The Suburbanite
  • Author encourages 'precycle' in book

  • Author of “The Chotchky Challenge: Clear the Clutter from Your Home, Heart and Mind,” encourages consumers to “precycle” in honor of Earth Day.


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  • Every year when Earth Day rolls around, we vow to compost, plant a tree, turn off the air conditioner, drive less, bike more and, of course, recycle.
    Barry Dennis says we must do more. We must precycle.
    Dennis, author of “The Chotchky Challenge: Clear the Clutter from Your Home, Heart and Mind,” says it is important to recycle our excess junk, but it is “exponentially more important to stop bringing it into our homes in the first place.”
    “We must bring consciousness to our buying,” Dennis said. “When you take something off the shelf, you’ve now placed an order for more trees to be cut down, for more materials to be taken out of the earth to make your replacement.”
    Dennis says precycling is “reaching into the future” to save the materials that would have been used to make our chotchky, his term for “stuff we don’t need that takes up space or clutters the mind.”
    We asked Dennis to talk about the revelations that led to writing the book, due out April 30, and his efforts to convince others to combine sensible frugality with eco-awareness.
    Q. You start the book with the straw that broke the camels back, stumbling over the excess in your kids’ rooms.
    A. I realized, there’s something wrong here. We’ve been trained to think we need more stuff and more stuff. We’re trapped, spending money on things we don’t need. We get mad at the kids for not cleaning their rooms full of junk that we bought them.
    Q. You say another way to protect the planet is to follow the mandate, “If it ain’t broke, don’t replace it.”
    A. We throw technology away like it’s tissue paper. To make an iPhone it takes a ton of energy and materials, yet we think we need every upgrade. We have drawers filled with old phone, old cords, old cameras. It’s ridiculous.
    Q. Explain your advice, “Want what you already have.”
    A. Not long ago in our history, it was an effort just to have enough food, shelter. Now we take it for granted — all the food, which is making us overweight and killing us — all the stuff in our homes. We’re so blessed we’re stressed. When we realize how blessed we are, we’ll say, ‘Enough.’
    Q. So what should we do?
    A. We wonder why we don’t have enough money or enough time to really live. When I give talks, I ask people to list what is important to them, what are their dreams. Then I ask them to list how they are spending their money. It never lines up. I tell them they must redirect how they are using their energy so they can live their dreams — create that business, build that relationship.
    Page 2 of 2 - Q. What’s our action step for Earth Day?
    A. Pick an area in your house that’s been bugging you. Most of us have that, where we feel the stress of the excess. Get rid of stuff, and you’ll feel lighter, energized. But don’t throw it all away. Try to find avenues to give it away, to help others. Then the second step is the precycling idea — if we stop bringing stuff in, that has a direct effect on Mother Earth.
    Q. Do you walk the walk?
    A. Writing this book changed my life, made me so aware. Once you get ‘chotchky vision,’ you see chotchky everywhere. Bookotchky. Shoeotchky. Why do we need so many shoes? Yes, I practice what I preach, but it’s hard, and I’m not perfect.

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