I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re being accidentally wasteful when you’re trying not to be. That is, the things that you hang onto just because you don’t want to waste them, are being wasted the most. It's not your fault, you've been trained to think this way your whole life.
Yes in those moments when you stop to question the value something has in your life, the little voice of justification lies to you. " Well you have it now, it would be wasteful to just get rid of it. You might need it one day”. That sounds responsible and reasonable, right?
But actually, this thinking is completely backwards, because keeping something which remains unused is the ultimate act of wastefulness.
Here is why: Everything created travels through the Materials Economy; extraction, production and distribution before it gets to you; and then consumption and ultimately disposal. In other words, materials have been taken from the ground, transported for processing, processed, likely transported again, the article manufactured and packaged, transported again and put out for sale; all the while creating lots of pollution and using up finite resources. There is the packaging and man hours to consider too.
Then it sits at your house, doing nothing. It doesn’t make you happy, it doesn’t add value to your life. You’re not using it, and it sits in a cupboard. Oh dear.
And the reason you’re not using it really doesn’t matter. It could be the wrong size, colour, style; or maybe it just isn’t as useful in your life as you imagined it would be. Whatever the reason, the problem remains the same: the resources, energy and pollution which has gone into creating it are completely and utterly wasted when the item goes unused. Let alone the money you spent on purchasing it or the space which it is taking up in your home.
The good news is, you can absolutely do something about it. You're not powerless!
So what to do?
Throwing it into the rubbish would be the ultimate act of wastefulness; the item travelling through the entire materials economy would all have been for nothing.
Your best options:
Use it: See if you can integrate it into your life in a meaningful, useful and joyful way. Did you just forget about it, hidden away?
Re-purpose it: Don’t love the teapot, make it into a plant holder. Don’t like the old doona cover, turn it into cleaning clothes or washing bags.
Sell it: Get back some of your financial investment! Hello Ebay, Buy Swap Sell Groups and the like.
Offer it: Whilst we never want to make our clutter problem someone else’s clutter problem, you can sensitively see if anyone in your network could genuinely benefit from it. Offer it free from pressure or expectation (be sure to tell them you don’t mind if they say no).
Donate it: Op-shops are over-run with stuff as people come to the realisation that we just have too much, so be thoughtful about where you donate. I have a great list of alternative places to donate HERE.
Recycle it: Can it be broken down into its constituent parts for recycling?
You can learn more about the the Materials Economy from The Story of Stuff people HERE. This video is the first thing that I ever saw to make me stop and think about where my things come from, and at what cost. It is easy to watch and understand and suitable for children too. I highly recommend it!