By Liesl Clark
At Trash Backwards, we hear daily from people who want to reduce the amount of stuff in their homes without trashing the environment. We all have alluring visions of simplicity, homes de-cluttered and made minimal yet functional. Can this be achieved in a sustainable manner? Yes!
Sustainably reducing our junk brings a sense of freedom and joy and we can tell you from experience that it’s entirely attainable. The key is to take simple steps toward offloading your excess items. As a byproduct, you’ll find real pleasure in seeing the value in your things and the joy they can bring others, rather than just tossing them into the landfill.
Here are 10 of our favorite New Year’s Re(Solutions) to help you reduce the stuff weighing you down:
Go through your things in your home and make a pile of unwanted and unused items in your garage, basement, attic or spare room where you can then separate the pile into 3 distinct categories:
1) Stuff to Donate to an Animal Shelter: Do you have old blankets, towels, or extra pens and pencils hanging about? You’d be surprised to learn what items most animal shelters could use. Here’s a typical wish list for a local shelter.
To find an animal shelter near you, click to The Humane Society‘s website where they have links to the best resources for locating local animal shelters. All you need to do is input your zip code to find a local shelter. Most have a wish list online, but you can call to find out their specific needs.
2) Stuff to Donate to a Charity That Will Come and Pick Things Up: There’s nothing better then people who come to you and take away your unwanted stuff. Donationtown has a website where you can input your zip code a find a charity that will come to your home and pick reusable household items up.
3) Can any of your remaining unwanted stuff be reused? Join your local Buy Nothing group, a gift economy where people share what they have with their neighbors. See if there’s a group near you or ask the founders to start a group in your area if you’re willing to be a local admin.
4) Electronics Recycling: Take stock of your e-waste, your electronics that no longer work or that you haven’t used in a year or 2, and take them to Best Buy! Best Buy is one of North America’s top e-waste recyclers and you can easily find one near you. This task is a simple one: load up a cart with your old TV, computers, vacuum cleaner, and wheel it through the front door and there will be a place by the front door to leave your electronics for recycling. Done!
5) Metals can go to a nearby scrap metal facility: We save our metals in a special box to be taken periodically to our scrap metal bin found at the local transfer station. Metals of all types have value and can be repurposed into new items made of metal. Saving things that are primarily made of metal can benefit your scrap metal facility greatly and keep those precious materials out of the landfill and in our materials economy for years to come.
6) Do you have a cupboard filled with plastic containers? Reduce it by half and you probably won’t miss what you’ve removed. Save your favorite ones for storing dry goods in and then go through your jars and do the same thing. If you have extra lids, recycle them. Or if you’re missing lids, recycle the jars or containers themselves. The new year is a time to take stock and simplify! I reduced my jars by half and passed the good ones with lids on to our local senior center that collects them for projects. Check with your local senior center to see if they can use them or post your jars on Freecycle. Someone will probably have a use for them.
7) If you’re trying to reduce old stockpiled boxes of random stuff, make a pledge to go through one box at a time, possibly even one box a week. It will probably take you that long to dispense with those items responsibly.
8) If you have old family photos you want to reduce, you can always check with family members to see if they want them. By scanning them digitally, you can save them on a small thumb drive and then you have the photo paper waste to think of. Visit our app and you’ll find some good ideas for photo reuse, including donating them to a scrap art store.
9) Books: If there were ever an easy item to help you get rid of, it’s books! Most libraries want your books as do many non-profits worldwide that you’ll find in our app. And if you are DIY inclined we have great reuse resources for you in the app. Here’s a sampling that you can click through to:
10) Make a promise to yourself to be mindful of what you acquire. Promise that all new things going into your home will be used and loved extensively, not squirreled away in yet another box to be offloaded at the end of the year. If you don’t take my advice, you might want to listen to a slightly different perspective on reducing. It all results in the same thing, however, less waste and less unnecessary clutter in your life for stepping out into a new year.