Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out Stuff

The Rubbish Diet Challenge this past week is cleaning up around the house.  I got to thinking about what we already do and what more we can do in our quest to maintain cleanliness.  Then I started thinking about all the chores I’m behind on and how I will likely spend some time this weekend on said chores (yay).

I also want to spend some time on cleaning OUT.   Steve’s grandparents bought the house we live in almost 50 years ago. We were fortunate enough to take it over a few years back and have made some improvements since (energy efficient windows, new siding, etc.)

Part of the updating process has included wading through many years worth of accumulated stuff stored in the attic, closets and the basement.  We make four piles: keep, donate, recycle, trash. The ‘keep’ pile is further sorted into categories: ‘family stuff’, ‘possibly worth something’, and ‘this is cool and usable but if we don’t use it in the next year we’ll donate it’.  The ‘donate’ pile (usable stuff that we don’t need) has been the biggest and we have lugged many a car load of bagged and boxed materials to a local charity shop.  The ‘recycle’ pile is a no brainer and gets sorted and put out for collection.  Unfortunately, the ‘trash’ pile has been almost has big as the ‘donate’ pile and we’ve sent lots of bags of trash and unusable stuff to the landfill.

Since we have been doing a lot of work to get stuff out, we also do a lot to prevent stuff from coming in.  I turn down freebies and give-aways.  For any kind of impulse purchase I ask, will this get used a lot or will it sit on a shelf or in a drawer collecting dust?

In my household growing up we were ingrained with the Girl Scout mantra of ‘be prepared’.  It is a good motto to live by as it gets you thinking and you plan to be ready for any scenario.  As I got older and did a bit of traveling that mantra shifted to ‘what can I do without’.  I would pack only the necessities leaving out that extraneous just-in-case stuff.  I quickly realized you can easily get by with a minimal amount of ‘stuff’ and don’t miss the items left behind.

Of course I should be grateful to have the luxury of too much stuff, and it brings up greater societal issues of over-consumption and the haves and the have-nots and the list can go on.  But we’ll keep the focus on reducing my individual household impact and my  goal of zero-waste by week 8 of The Rubbish Diet.

Now, back to finishing up those clean-up chores and seeing if I can keep the waste from that process to a minimum.

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About Amy Marpman

Director of Recycling Services at Great Forest, Inc. in NYC. Continually finding the balance of idealism with the practical realities that make or break recycling programs.
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2 Responses to Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out Stuff

  1. Pingback: Week 5 – The Rubbish Diet | Beyond the Blue Bin

  2. Pingback: Week 7 of The Rubbish Diet | Beyond the Blue Bin

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