This is the first in a new series of short interviews with individual members of the Forum.
A few weeks ago, a number of Forum members began discussing spring cleaning and how they planned to declutter and tidy their living spaces. One member, binje, wanted to make room in her life for two new Shop Bags, and said the following:
“I have huge problems throwing away things that still have life but aren’t really good enough for thrift stores. So I was bemoaning my large collection of cheapie shopping bags until my husband suggested that we challenge ourselves to fill ALL of them with things to donate. So we’re doing something we’ve done successfully before. We each have to chose three items to discard every night until the bags are full.”
We thought that this was a unique challenge and wanted to follow up with binje, and she was kind enough to tell us more about her project and how it’s been going.
Forum name: binje
Location: Southern Appalachia, U.S.
Forum member since: 2014, though I started lurking in late 2013
Favorite TOM BIHN bag: I’m at a grocery store or farmer’s market several times a week so my Shop Bags get a workout. But I just acquired an Aeronaut and it’s strange how much joy I got from packing it for an imaginary trip. It’s supposedly the same size as the duffel I used to use for air travel, but it holds so much more and carries so easily. I can’t wait to travel with it for real.
Q: What prompted you to undertake a decluttering project of this magnitude?
A: My spouse and I have moved twice in the past two years, once from 1000 square feet (and a 10×10 storage unit) to 450 square feet with another 400 square feet of storage on-site (and the 10×10 storage unit). Then on to 1300 square feet with a full basement/garage. And somehow, even with various yard sales and donations, the stuff we have seems to fill the available space. It’s kind of ridiculous.
Q: You’re doing this project with your husband. How has that been? Do you have similar or different ideas of what to let go of, for instance?
A: As far as decluttering is concerned, we agree on almost everything, though he’s been letting go of some of his family and childhood things and that seems to make me sadder than it makes him. Things like his grandfather’s briefcase, even though it’s in poor condition and is of no use to us.
Q: Is there a big difference in your living space now?
A: We’ve managed to keep our living room and bedroom clutter-free for a whole month and those spaces feel calmer. Also, I no longer have to squeeze my clothes onto the closet rod, which has to be better for my clothing. During the process, for better or worse, I moved everything that needs to be evaluated/sorted/filed into our office so that room is borderline unusable. Still, it’s good to have all of the loose ends in one place demanding to be addressed. I’m going to sit down with the shredder and recycling bin in the next couple of weeks. I have to—I need my work table back.
Q: Has this project changed your buying habits and/or the way you think about possessions?
A: With bags of stuff leaving, I went through a “now I have room for a _____” phase. But that wasn’t the point. So I’m working hard on developing deliberate buying habits. Before I buy anything, I try to look carefully at what I have. Do I already have something that does essentially the same thing? If I have something that is supposed to do the same thing but I’m not using it for some reason, why am I not using it and what makes the new thing better? I’m also trying to be less sentimental and less fixated on whether something has been used enough to consider giving away. If I haven’t used it, it doesn’t need to stick around, no matter how much it cost, who gave it to me, or how good a bargain it was. Plus, I’m trying to invest in a few items of quality (hello, TB bags!) that will replace lots of marginal items (goodbye, cheap rolling suitcases, totes and duffel bags). Occasionally, I catch myself fixing a predatory eye on a random something in the house and thinking, “That has GOT to go.”
Q: You replaced your old grocery bags with TB Shop Bags. What in your opinion makes them better than the bags you had before?
A: They reduce stress. Really! I buy a lot of heavy things, like bags of flour and milk in glass bottles. I used to be nervous that one of my old grocery bags would split open on my way across the parking lot. I can load a Shop Bag with anything and everything and walk worry-free. I reach for one pretty much any time I need to carry something. The padded shoulder straps and the wine bottle-sized interior pockets are pure genius.