Eco-consciousness is much needed in our world, where global resources are rapidly being exhausted. Recycling, reusing and finding more eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives are crucial to the future of humanity.
For several decades now, we’ve all become more aware of the environment and been have educated that each of us can do our bit to save energy and reduce waste. Recycling has become an everyday habit, and there’s a lot more that can be done.
However, there’s a point where eco-consciousness can turn into eco-neurosis, and this is something I’m seeing more and more these days in the homes of people who have clutter.
Not wanting to create more landfill
Some people are so conscientious about recycling and repurposing that they won’t let anything go unless they are sure it will be reused in some way. They feel so guilty about creating landfill that, over time, they turn their own home into a mini-landfill site. Entire rooms and outbuildings become filled with things they don’t know what to do with. In some cases, it can get to the stage where it starts to smell bad and may even attract insects or vermin.
Their intentions are sincere but, in fact, all they are doing is delaying the process. Whether they eventually send it all to the garbage dump themselves or leave it for someone else to sort through and dispose of after they die, the fact is that some things simply cannot be reused and will have to go to landfill at some point.
New recycling technology is emerging every year. One of the most recent projects is Terracycle, which offers a range of solutions for previously unrecyclable items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, coffee capsules, snack wrappers, pens, various beauty product containers, and more.
It’s an excellent resource, available in 20 countries at the time of writing, and expanding to more with each passing year. It allows environmentally conscious manufacturers and consumers to work together to reduce huge amounts of waste.
How long are you prepared to wait?
Technological advances are happening all the time. Amazing new solutions are being found. The problem is, there is still a long way to go before absolutely everything can be recycled.
No matter how much effort is made by consumers, lasting changes can only be brought about by manufacturers at the top of the supply chain developing better solutions and making more eco-friendly choices about the materials they use. There are signs that the trend is heading in the right direction, but it’s going to take time. It may not be resolved in your lifetime.
If you’re the kind of person who cannot bear to throw anything away unless it can be recycled or reused, what needs to be weighed up is how long you are prepared to live surrounded by these items, clogging the energy of your home and affecting your personal progress. Even though your reasons for holding on to it all are commendable, the stuck energy it creates will be affecting your ability to be all that you can be. If you want to make a difference in the world, it doesn’t make sense to hold yourself back in this way.
How to turn the situation around
The home of one client I worked with was full of stuff, piled on every surface and the floor. She knew the situation had got out of hand and asked for help to let at least a third of it go. However she had such strict, personally imposed rules about recycling and repurposing that after half a day of clutter clearing, she had only agreed to donate three small items to a local group.
We had a conversation at that point to help her understand what had caused her to adopt such a rigid stance and, after discovering that many of her ideas were in fact not her own but the result of other people’s influence, she realized it was not serving her or her long-suffering family to continue living this way.
In the second half of the day, she joyfully filled many trash bags and loaded her car with things to donate to charity. It took several sessions but eventually she relaxed her rules considerably, enabling her to reclaim her home and her life. She continued to do her bit for the environment but in a more considered way, and was finally able to enjoy her house as a home.
Finding the right balance
The secret to a happy life is finding the right balance. When it comes to recycling, the best anyone can do is to keep abreast of new advances so that you know what’s possible and what’s not. For the things you already own, recycle what you can, and let the rest go.
Going forward, make more conscious choices about anything new you acquire. For example, there’s no need to buy fruit or vegetables conveniently packaged in non-recyclable plastic netting or bags. In many stores, you can buy the items loose, and it only takes a few more seconds to gather them and put them in your basket. The choice is yours. You can stop the waste in your own home before it starts.
A healthy, balanced approach to preserving the environment is what’s needed. If you find yourself unduly obsessing about every little thing, you’ve probably crossed the line into eco-neurosis, and especially if you’ve reached the stage where you’re reluctant to throw anything away unless it can be recycled, it would be wise to reassess if you may have gone too far.
Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2017, updated 2021
The rise of eco-neurosis, and what to do about it
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Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2017