Hello everybody! I talk a lot about zero waste, also on platforms that not my own. As a result of this, I often get questions for people, who do not follow me, about what my home looks like, if I live like a hoarder or if I generally just have a lot of stuff. It fair to wonder about, because when you hear about people who minimize their waste and refuse to throw out a lot of stuff, you’ll start picturing them living with their trash. I actually got this question in a Q&A on Instagram as well: “how do I live zero waste without ending up a hoarder”, there is a very simple answer to that question, which I thought would be worth exploring in this blog post.
Obviously that’s not how I actually live. I would say I have a pretty neat apartment, but I’ve always liked having a lot of stuff, plants, furniture, lights, décor. All thrifted of course. I am very possibly one of the worst minimalists of all time. However, I do call myself a minimalist anyway, though that is in much more regard to the general way I live my life and not based exclusively on what my apartment looks like.
A hoarder is someone who does not want to throw anything away, I guess maybe a broad definition here and perhaps there is a lot more to it, but that’s what we are going with now. A zero waster is something who does not generate a lot of waste. The difference, as I see it, is the zero waste will take measures to ensure that they do not end up with an item to, or not to, throw away in the first place. The zero-waste principles are built on these R’s: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot (sometimes I like to add rethink, repair, regret for nuanced and comedic effect). The one that we should pay the most attention to, is refuse.
Refusing both everyday and special occasion items will automatically help you not to be a hoarder. For instance, free magazines or books that you will never read, new electronics when your old ones still work, or the other way around old electronics that you are pretty sure you will be able to fix someday. This also goes for clothes that do not fit, kitchen supplies you never use, or basically anything that you will never use, or can never use or (and I am sad to phrase it this way) does not spark joy, yeah I went there. So if you refuse to accept this stuff before it enters your home you are on your way not to becoming a hoarder, simply by not buying in the first place.
But what about the stuff you already have? What if you have some of these items already? A big difference I see between zero wasters and hoarders is the connection to stuff. A hoarder has a really hard time letting stuff go, where I see zero waste having little attachment to things. Speaking from my own experience, I often donate stuff to charity or friends and family if I cannot use it. If I have something that’s broken I will fix it right away and if I cannot I will give it to someone how can.
The last thing is good storage for the stuff that you do own. I have a drawer just for bulk bags and clean containers. I have a drawer just for clothes and ribbons that I use for gift wrapping and I have a system for everything that makes it easy to find. I do not hold on to small knickknacks unless I see a use for them, and if that is the case the go in a drawer with items with similar purposes.