Thursday, December 15, 2011

Step Six: Find Your Style

I love wearing the colors black, khaki, and green; I like all my kitchen implements to be glass or stainless steel; I only like using Moleskine notebooks; I'll vacuum every day, but I'm lucky if I mop once a month; I don't consider movies and television a waste of time; I like dark wooden furniture; I'd rather read a book on my Kindle than any other way; I have little use for liquid lotions, but I love perfume; I don't eat things if I couldn't make myself, except for Oreos. These are just a few things about me and my style, but they've helped immensely in my zero waste life.

When you know what works for you, what you like, and what you will never use, you can cut through the clutter of unloved gifts, household duplicates, and dreaded calendar appointments. By eliminating these things, and letting people know that they aren't important to you, you can cut waste from your lifestyle. I don't buy clothes I won't wear and love, don't accept hand-me-downs that don't match my style or standards of usefulness (old buckets I will always take, a brand-new KitchenAid mixer? no thanks),  and put gifts I won't use directly in my donation box (after writing a nice thank-you note, of course).

But how to find your style? As pictures of me in high school will prove, I struggled for years to find out what clothes worked for me, and learn what would be a bust. A few more years in college were spent figuring out how I wanted to live, cook, and interact with the world. I still have to work at figuring out what I want from life, and more specifically what I want from my possessions in terms of appearance, function, and amount. This is an ongoing process, but for someone looking to jump-start their discovery of style, I'd recommend the following steps:

  1. List off the things you love. Clothes, cooking utensils, collections, activities, everything. Then look at your list and try to notice some common factors, like colors, clothing styles, people you like to spend time with, and functionality. Keep this list of attributes in mind when you're deciding whether to throw something away, RSVP to an event, or acquire something.
  2. Discover, and start to follow, some methods on cutting the crap from your life. I would be lost without Dave Ramsey for money management, David Allen for time management, and Erin Doland for uncluttering methods. Some people know how to cook, but are at a loss when it comes to dressing themselves, or know how to look good but have no idea how to maintain a car. Whatever your weakness is, do a Google search and start to find out how to manage, maintain, and feel good about that aspect of your lifestyle.
  3. Go through one area of your life and get rid of the things that aren't your style. The easiest area  in my opinion? Office supplies. Gather all the tape, scissors, paper clips, markers, rulers, and other office ephemera from around your house, and take a good look at it all. If something doesn't work, is a duplicate, isn't something you like, or is something you rarely use, donate it to a thrift store, shelter, or school. Your scissors don't need to be in your favorite color (though some people like it when they are, and that's okay), but they do need to be in good working condition and in a place you can easily access and put them away.
You don't need to figure out your perfect everything, or declutter your entire house just yet; we'll go through everything as part of the hundred steps to zero waste, but it is helpful to know what works for you, and what might work better as a member of someone else's home.

First time reading about a hundred steps to zero waste? Go here for the introduction and index.

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