Saturday, January 8, 2011

Clearing Clutter Consciously

Going Green Mama is blogging instead of cleaning house...

Cleaning out the clutter is a common wish for many of us in January, as the dust settles after holiday celebrations and gift-giving. But the actual execution doesn't always happen the way we'd like.

Sure, you can be like my neighbor and collect 5 1/2 garbage bags worth of unused toys, which hopefully didn't go to the trash as she seemed to imply on her Facebook page. Or you can buy more organizational equipment and supplies for your workplace or home. Or you can de-clutter a little more consciously.

Level 1: Just get it out.
Like the day my fed-up dad tossed my textbooks in the trash (no, I haven't forgotten that one), sometimes the most efficient way is to get things out of your home. Now. So that may mean boxing up your donations for Goodwill and recycling and doing drop-offs one afternoon.

Level 2: Recycle or Freecycle what you can (not just the easy stuff).
This takes a little more effort and time, admittedly, but with a little effort you can find places that will reuse or repurpose everything from computers to Christmas lights. It's easy to start locally, looking at your local sustainability organizations, Craigslist or Freecycle, or even your church. Personally, I've had luck with our employee classifieds, which has helped find homes for everything from textbooks to our toy kitchen.

Level 3: Make your donations matter.
I'm sure I'll catch fire for this one, but I'm going to argue that it makes most sense to donate directly to organizations that can best use your belongings than a bulk drop to Goodwill or Salvation Army, where it's a crap shoot on whether someone who truly needs it will ever get it. By taking the extra time to locate places that get adult clothing items or outgrown baby goods or even holiday items to those who are trying to rebuild their lives, I'm directly helping those who need it.

The great thing about decluttering is that it doesn't just free us of our stuff, it has the potential to free others. Just think about the stress of deciding: Clothes or dinner for our kids? So by spending a few more minutes in our decluttering process, you might make a difference for more than one family.

And if you're looking for a place to get started, check out my five quick wins for decluttering. I'm happy to say that I've largely kept up on most of it this past year!

What are your favorite places or charities to donate or send your unused items to?

This post is part of the Green Moms Carnival. Visit on Jan. 17 to read other takes on de-cluttering!


Shona~ LALA dex press said...

I live in a fairly populated, well walked neighborhood and our method of donation/ disposal in this area is the curb. I don't put out a lot of items at a time, such as a bag of clothes, just because I don't want stuff strewn about., that goes to a local thrift store that gives stipends to people for whom thrift is even out of their means. Often when I take something to the curb, it will be gone sometimes before I walk back in the house.

And the curb works both ways, we have many items in our house which came from the curb.

Chile said...

I've been helping an elderly lady with mobility issues clear out some of her clutter. She is very good about donating to specific organizations that can use the items - some items of which most people would throw away or recycle.

The local organization that works with the homeless gets washed water bottles to fill with water to give the homeless, empty prescription bottles with the labels removed to repackage bulk aspirin, and men's magazines for the shelter.

Women's and home magazines went to an elder-care facility (because no women's shelters wanted to deal with them before Christmas).

Baby food jars and small butter tubs went to a very poor school for teachers to give students in art class to hold supplies.

Cooking magazines went to a high school that offers a culinary arts program.

We haven't decided the best recipient for New Yorker magazine yet, but I may call the literacy outfit and see if they're interested.

For myself, I've started devoting 10 minutes per day to every room of the house, working through clutter and getting it organized. Seems to be working better than trying to set aside two hours at a time, although I do that for some larger projects, especially when I get inspired by the 10 minute progress.

Green Bean said...

I am constantly amazed by the kinds of things that I can unload on freecycle. Seriously, I throw nothing out unless I've listed if first on freecycle and then on the free section of Craigslist.

I also like to pick up baskets and organizational equipment second hand, when I'm out thrifting. It doesn't follow your first rule but helps for all the stuff that is left.

Diane said...

I completely agree - I give pretty much everything away - to friends, the local shelter, Goodwill. Most stuff wears out its usefulness to the owner, but it's still very useful. Of course, my new rule is: don't bring it in the house to begin with!

Ash said...

The big thing this year (for me) is clothing. As I lose weight, the clothes that no longer fit go into a bag.

When the young ladies come over for our bible study, some will see if there is anything that fits and they are free to take it. Otherwise, if I can't remake it into a different piece of clothing it will go to the community closet (a place in town that gives away clothes from a facility set up like a boutique).

I'm also 3 weeks into getting a project going where I'd be encouraging anyone I can to part with their formal attire. We'll be collecting dresses and such so that at the start of May, we can work with the clothing closet and help some local teens find Prom outfits (at no cost to them).

There is no way I'll ever wear my prom/graduation/bridesmaids dress again, but they are all still nice and can be given a second life.

Carmen said...

I am also a HUGE fan of Freecycle. There is almost always someone who wants what I need to get rid of - especially the big things. Packing peanuts? Somebody wants them. Old toys? Somebody wants them. Used clothes? Somebody wants them. Used Gift Bags? Somebody wants them. Towels with holes in them? Somebody wants them (often animal rescues).

And the best thing is that somebody just comes and takes them off your hands.

Ivy said...

Another thing to consider is what you can do within your community to share things. Which may be more preventing clutter than clearing it.

(Case in point: I wanted to cook Christmas dinner for my coven, but had no roasting pan. However, we do Thanksgiving every year, so somebody has one and I was able to borrow it. Rarely used but occasionally essential things can be spread out over the group and shared.)

panamamama said...

We have one a block away that helps the Big Brothers/Sisters clubs and The Arc of Arkansas. They even have a drive through for donations!

panamamama said...

Oh, and is great for things other places won't take. We had a garage dismantled and reused through it!

Condo Blues said...

Now that my sewing machine is repaired. I'm decluttering my fabric scrap stash. Last weekend was Mega Stash Bust Project Weekend.

Diane said...

This year I've given away - clothes I haven't worn in two years but are still perfectly good; a whole huge box of plastic forks, knives and spoons that I must have bought over ten years ago when my kids were little or something; books; old ski equipment; house paint; and the list goes on. Sometimes I put it on the curb; sometimes I give it to friends or the shelter I support. Whatever - the goal is to get it out of my house without throwing it in the trash, and that usually works!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin