Spring Cleaning: 50 Things to Get Rid of Right Now

Roz Chast’s wonderful take on the burden of too much stuff, from her book Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Spring cleaning. For some people, it means cleaning and scrubbing. For many, it means changing closets from winter clothes to summer clothes. And for a lot of us, spring cleaning means clearing out things we no longer need.

Lists of 50 things-to-get-rid-of appear regularly online or in shelter magazines. I have seen them and often think I should come up with a list of my own.

At a talk I gave last week, I asked each person in the audience to come up with 5 items that they could get rid of right away. Many of them came up with difficult items: a mother’s much-loved china service or a dear friend’s paintings. I suggested they were making things more difficult for themselves by starting with the challenging items rather than the easy ones.

So what are the easy things? Here’s my list of 50 things to get rid of right now. And some suggestions as to where to donate, recycle, or pass them along.

1. Magazines you haven’t read

Give magazines to doctors’ offices or hospital waiting rooms.

2. Old phones

Here’s where you can donate old phones.

3. Plastic leftover dishes without lids

You should replace your plastic containers regularly. Toss if they are scratched or cloudy.

4. Old hangers

Give wire ones to your dry cleaner.

5. Costume jewelry you don’t wear

Donate the jewelry to a thrift shop, give larger pieces to a nursery school’s dress-up corner, or donate to an art class.

6. Used-too-many-times workout gear

Recycle the fabric and treat yourself to new duds.

7. Plastic grocery bags

They can’t be recycled so take them back to the store.

8. Books: best sellers you have read

Or ones you never will: give them to friends or donate at one of these places.

9. Books: old reference books

Most of the information in reference books is dated or can be found online. Donate to one of the places listed here.

10. Old calendars and day planners

Record any necessary information, pull out pages with sensitive information so they can be shredded, then toss them.

11. Your children’s artwork

Take photos of your kids and the work, then toss the work. Here are some other suggestions.

12. Business clothes

If you don’t wear them or no longer go to the office, donate them to Dress for Success.

13. T-shirts

Especially the ones you keep around just to wear at home. Use them for rags or take them to fabric recycling.

14. Supplies from a hobby you abandoned

Give them to friends who are interested or donate them to an art teacher.

15. Worn out sheets, mattress pads, pillows

Take them to an animal shelter.

16. Old remotes

Recycle the old ones; here are some suggestions.

17. Blurry photos

Or ones where you don’t remember the people, or duplicates: offer them to an art teacher or just toss them.

18. Digital photos

The ones that are taking up too much space on your phone. Edit them.

19. Dead or leaking batteries

Here’s where you can recycle them.

20. Travel-size toiletries

Donate them to a homeless shelter.

21. Old paint

Dispose of it responsibly through help from Earth 911.

22. Specialty appliances

That special sandwich press, the Mickey Mouse waffle maker, the yogurt maker: recycle any appliance that you never use.

23. Clothes that don’t fit

Donate to your local thrift store.

24. Shoes that hurt; sneakers that are worn out

Here are ways to recycle and dispose of shoes.

25. Old greeting cards

Repurpose some of them into gift tags: donate the rest to the Girl Scouts or the YMCA or St. Jude’s Ranch for Children.

26. Frozen leftovers

Or containers of leftover food in the refrigerator: toss them all.

27. Damaged plates or cups

Anything with a crack or a chip on the rim should be tossed for safety reasons. You could donate them to a high school or college art teacher.

28. No longer current forms of entertainment

Recycle the VHS tapes and the CDs.

29. Old towels

Donate them to an animal shelter.

30. Kitchen utensils

Clean out that cluttered kitchen drawer and give away what you don’t use.

31. Plastic utensils and straws that come with take out food

Just toss them.

32. Prom dresses

And bridesmaids’ dresses and other evening wear. Donate them to girls in need.

33. Used medical equipment

This isn’t always easy but here are some suggestions.

34. Old medications

Check to see if your local pharmacy participates in the DEA’s Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

35. Used baby clothes

Donate them to your favorite charity.

36. Recipes you cut out and never use

Just toss them. You can look up recipes online.

37. Pens and pencils

Toss pens that don’t work and pencils with dried erasers.

38. Office supplies you don’t use

Donate yellow pads, post-it notes, paper clips, and anything you no longer use to the office of your favorite nonprofit organization or religious group.

