Moving house requires a great deal of planning and organisation and our regard for the planet often is relegated to the bottom of the to-do list. Lauren McCrostie‘s recent move has inspired her to consider how best to pack up your belongings and move home, without forgetting the environment.
Having been comfortably located in the same postcode, same street, same house, even same bedroom, my entire life, moving out for the first time was always going to be a significant moment in my life. Moving is an exciting milestone for everyone, but neither the satisfaction nor enjoyment of it can be felt until you’ve jumped through all the hoops and over all the hurdles (of which there seems to be an infinite amount of). A poll by The Telegraph found that two thirds of us would place moving house as one the most stressful life events – above divorce and starting a new job. Consequently any good, green intentions you may have can get pushed aside. Finding time to clean, sort and rehome all of your possessions can mean jobs become rushed, more often than not at the expense of the planet.
Perhaps it is the way in which moving house means changing the layout of our whole lives – our routines, our commutes and local coffee shops – that induces such an extreme level of stress. Moving further afield may also mean having to find new friendship groups, jobs or learn a new language. These monumentous lifestyle changes require a great deal of energy, planning and brain power. So, how can we navigate moving house in a way that neither is at the detriment of our own mental health, nor the environment?
Lessening Your Waste
Not only is there a great deal of planning required to orchestrate a move, but a great amount of energy too. Buzzmove found that ‘the average UK home move creates around 16.8kg of CO2 emissions‘ (almost the same as traveling to Paris!). Not only does this include the unavoidable emissions that come with van removals, dump depots and shopping trips; but there is also the issue of no longer wanted items. Going through everything in your house – furniture, ornaments, clothes, toys, electronics, paper work – requires a multitude of disposal and recycling techniques. This so often requires a lot more time than is usually planned for and so is frequently compromised, resulting in avoidable bin bags heading straight to landfill. Therefore, cracking on with this task as early as possible and awarding it enough time is very much advised. Start mentally (and then physically) categorising things in your space between three distinct groups: things that you love, need and want to keep; things you will resell, fix, donate; and (hopefully the smallest pile!) the things you no longer have a place for. It is this last pile, the unloved items, that are more often left until the last minute, only to then be thrown in the dump and so causing the most damage to the planet.
Earlier this year, many of us gleefully hopped on board the Marie Kondo bandwagon after her popular Netflix mini series ‘Tidying up’. However, where the series inspired viewers to revaluate the attachment to our possessions, it also raised questions around how to properly dispose of unwanted items. After all, there is no such thing as ‘away’. So when it comes to that third pile – the unloved and unwanted – take the time to properly reseach how best to dispose of everything, checking the guidelines of your local recycling centres, the council’s policies on recycling, and charity shops in your area, to ensure that as little as possible goes to landfill. Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – so while you may not have a place for the item anymore, you might have a friend, relative or neighbour who does.
Moving home provides the perfect opportunity to ‘Marie Kondo’ your life; to sift through your belongings and and move into a new place without the sometimes overwhelming clutter. Starting afresh also gives you the chance to replace previous plastic abundant purchases for eco friendly alternatives. You can make sure you opt for eco-friendly cleaning products, pick an ethical energy supplier, or furnish the rooms with second hand gems or sustainable materials – it’s a wonderful opportunity to turn over a new, eco leaf.
If you are planning to or are currently in the process of a move, the golden piece of advice is to start planning early. Make a list of everything you need to do and prioritise accordingly. After categorising every item in your home into these three piles, research ways to rehome things that are usable but not needed anymore. Sell on local Facebook forums, car-boots or sites like eBay and Gumtree. Donate the items that don’t sell to charity shops, hospices, local community centres or friends and family. If you are short on time, look to charities like Traid, which offers a free home collection service for unwanted clothes, to save you trips to the charity shop.
Most importantly, the aim is to repurpose or rehome your old possessions – not to discard. Keep landfill as an absolute last resort – try to make this pile as small as possible by donating, reusing, and upcycling. Even old newspapers and paperwork can be used to wrap up your possessions ready for the big move, before being recycled.
In your last few days at home, meal plan to use up food in your fridge and freezer that cannot be transported. For everything that doesn’t get eaten, try Olio – the food sharing app combatting waste. Research green removal vans to dramatically reduce the emissions associated with your move. Consider redecorating your new house with a focus on sustainability, opting for natural materials and ethical brands for your bed linens, furniture and accessories.
Rather than seeing moving house as a minefield of stress, consider it as an opportunity to incorporate sustainability into your new lifestyle. Planning ahead and finding time to consider how your move can have as little impact as possible will be both better for your mind and the planet, minimising the clutter in a conscious way.