Friday, November 4, 2011

Balancing DIY Without Becoming a Packrat

Being a tree hugging, environmentally awesome co-unit (Andrew and I) has it's pluses. Such as saving money, increasing our air quality and health and saving the planet.
(Ok, I know we're not this bad; but HGTV's 'Consumed' was making me nervous)

Something I've begun to struggle with, however, is the clutter. Andrew and I live in 700 square feet, which is actually a nice improvement from our previous Halifax apartment of 500. We have virtually zero storage, though, as we live in a 150yr+ heritage building.

I keep seeing these amazing DIY upcycled objects finding uses for old, non-used or broken items and I think: 'Wow, I could do that!'. For example, using spare fabric to make a yoga mat bag, or keeping gift bags to re-use for birthdays or Yule.

So, about a year ago I started saving these little random bits of things in case I might use them some day. Such as little bits of ribbons, old jewelry or beads, gift bags and envelopes, pretty boxes and binders. And clothing- I save clothing. Unfortunately my job requires that I look very professional. Currently I'm running a preschool teacher training 12 week intensive program (Apprendre à parler avec plaisir-LLLI), presenting at community events twice this month and traveling across the province to consult. This means my regular 'dress pants+nice ish shirt' doesn't cut it anymore. So I need to renew my wardrobe more often.

Keeping these little bits of things and clothing is great, in theory. It means these things don't go in the landfill. I'm being frugal and potential will save money with my craftiness.

However, we've reached the point of clutter. I have no room to store all this extra potential 'stuff' anymore. Everywhere I look there are little random bits waiting to be eco-fied. Ribbons, papers, envelopes. Spread out in whatever drawer, basket or shelf that has some available space. We're not crazy packrat status (yet), but it was starting to get obviously cluttered.

We barely have enough room for our clothing in our one (of two) closets we have in the apartment, let alone trying to organize an enviro-stash of DIY wannabes.

Therefore, two weeks ago I took a deep breath and LET GO of this expectation. In my current living space I cannot realistically keep all reusable items in the hope of one day upcycling and being uber Eco Yogini. Andrew and I went through our clothing and made three piles: toss (only a few stained and ripped items), donate to Value Village and donate to the women's transition house. We filled two recycling bags (we don't own large black trash bags).

That part was relatively easy, minimal landfill. It's the extra random bits of 'stuff' that I have trouble letting go- as 'letting go' equals for the most part= trash.

Anyone else feeling the clutter-upcycle DIY precarious balance? If you live in a no storage space, how do you deal? Prioritizing or accepting the limitations of small space?

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. I'm not sure if this will work but depending on what the items are that you're holding onto you could give them away. You can always give to good will or post an add on kijiji. "Gently used, random stuff, perfect for crafts" or whatever. People may not buy it but if you are just looking for it to not go to the landfill I'm sure people will take it away for free. Or if you have a lot of stuff that is "crafty" you could donate it to a daycare. Just an idea :)

  2. Another idea to upcycle all those great things is to donate the crafty items to classroom teachers or daycares. As a former teacher, I loved when parents came by with large piles of egg cartons (great for painting), coffee cans (good for sorting), ribbon, beads, yarn, etc. And if I couldn't use it all I had to do was leave it in the staff room with a "FREE" note and it was gone within minutes.

  3. When I watch an episode of Hoarders, I suddenly want to get rid of everything. Maybe try that. :~)

  4. I think they need SCRAP in Halifax! This is what all those goodies could go to - :)

  5. I keep everything in the hope that I can use it again. I have a lot of storage space though.

    But then letting go is so important too.

    It's a quandary for sure

  6. This totally rings true. I was reading a blog the other day where the writer was saying that you should have a room for your sewing & crafts, so you can keep everything...(she went on to say a seperate laundry rooom, etc etc)


    That's fine if you live in the middle of nowhere in Australia, but not if you live in a flat or a terrace house.

    I think that all we can do is the best we can, whilst trying to stretch ourselves.

    If you live in a flat, the chances are you live in a city/large town, and so have access to better public transport.

    If you have a large house, the chances are you don't have such great access to public transport and thus have to drive more.

    I think we all need to acknoweldge that our circumstances are what they are, and that forms how we live.

    Can you tell that blog post got on my nerves?

  7. Hi, I too hate throwing things away, so if recycling, charity shops, crafty-school clubs, etc are an option, for clothes we have various 'banks' (like bottle banks - look like skips, often in car parks) which take clothing - some is good enough for charity shop/'new' users, but the stuff that is only fit for scrap gets processed into scraps for industry and other things (er, I don't know much more than this!). In the UK I put clothes that are unwearable into these Salvation Army banks, or cut up and using as rags for DIY painting as well. We also have something called 'freecycle' which is local area free offers/wants of things that are good enough for someone else. A good way to get rid of things, but with a green conscious!

  8. Lol! I struggle with the same thing. And we actually have a fair amount of storage space in our new place. Still, I've started limiting the stuff that I save and some of it (like wine corks) I store in a decorative way so they can be out in the open.


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