39. Old spices

Just toss them out and buy new ones.

40. Old condiments

Toss them and anything else that’s stored on the refrigerator door.

41. Sports equipment

Here are some suggestions for donating and recycling items you no longer use.

42. Old makeup

Toss all mascara, blush, base, even nail polish.

43. Decades-old papers

File necessary medical and financial papers where you can find them or scan them, and then toss or shred what’s not needed.

44. Old keys

Give them to an art class for a collage.

45. Junk mail

Try to get rid of it before you come into the house.

46. Credit card receipts

Toss ones you don’t need to keep, especially those for consumables like food and restaurants.

47. Loose change

Wrap in wrappers and take it to the bank – or donate it!

48. Multiples – of anything

Keep one or two, give away the rest.

49.Things that belonged to your parents

See our book Moving On for help with letting go.

50. ___________________

What should the 50th item be? Let us know in the comment box below what’s on your list.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

More Spring Decluttering: Cleaning Out Your Garage

more spring_used bicycle

 

With the warmer weather finally here, spring cleaning is unavoidable (as much as some of us would like to avoid it!) and that means cleaning out the garage, too.

We know that there is a life beyond for the things we no longer need. Our trash can be someone else’s treasure if we take the time to get the items we would like to discard to the right places.

Here are some suggestions for recycling certain items in your garage.

Tires

According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, in 2013 more than 95 percent by weight of the scrap tires generated in the United States were reused: as tire-derived fuel, in ground rubber applications such as playground surfaces, and for engineering and construction uses.

Regulations for recycling tires vary by state. To locate a place to recycle tires in your area, search online under “local tire recycling.”

Motor Oil

Used motor oil can be recycled. Many service stations and repair facilities will accept used oil and used oil filters. Local recycling centers may accept motor oil or be able to steer you to a place that does. The best way to locate a collection center is to visit Earth911 and search by ZIP code.

Bicycles

For places to donate your bike and for places that help recycle/reuse bicycle parts, check out Ibike.

There are programs that provide bikes to developing countries, such as Bicycles for Humanity and World Bicycle Relief; you won’t get rid of your bike but you will help others to obtain a bike that is “an engine for economic and cultural empowerment” as they say on one of the sites. What could be better than that!

Sports Equipment

Play It Again Sports will buy back used sports equipment and this blog post on houzz offers suggestions for getting rid of sports equipment in an eco-friendly way.

Sometimes an organization like the Boy Scouts or a church youth group will sponsor a drive for gently used sports equipment. Check out organizations in your area to see if they are interested in your used items.

Tennis Balls

ReBounces has suggestions for recycling large numbers of tennis balls and check out “How to Recycle Tennis Balls” at 1-800-Recycling.com.

Shoes and Sneakers

And if you have worn-out or outgrown sneakers and sports shoes lying around, check out our post on where to recycle shoes.

Keep the memories of you and your kids playing sports or enjoying a bike ride in the park, but get rid of all the stuff you no longer need. The result? A more organized garage, a grateful recipient of the donated items, and a healthier environment.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

Spring Decluttering: Keep the Memories, Get Rid of the Stuff!

0317151751

Yay!!! Spring is here at last–at least for most of us it is, and for those who think it will never come–it will, it will!

So it’s time to think spring cleaning–and spring decluttering–once again.

Here are five tips for making the task less painful, more productive—maybe even a little bit joyful. Don’t believe it? Read on…

Find ways to enrich the lives of others (and/or protect the environment) as you make your home a more comfortable place to live in.

Clothing, kitchen items, furniture, unused appliances—all of these things can make life easier and better for people in need and for the organizations that help them. Many organizations will pick up furniture and clothing, and get it to people in need. Best Buy stores accept electronics–TVs, computers, printers, etc.,–and will properly recycle them. Staples and Office Depot give store discounts for returned printer cartridges, and collect batteries for recycling. Many libraries still take books, and if they don’t, schools, prisons, hospitals and other community organizations can use them. (And you can find ideas for other places to donate books here.) Old sheets and towels can be donated to animal shelters. You get the idea! What you don’t need, someone else can use, and for many people who are loathe to part with things, knowing that’s it’s going “to a good cause” can help.

Break large, overwhelming tasks into smaller, more manageable ones.

