Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New Life for Old Things: The Three Rs

How did you do with last week's task? Did you clear some clutter? Or have I left you traumatized and clinging to your belongings at the very mention of the L (Let it Go!) in STYLE?

Clearing the clutter sounds simple enough -- until we stop to think about the fact that much of what's in the pile (or the big rectangular space) has meaning to us. Sure, some things are easy to let go of (that pile of old magazines you keep stubbing your toe on), but others -- the things with sentimental value -- pose more of a challenge.

Photo: mconnors via Morguefile
Fortunately, throwing things away isn't the only way to clear the clutter -- unless you're talking about something that poses a health hazard, like, say, a week's worth of banana peels. If you're not composting or availing yourself of one of the 9 Unexpected Reasons You Should Never Trash Banana Peels, anything that invites unwelcome visitors of the insect or rodent variety should be disposed of. Quickly.

Still, as someone with her own love/hate relationship with clutter, I know that tossing things into the trash isn't always as easy as it sounds. Luckily, there are alternatives, which I'm classifying into three categories: Recycle, Repurpose and Resell. In the interest of keeping this post from becoming overwhelming, I'm going to focus on just the first R (recycle) today. We'll talk more about the others next week.

First of all, we need to think outside the recycle bin to the broadest possible definition of recycling: giving new life to old things. When we put it in those terms, it's about more than just tossing a rinsed out soda bottle into the recycling container. It can be about finding new homes for things we've loved but no longer need.

Let's start with a few things you might have found in the back of your closet when you were doing your big rectangular space reorganization. Google "donate wedding dress," "donate business clothes," or "donate prom dress" and you'll find a page (or more) of local and national organizations that will put those items into the hands of women who need them. While I'm not ready to donate my wedding gown (unpreserved though it may be) any time soon, I'm more than happy to let go of that bridesmaid's dress I most definitely did not wear again.

Lots of other useful but unnecessary items can find new homes or new life as well. Did you know you can recycle blue jeans? Ship off that plastic hotel key you brought home by mistake to a place where it can be melted down and made into...more plastic hotel keys? Donate the reusable grocery bags that seem to overrun your car when you don't need them but hide from you when you do?

The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project
My favorite way to recycle those bags is to donate them to The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project. I don't live in Pittsburgh, but I love that this organization donates the bags I'm no longer using to local food pantries so their patrons have a way to haul their groceries home...wherever home may be. If you're not close enough to drop them off, you can contact PTBP for a mailing address. They'll be ever so grateful.

Wondering what to do with other household items? Homeless shelters and animal shelters will often be happy to take old sheets and towels off your hands. The Purple Heart Foundation takes a wide variety of household items -- and they'll even pick them up. I regularly take bags full of books to our local library. Some they keep, others they sell to raise money to buy more books.

Do you have something you're ready to get rid of, but have no idea how to find it a new home? Check out Wow, You Can Recycle That? for ideas. If you're like me, it'll end up bookmarked for future reference.

For this task as for all the others, I stand by my (consistent) assertion that one size does not fit all. Only you can decide what's trash and what's treasure, and you're bound to end up with some things you simply can't let go of -- yet.

More about that next week. Till then, please share your successes (and ideas) by leaving me a comment below.

No comments:

Post a Comment