Since 2001 when our green wheelie bins were halved in size I've become an expert in reducing the amount of rubbish and unwanted goods in our home. While some people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder feel the urge to hoard, to never throw away a thing, I have the opposite syndrome. If it's not nailed down I feel the urge to throw it out, put it in the recycling bin or give it to charity. Sometimes I even struggle to let my daughter's artwork pass the hungry recycling bin in our garage.
A few years ago my daughter's school introduced the Caring Shed - a designated place for school families to donate pre-loved goods. As we update household and personal objects I gleefully deposit old cushions, glasses, crockery, small appliances, lamps, toys, clothes and sporting gear here. It's a win-win situation; I'm keeping my home free of detritus while helping a deserving family.
Once I've read a novel it goes straight to the Caring Shed too. I know I'll never re-read it and I've never understood the penchant for displaying novels in bookcases. Whatever the message - I can read? I have great taste in novels? I have a large budget for books? - it's not one that resonates with me. Similarly, newspapers are consigned to the recycling bin as soon as they're read. All my mail comes to a P.O. Box so ninety-five per cent of it gets thrown out at the local post office.
Even Christmas greeting cards are read then instantly discarded. Back in the days when we had a letterbox at home, junk mail would be deposited straight into the recycling bin.
I routinely separate my purchases from the packaging while out shopping. Over-sized cardboard boxes encasing miniscule jars of face-cream are binned at the mall - as are the lashings of tissue paper that surround a single tee-shirt. If I lived near a PAK'nSAVE I'd take advantage of their packing stations to liberate my groceries from their plastic and cardboard shells.
I'm grateful my daughter is no longer in the market for those tiny plastic toys sold in boxes about ten times their size. I used to almost lose a limb trying to saw through the tough transparent covers only to find each toy was individually wired in place. Once I meanly made the man at the toy shop do the opening for me; he was most surprised at the palaver involved and multiple tools required. I felt guilty about this until I read that ultimate greenie Robyn Malcolm had done the same thing when her kids were little.
The problem with unwanted packaging needs to be tackled at the source not dumped on the poor consumer at the far end of the chain. As long as there are powerful packaging industries and juggernaut junk mail businesses with a vested interest in churning out vast volumes of rubbish, trying to shame the average householder into recycling and saving the planet's resources is surely akin to rearranging deck-chairs while the Titanic is sinking.By Shelley Bridgeman