Does the sight of an overstuffed closet make your heart sink? Don’t be discouraged! Start with just one shelf, or the floor of the closet. Or work by category: today, shoes, tomorrow: sweaters. Ignore the rest for now (develop tunnel vision!) and press on. You can do it! One step at a time. 

Take time to congratulate yourself along the way.

Who said this task was easy? It’s not! Take time to celebrate the progress you’re making. DON’T focus on all there is still to do. Instead, DO look at that one shelf, or corner of a room you just cleared. Doesn’t it make you feel good?! Okay, now, back to work!

Allow yourself to back away from difficult decisions “for now.”

Sometimes what it is unbearable to think about parting with on Day 1 can be much easier to let go of in a month, a week, or even the next day. Don’t linger over difficult decisions–or even worse, give up on the task. Just put those items aside and keep on making the easier decisions.

Keep the memories, get rid of the stuff!

This has become our mantra. Find ways to honor, safeguard and keep the precious memories that make it hard for you to get rid of some of the things cluttering up your life. Take pictures, tell stories, write them down (or record them) to share with family and friends. For most people, with most objects, the memories are what count: they don’t take up space, and giving them away is a joyful and good thing.

Our e-book has helpful stories about the imaginative ways people have found to make the process of downsizing and decluttering less tedious, more joyful. And the resource section in the back of the book, with helpful links, will help guide you toward places where you can donate or recycle everything from grand pianos to wine corks, from nearly-new prom dresses to old carpets.

And–think of this–this is one book that won’t take up space on those shelves you’re trying to clear. 🙂

 Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor, writing coach, travel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

Easy Ways to Clean Naturally

lemon and salt

We often talk in this space about helping the environment by reusing items to keep them out of the landfill and by being thoughtful with what we purchase. We believe that together we can difference in the world.

Making a difference in the world sounds a bit daunting though, doesn’t it, so let’s start in our homes. If charity begins at home, then maybe making environmentally responsible choices can begin there, too.

In making good choices at home, there’s no better place to start than with cleaning. We all clean, at least occasionally, and what we choose to use makes a big difference. When we use natural ingredients – almost all of which are easily available in the grocery store – we help the environment, reduce our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, and leave our homes smelling better. And these ingredients cost less than commercial cleaners, too.

Here are four essential ingredients.

Baking soda – is an all-purpose cleaner. It soaks up dirt and grease, removes stains, and deodorizes.

Lemon juice – is a natural disinfectant that cuts through grease and can remove perspiration stains. It is fresh smelling.

Salt – can be used as an abrasive. For tough jobs, use Kosher salt, which has thicker crystals.

Vinegar – is a powerful cleaner. It cuts through grease, disinfects, and deodorizes.

Other ingredients you may want to add to your shopping list include hydrogen peroxide, a disinfectant; essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, and lemongrass which impart a lovely fragrance or tea tree oil which is a natural disinfectant (oils are strong so use them sparingly); cornstarch for soaking up spills; and olive oil or beeswax for polishing furniture.

Put “natural cleaning ingredients” into a search engine and you will discover many formulas for cleaning all sorts of household items from pots and pans to the bathroom sink, from clothing to hairbrushes. Here are a few sites to check out.

Green Cleaning Recipes from The Daily Green

25 DIY Green Cleaning Recipes from Apartment Therapy

Spring Cleaning from broccoli cupcake

We can clean our homes, keep ourselves healthier, and help the environment, all at the same time.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and foodand coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

Keeping America Beautiful

Screen shot 2013-07-04 at 10.32.12 AM

Happy 4th of July!

As we celebrate the founding of our country with picnics, parades, and fireworks, let’s also give some thought to the future of our country, specifically the land we live on.

If you are moving, trying to declutter your home, or emptying a home after the owners have left, you have many decisions to make. If deciding on how to dispose of each and very item in the house is just too much, there is help out there. Here’s a look at some companies that will lend a hand.

Junk removal companies ensure that, for a fee, what you don’t want or can’t use any longer is recycled, donated, or disposed of responsibly.

The list of items they pick up and dispose of includes clothing, linens, old furniture, mattresses, appliances, electronics, sports equipment, tires, construction debris, yard waste, and can also include garage, attic, and basement cleanup.

