For 2011, I’ve chosen the theme word “space“. I’m trying to create space in my life for the things that I want, and for a lifestyle that reflects my values. I guess you could say I want to make space in my life for myself. I’m striving to create space in my schedule, space in my brain and space in my home.
That last bit – space in my home – has caused me to set out on a de-cluttering binge. I’ve realized that I’m using a lot of the space in my house for sentimental reasons. My crawlspace is full of boxes containing old letters from pen pals, old magazines I’ll never read again, and mementos of my childhood that I haven’t set eyes on in 10 years. My table is covered in kids’ artwork and sewing supplies that I don’t use and newspapers that I mean to get around to reading but I haven’t.
An example of the clutter that can be found all over my house
I’m tired of the clutter. I want to clear out some of the memories (read: baggage) and make room for living my life today. I would like to simplify, minimize, and stop accumulating even more stuff. I think it’s a worthy goal. And it even has an undercurrent of sustainability. Embracing a simpler lifestyle helps us to reduce our consumption, and by extension, our environmental impact. In the long-term, I think that my efforts to minimize will be good for me and the planet.
But that’s in the long-term. What of the short term? What do I do with all the piles of stuff that I don’t want anymore?
Look, I cleared off a surface!
I don’t want the things that I’m finished with to end up in the landfill or an incinerator, emitting chemicals and carbon into the atmosphere. While simplifying, in general, is a good idea, simply throwing away the stuff I’m done with is not. After all, there really is no such thing as “away”. Everything that we toss goes somewhere, and we need to be mindful of that.
So, where does that leave me? There are a few ways I’m reducing the impact of de-cluttering.
De-cluttered items in search of new homes
- Pass it on: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, as we all know. My friends and I often exchange kids’ clothes, for instance. It keeps it out of the landfill, and your house, too. And if you’re not sure who would want it, sites like Freecycle can help.
- Sell it: If you have something good, you may be able to sell it. List it on Craigslist, find a consignment shop that’s willing to take your stuff, or hold a yard sale. They’re all good ways to clear out your house and earn a little bit of money at the same time.
- Donate it: Second-hand stores find new homes for your stuff. Some of the shops are operated by non-profit organizations, and the sales support their work. Other stores are for-profit entities, which may or may not partner with charities. While the ethics differ, both options help you keep your clutter out of the landfill.
- Recycle it: Recycling something beats trashing it, for sure. However, it shouldn’t be your first choice. It still uses energy and produces emissions. Also, many items aren’t so much recycled as downcycled. Sometimes, though, it can’t be avoided. As with the old letters my pen pals wrote me – they have sadly outlived their usefulness.
Hopefully, as I reduce the clutter and stop accumulating more, I will have fewer things that need new homes. That’s my overall goal – to reduce my impact by reducing my consumption and scaling back my lifestyle. For now, I’m just trying to do that in a way that is as gentle on the planet as possible.
What about you? What do you do with the stuff that you don’t need anymore? How do you get it out of your house, without sending it to the landfill?
I wrote this post for the Green Moms Carnival, which I will be hosting on Monday. This month it’s all about green de-cluttering, so check back here for a lot more great ideas on how to make space in your home!