In the New Year, I believe many of us have dreams 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 I can tell you from experience that it’s entirely attainable, without trashing the environment. 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 9 of our favorite New Year’s (Re)Solutions to help you reduce the stuff weighing you down:
I suggest you take a week to truly de-clutter and reduce.
STEP ONE: Each day of the week choose one room to focus on, so you don’t wear yourself out on day one. Do a decluttering pass through the room, carrying a box which will hold the items you’re ready to offload.
STEP TWO: Can any of your unwanted stuff be reused? Join your local Buy Nothing group, a gift economy where people share what they have with their neighbors. Keeping our stuff in our local materials economy is one of the greatest gifts you can give your own community, connecting you to the people around you and helping us all to reduce our consumption. See if there’s a group near you or ask the founders team to start a group in your area if you’re willing to be a local admin.
You can then post each of your items in your group. Don’t be shy! Your stuff is another person’s treasure. People give cement blocks away in our group, sticks, even used bubble wrap, extra pans of homemade lasagna, chicken feed, and unwanted jewelry. There’s no such thing as “trash” in our groups as you may find an artist who could use your discarded item or a small business owner who needs bubble wrap for packaging their items for shipping. If you don’t have a Buy Nothing group in our area, then move on to step 3.
STEP THREE: Have a few spare boxes ready to hold your leftover unwanted and unused items in your garage, basement, attic or spare room where you can then separate the pile into 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 than 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. But if you have a local charity, like GoodWill where you can drop off your items, that’s another great option.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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 senior center to see if they can use them or post your jars on your Buy Nothing group. Someone will have a use for them.
6) If you’re trying to reduce old stockpiled boxes of random stuff, make a pledge to go through one box at a time. Give yourself time to go through it and separate the items into recyclable items and those that can be given away and reused. I try to remind myself that we’re stewards of our stuff on this planet and our job is to, at the end of your stuff’s usefulness to you, dispense with it responsibly.
7) 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. There are some great ideas out there for photo reuse, like turning them into tile coasters or donating them to a scrap art store. Remember, your old family photos do have potential value, especially for your family’s future generations.
8) 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. We have a local “Books and Beer” get-together every few months in our Buy Nothing group where we can meet neighbors and share our books.
9) Make a promise to yourself to be mindful of what you acquire. Promise that all new things going into your home this year 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.