Carrier bags – everyone’s nemesis?

Carrier bags. Aren’t they the nemesis of even the most organised person, as shown by the numerous bag tidying solutions available at Ikea / Lakeland / the charity shop?

One new year I made a resolution. ‘No more carrier bags for me’. At this point we had an entire under stairs cupboard filled with their floating forms, their ever expanding quantities. I hated that cupboard.

I had dreams about how that cupboard could look. Neat jars filled with tidily labelled ingredients. Perfectly boxed DIY accessories, organised in descending size order.  A first aid kit, well stocked. I might, at one point, have had a secret Pinterest board.

I took to telling sales assistants (a tad smugly) that I wouldn’t be needing a bag, thank you, as I had a resolution to use precisely none that year. It went pretty well actually, for a few months. The basket under my pushchair held a surprising number of groceries. Pockets became a sanctuary for roots of ginger, the odd Twix etc.

Of course, one day I failed. With a wail of dismay, I informed the queue in Tesco of my shortcoming. ‘My bags, my BAGS!’. I bought bags for life that day, because a bag is for life and not just for Tuesday. And just like that, my good habit had started to slide. It stopped feeling so terrible to ask for a carrier or two. My specially bought totes (Wholefoods and Foyles if you’re asking) quietly accepted their new position under the stairs, topped by a growing pile of plastic or, if it had been a particularly wholesome trip, canvas.

The Bag Collection came in useful during a house move and the remains of it were positively essential for those last minute bits and pieces that needed to be thrown in the roof box for our long drive to Malta.

When we settled into our new place, we agreed that our first trip to the supermarket for a Big Shop would provide us with all the bags we could need. After all, there was no suitable place to keep ‘the floating blob’.

Well. Can’t you predict what happened? The broom cupboard in the hall had become the Bag Cupboard, and the brooms found a new home in our laundry room (perk of Maltese apartments – nobody thinks it’s OK to have a washing machine in the kitchen or bathroom).

Their days were numbered. They did not spark joy, were not necessary and consumed an amount of mental space far greater than their physical volume. I WORRIED about what we were going to do with them. Every so often I’d open the door and peer in, expecting a ‘Day of the Triffids’ type situation.

My nemesis met its end with the help of my niece. We proclaimed her my apprentice and got to work. I showed her how to fold, she took to it like a duck to water, and we were done in half an hour.

The amount now seems to have stabilised – some are used as beach bags, some occasionally find their way to the car or under the pushchair, or the charity shop. I don’t feel nervous when I reach in for the vacuum cleaner attachments any more, and I can actually see the back of the cupboard.

But what of those commitment inducing bags for life? I did a little research and found that they’re actually harder to recycle than single use carriers – mainly because they’re more likely to be composed of a mix of materials. The canvas ones could be used as interesting planters on the terrace. They could be used to deposit my discards at the local charity shop / refugee project.

This is one area of KonMari where discarding might not take place immediately, but instead the joy could come from replacing plastic with reusables, totes or home made versions over time.

For now, I’m generally back to my cotton book bags and canvas beauties, which genuinely DO spark joy. My resolution was gone before the end of March that year, but I recognise now that it was part of my journey, and that’s something I’m not ashamed of.

 

TL;DR? I had a New Year’s Resolution to use no carrier bags. I failed. Eventually my niece became my apprentice for a day and gave me a kick of motivation. I’m back to reusable bags which bring joy each time I shop.

2 comments

  • Stephanie Donoghue

    Hey Julia,

    I know your pain! If any of your readers are in the UK bags can be returned to the delivery driver if you have online food deliveries (Ocado take any) or donated to your local foodbank, who are always in need now we have the carrier bag charge! Love that your cupboard is so organised!

    Stephanie

  • Zen With Julia (author)

    That’s great advice – thanks Stephanie. I wonder if the food bank here in Malta also needs bags *wanders off to call them*…

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