Category Archives: ecojustice challenge

Things, and when to Get Rid of them

William Morris claimed that you should have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.  I know he was rebelling against the suffocating sentimentality of the Victorians, but even so I think that you should also have things which remind you of people or places that you’ve loved, otherwise you might as well live in a show-home.  But Morris’s point is a good one, well made. You certainly should not have things made in Chinese sweat-shops out of metallised plastic which are hideous and pointless and which you keep for a month, but that is a different subject for a different day.  This post is about Getting Rid of Things.

Three years ago I was living in temporary accommodation with everything I owned in storage except my laptop, some clothes, books and kitchen knives.  (Why are other peoples’ kitchen knives impossible to use?  It’s not even as if mine are sharp.  But they can tell who’s using them, you know).  I was tempted to get the storage company to send the lot to auction and to take myself off to Ikea with the profits and start again from minimalist scratch.  I missed none of it.  Not a jot, not a tittle.  But of course when it arrived I unpacked it all and couldn’t bring myself to throw any of it away.  Ho no.

In part it’s brainwashing by two generations of frugal and determined women who convinced me that waste is wicked.  But you have to worry about the sanity of someone who thinks that keeping the salad drawer from a long gone fridge is a way of avoiding waste.  Behold that lunatic.  These days of course disposing of anything in landfill is irresponsibly feckless, so I still tend to store rubbish rather than throwing it away.

It was also drummed in to my head that it was rude to dispose of a gift.  For years I had a badly made clock about 9″ high, shaped like a long-case (grandfather) clock.  It was red and painted with white flowers.  I loathed it from the day my godmother gave it to me, but I kept it for decades because it would be rude to throw it away. It still affects me.  The women I bought my house from gave me a picture of the valley taken in the 19th century which their deceased brother had acquired at some time.  Can I get rid of it?  Can I heck.  I’m thinking of framing the wretched thing.

Then there’s the Great Book Debate.  Iris Murdoch, I think, kept every book she had ever owned.  On the one hand I can see that would become a fascinating record of one’s intellectual journey, but on the other hand it strikes me as self-indulgent narcissism.  I’m simply not interested in the same things now as I was 20 years ago.   And then there’s the matter of space.  Where would I keep them all?

The internet continues to change my attitude to books. A couple of days ago picked over the books I keep in the kitchen which tend to be about food and sex (on the basis that they are both appetites of the flesh).   I had assumed, in Morris’s terms, that they were useful, so I was surprised to find that I only intend to keep about half a dozen cookery books.  These are the ones which were given to me by women who loved me who are now long dead and a few which are more social documents than cookery books, for example Mrs Beeton and a book of recipes and anecdotes from post-War rural France.  If I want your actual recipes, then the internet is nearer and quicker than a recipe book.

But still there’s this terrible tyranny of Things. ‘Keep it’, my Grandmother used to say, ‘you’ll never know when you’ll need it’.  Indeed.  But if you have too many Things then that strategy backfires: today I discovered that I’ve got a whizzy spinning bowl which gets the water off washed lettuce leaves.  Only the other day I was thinking ‘I need a whizzy spinning bowl to get the water off these lettuce leaves, but where would I keep it?’.  I’d kept the one I’d already got for so long and buried it so deep, that I’d no idea I’d got the bloody thing.

Right.  That’s me blogged.  I need to load up the car and then I’m off to the charity shop  and the tip.

Emily’s EcoJustice Challenge – are you up for it?

I tumbled across Emily’s EcoJustice Challenge when reading Charlotte’s blog. Please read Emily’s whole post, in the meantime, I’m cutting to the chase and quoting verbatim.

So, here is how this challenge will work. The first step is for anyone who wants to participate to pass the link onto at least five other people (or even if you don’t plan to participate, if you like the idea, please pass it on). If you have a blog of your own, this can easily be accomplished merely by linking to this site in a post on your own blog. Below is a list of things you can choose to do. Once every quarter between now and April 21, 2009, I will add to this list. Your challenge is to choose something from this list, to experiment with it, and to post about it here. Or, if you’d rather not post, that’s fine. You can just choose what you want and leave comments on this blog. You can choose to implement as many or as few from the list as you would like. You can choose to stick with one (or more) for an entire quarter, or you can mix and match (one — or more — this month, a different one next month, etc.). My hope is that by the end of the year, at least one item from the whole list will have become a way of life for you and your family. And if you’re already doing some or all of these things, come up with others you want to do, share them with us, and post on them instead.

To join the blog as a posting member, please send an email to: ecojustice08 AT gmail DOT com with your user name and the email address you’d like to use for the purposes of this blog. I will add you to the list of users. Also, please post on your own blog, if you have one. That’s it. And now, here are your choices for this quarter:

1. Choose one day a week in which you will not use your car at all (barring a major emergency, like having to drive your spouse/child to the hospital for stitches). Before you immediately dismiss this one, because you have to drive to and from work every day, please think about it. Is there no one with whom you could carpool two days a week? If so, the day you’re not driving would be the perfect day not to use your car at all.

2. Choose one “black out night” per week. All lights and all electrical appliances are off by 7:30 p.m. and don’t go on again until the next morning. What will you do without lights, television, your computer? Well, the weather’s getting nice where many of us live. Sit out on the porch/deck and tell stories. Read by candle light. Write letters by candle light. Play games by candle light. You know, people did this sort of thing for thousands of years. My guess is that if you have kids, this will be an exciting and fun challenge for them.

3. Choose two days a week in which you are only going to eat organic and/or locally-grown food. Do you know that inorganic farming is one of the best examples of evolution that we’ve got going these days? All the pesticides that have been used to grow our food have helped to create “super bugs” who are becoming more and more resistant to our chemicals. We’re definitely losing this battle in more ways than one. Talk to the people at your local farmer’s markets. Many of them are growing their food organically anyway; they just aren’t certified, because it’s a difficult and expensive process to be so. Buying locally, of course, cuts down on the oil used to transport food long distances.

4. If you need to go anywhere that’s within a 2-mile round trip radius of your home, walk or bike. Where might this be? The first place that springs to mind for me is your children’s school bus stop. Perhaps the post office is close to your home. The library? For me, it’s both the post office and the bank. If you’re super lucky, maybe you have a farmer’s market that’s close by. Or maybe you don’t live close enough to anything, but you do work close by to that deli, say, where you always drive to pick up lunch.

5. Read that challenging book about the environment that you’ve been putting off reading, you know the one you don’t want to read, because it might make you a little uncomfortable (e.g. The World without Us, Diet for a Small Planet, Affluenza). Read it. Post about it. Maybe implement an idea or two based on what you’ve read.

6. Buy only those things sold in recyclable packaging and make sure you recycle that packaging.

None of it should be too hard, right?

But all of it really is hard, isn’t it?

I’m going for the two options I’m already nearly doing, I’m afraid, which are the organic and local veg and recycling the packaging.  But since I’m already 3/4ths of the way there with those two, I’m also going to go for the lights-out option one day a week because it’s summer and it should be easy.   The thing that would make the biggest difference is if I wangled a transfer and worked in t’city, because I could get there by public transport.  Hmmm.  Small steps, I think, for the time being.