The following two nationwide junk removal companies have received great feedback on the job they do.

 1-800-Got-Junk?

http://www.1800gotjunk.com/

Since 1989, they have saved over 1.5 billion pounds of junk from being dumped in landfills. Their credo: We believe that together we can make a difference for future generations by focusing on responsible environmental practices today. We are committed to improving our environmental performance by measuring the amount of junk collected and reporting where it goes.

College Hunks Hauling Junk

http://www.collegehunkshaulingjunk.com/

“Hunks” stands for honest, uniformed, nice, knowledgeable, students. Their mission is to move the world, one community, one home, one family at a time. They will sort, load, haul, recycle, donate and dispose of every last item that needs to go.

To find local organizations that do the same or similar work, search online under ‘junk removal services.’ There are also free services for special items, such as scrap metal.

Keep America beautiful; recycle your waste.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and foodand coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

Living with Less…

Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 7.45.20 AM

In a recent Op Ed article in The New York Times, Graham Hill tells the story of how he accumulated so much stuff after he sold his start-up company that he came to feel that he did not own the things he bought but they ended up owning him. Although he’s unusual in getting a windfall from the sale of a tech start-up, he’s like many of us whose life is cluttered with excess belongings.

Hill went on to create TreeHugger.com, an environmental design blog, and LifeEdited.com, a design blog for minimalist living, and now lives in 420-foot studio where his bed folds down from the wall.

“Does all this endless consumption result in measurably increased happiness?” he asks in the Op Ed piece. Studies have shown that things do not, in fact, add to our happiness.

“Intuitively, we know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all,” Hill continues, “and that relationships, experiences and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life.”

He ends his piece with “My space is small. My life is big.”

Laura Bloom is also a believer in living with less. In a post on her blog Finding Walden, Bloom writes that she is a big fan of throwing away stuff because she wants her house to be a space where things can happen. “I want to walk into a room and feel a sense of possibility, and spaciousness,” she says. “I don’t want to be reminded in countless ways of the past.”

Bloom was inspired by To Have or To Be, whose author Erich Fromm says there are two essential ways of being – having or being. Although our society encourages “having” Bloom follows Fromm’s idea that by not having, you create more space for real being.

“Throwing stuff away, even precious, valuable stuff, can be lightening and liberating” she states. In a comment to the post, a reader called this “a mental spring cleaning.”

We’ve just talked about about two people who made the choice to live with less.

According to a post by Patricia Redsicker, blogs outrank social networks in influencing consumer purchasing decisions.

Perhaps blogs can influence readers NOT to make purchases, too. What do you think? Did reading this post help you to not buy something or to get rid of something you already have? If so, what was the item and why? We would love to hear your story.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home design, crafts, and food, and author of  Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

Recycling Tips for Carpet and Rugs

Screen shot 2013-01-17 at 7.54.19 AM

According to Earth 911, in 2011, only 9 percent of the millions of tons of carpet and rugs that were discarded that year were recycled.

Why are carpets and rugs are one of the least recycled household items? For the homeowner, carpets are heavy and bulky to transport and it’s much easier to simply dump them in the trash. For the recycler, carpet is a challenge to work with because it’s made of different fibers and backing fabrics and each has to be recovered and reused separately.

Recycling

The Mother Nature Network’s site has two articles on the process of recycling carpet:

How to Recycle Carpet 

Recycling Old Carpet: Is it Possible?

Check out the Carpet and Rug Institute’s article Recycle, Recover and Reuse for another look at recycling.

The Carpet Recyclers’ site has a video that shows the recycling process.

And go to the Carpet America Recovery Effort’s (CARE) site for a list of places, by state, that will recycle carpet.

Reusing

You can donate worn but clean pieces of carpet to animal shelters, turn them into cat scratchers, use them for insulation, or save one rectangle to use as a welcome mat.

Check out these sites for some more practical suggestions.

This Old House’s article 10 Uses for Carpet Scraps.

Used Carpet Melbourne: Ten Things You Can Do with Your Old Carpet.

Build-It-Green Coach’s Creative Ways to Reuse Carpet.

Reducing

You can reduce your need for new carpeting by extending the life of the carpet you have. See Creators.com’s advice on how to care for your carpet and how to create a patch for a damaged area.

It’s always good to be green!

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home design, crafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home