De-cluttering could be looked at as environmental terrorism. Deciding to finally let go of things can have quite an impact on our environment when we consider the amount of stuff that ends up in landfills, however, most professional organizers should be mindful of the impact de-cluttering can have, and where possible try to advise clients to be as eco-friendly and creative as possible when it comes to recycling, up-cycling (re-using what is already there for storage in a new way), donating and discarding things.
What is wrong with land filling? Well according to the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts – Major Appliances Materials Project there are 3 main areas of concern.
1. It results in the loss of valuable materials (within a lot of products)
2. It wastes space (land).
3. It can harm humans and the environment.
Recycling is obviously better, although it to has its limitations and so re-use is now seen as preferred over both recycling and disposal, and this is what the government’s aforementioned project is aiming to address.
In the meantime what can we do to lessen our impact on landfill?
Obviously when it comes to certain items like clothing, furniture or bric-a-brac, we know where to send things, but it is worth thinking outside the norm at times in terms of end-use.
Ideas for Donations:
For example places like Reverse Garbage are happy to receive items that can be reused by artists. Imagine for example what could be made out of old LP records, curtain rings, cutlery, Styrofoam, wood off-cuts, Christmas decorations? Groups offering literacy projects are happy to receive book and stationery donations. Other groups are fixing & distributing computers and printers for use by the unemployed, community centers or areas affected by natural disasters. Redundant educational game software and music CD’s are appreciated by pre-schools or after school care centres. Spectacles and items such as orthopedic equipment can go to communities in need. Soup kitchens and groups like Meals on Wheels may need cookware.
There are swap clubs for anything from books to clothing to electronic equipment and online communities such as freecycle.com where you give things away. Others request things such as electronic equipment to strip for parts or electrical cable which is stripped for the copper wire which is then sold to scrap metal merchants. Others may just need cartons, bags or old coat hangers so that they can pack things for the needy. Other community groups may appreciate musical equipment to help lift spirits.
Respite centres, child care centres or toy libraries may need toys in good condition (note often soft toys are not accepted due to hygiene issues). Aged-care centres may need suitable music CDs; craft materials; magazines and books; wool & knitting needles and board games. Refuge centers may need kitchenware; appliances; linen; toys for children and bathroom essentials. Animal shelters and wildlife rescuers require blankets, towels, old woolen hats or mittens, basket-ware, dog collars, hot water bottles, fish tanks, washing baskets, bowls and any left over tins and packets of food for injured animals and wildlife. Gardening equipment is useful for community or school gardens. Some TAFE colleges appreciate old cars to train new mechanics.
Lessons In Altruism
If in doubt on whether you can donate certain items to a specific group always check by contacting them first. Make that extra effort to target your donations for who will get the best use out of them, and when donating, if you have children, take them along for a lesson in altruism. Often it is ‘better’ for them to see where kindness goes so that it will encourage them to do the same when they’re older. Maybe create a family tradition called ‘Altruism Day’ for your family and create a permanent box where things can be placed throughout the year and label it ‘Altruism Day Deliveries’. Make a permanent specific date on the family calendar each year to aim for. You may be surprised at how much will end up in that box.
I think when it comes to de-cluttering there are three important factors to consider:
1. There is always someone who can use something you may not want and to actively seek out groups that you may be able to help.
2. Sometimes it’s easier to let go when you know exactly who or what you are helping, do your research and really take the time to ‘give’ and not just ‘dispose’.
3. It’s not always about making a financial return, sometimes its more about giving to those in need and that includes our fragile planet because the reality is that in the long run, you are indeed receiving and investing in our global future.
Be sure to follow this link to the Less Equals More Resources Page where you will find links for donations, recycling, swap clubs and more. Please let me know of any I haven’t thought of so I can add them in.
I’ll leave the last word to Julian Lennon with his song “Saltwater“