’ve asked him to think about getting counselling for his hoarding and he’s said no, so I’m not sure what the next step is from here.