• An Important Lesson

    “Throwers” relish clearing out and will empty a house quickly; “keepers” want to preserve special things as well as memories, and will linger over the process. People who balance these attributes have come to the realization that the most valuable thing in a house is the life that has been lived there. Read more about how “keepers” and “throwers” work together to downsize and declutter.
  • Press for our Book

    “…a downsizing bible” Oregon Home
    "...some items have special sentimental meaning... Huffington Post
    "clearing out the clutter...a wonderful gift to your family..."USA Today
    "sharing tips for getting the job done..."PBS’s Next Avenue
    "Downsizing: What to do with all that stuff?" Forbes
    “…discussions [help] avert misunderstandings…” The New York Times
    “…creative ways…of maintaining peace while dividing the family heirlooms” BloombergBusinessweek
    “practical suggestions for sorting through a lifetime of items…” The Washington Times
    “…about memories, feelings and people…” Chicago Tribune
    “tips on preserving relations and memories while sorting clutter...” The Salt Lake Tribune
    "lessons from two who have 'been there, done that'..."Your Organizing Business
    “…a useful resource...” Senior Living Institute
    “…help is on the way…” Illinois Public Media
    …the only book mentioned in the Comprehensive Checklist for Downsizing a Home Organize and Downsize

  • On Our Bookshelf

    Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home by Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand
    Buried in Treasures by David F. Tolin, Randy O. Frost, and Gail Steketee
    Caring for Your Family Treasures by Jane S. Long and Richard W. Long
    Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
    Organizing Plain and Simple by Donna Smallin
    Sell, Keep, or Toss? How to Downsize a Home... by Harry L. Rinker
    Who Gets Grandma's Yellow Pie Plate? by Marlene S. Strum

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Earth Day 2017: How Will You Celebrate?

The theme for the 2017 Earth Day, the 47th year of this holiday celebrating the earth, is Environmental and Climate Literacy. The organizers of Earth Day want to empower everyone with the knowledge to act in defense of environmental protection. The hashtag for the event is #CountTo50.

Here are some ways to celebrate the day.

Create no waste.

Who better than Recyclebank to challenge us to A Day Without Waste? Accept their challenge and they will help coach you through the day. And you can follow their own progress on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #ZeroWasteDay.


Recycle your old technology.

Honor the earth and get money back too. The office supply company Staples is offering a $10 off $30 coupon for recycling your unused tech.


Compost your trash.

Are you ready to dispose of your potato peelings and eggshells in an earth-friendly way? Here’s some help to get you started.


Join the March for Science.

Earth Day Network and the March for Science are co-organizing a rally and teach-in on the National Mall in that will include speeches and trainings, musical performances, and a march through the streets of Washington, D.C. Gather at 8 am and the teach-in will begin at 9 am.


Switch to clean energy.

You can take one simple step and along with others make a big impact together – for a brighter, healthier future.


Learn more about climate change.

“The climate has always been changing – but the pace at which it is now changing is faster than humans have ever seen. Climate change threatens to make parts of the planet uninhabitable or inhospitable for life as we know… In short, it is the most pressing global challenge we have ever faced.”


How are you going to give back on Earth Day 2017? How will you contribute to a more sustainable future? Share your plans for the day in a comment below. We would love to hear from you.

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


Five Easy Tips for More Green Living


1.  Bring reusable cloth bags with you when you shop. (The only hard part of this is getting in the habit. But it’s not that hard to do!)

2. Set your computer to print on both sides of the page!!!!  (Why haven’t I thought of this before?!)

3. Take advantage of the fact that many retailers are making it easy for us to recycle hard-to-recycle things.

For example Staples and Office Depot will take batteries and printer cartridges (you can even get store credit back on the cartridges). Best Buy takes old electronics (TVs, computers, etc.) in a blessedly simple process. You bring the stuff to them, they take it off your hands and keep it out of landfill. That’s it! And Whole Foods will take wine corks, batteries and other hard-to-recycle items.

4. Resist the temptation to throw away old shoes. Instead look for ways to donate or recycle them. My coauthor wrote this great post that will help you find places to do it.

5. Stop buying styrofoam cups. They are petroleum-based, linked with a variety of health concerns, and very difficult to recycle.  See more about this here.

As spring cleaning season approaches, we would welcome any other tips you may have, especially about places that make it easy to recycle hard-to-recycle items. Please let us know in a comment!

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

Donate, Reuse, Recycle: A Call for Help When Downsizing


Which are the hard-to-recycle-or-reuse items in this photo?

There are many reasons why some people have trouble getting rid of things when downsizing the home, or moving. Two of the best reasons are wanting to maximize the benefit to others by donating things that can still be used, and to minimize damage to the earth by keeping things that should be recycled out of landfills.

We’ve written a fair amount about both topics on this blog, and in many of our posts have provided tips and suggestions about ways you can go about doing both of these things. But some items are just harder to deal with responsibly, especially if the downsizing (or moving) has to be done in a hurry.

The photo above provides a clear example of the kinds of things that are fairly easy to get rid of responsibly, and the kinds of things that aren’t. Clearly, if the beautiful pot is not going along in the move, it could be easily donated (or, depending on the value, perhaps sold). Thrift stores would probably be happy to have the hangers. But what about the not-so-gently-used shoes, and the CDs? (Only a couple of CDs are shown here, but most homes would a fairly big pile of them ready to dispose of…)

This post will provide some guidance in finding ecological ways to dispense with these items. But the main purpose is to draw attention to the types of items that are unlikely to be properly disposed of when people have to move or empty a home in a hurry. And a plea that the powers that be–from shoe retailers to government agencies–help us find ways to make these things easier to recycle.

  1. Shoes. A couple of years ago my coauthor wrote a very helpful post about how to recycle or donate shoes here. And while I think it’s great that there are organizations that are helping with this process, I can’t help but wish that more shoe stores would step up (no pun intended!) and make it even easier. Why couldn’t the big chains have a program similar to Best Buy’s electronics recycling program for example? So that people in a hurry to empty a home would be able to take big bags of shoes that are no longer usable directly to the nearest store and just drop them off? Payless? DSW? Your thoughts?
  2. CDs and tapes. Earth 911 has a very helpful page on various options for dealing with CDs and videotapes you no longer want, but the fact is, most people are not going to do the right thing when it comes to old CDs and tapes if it isn’t made easier for them to do. And most people are not going to want to pay to recycle anything. Call me a dreamer, but it seems to me that if we know that having these items go en masse into our landfills is harmful to the environment (and future generations) it would seem an appropriate matter for collective action. In other words, Help! Isn’t there some way our local governments–or the state or federal government, someone, anyone!–can help make it easier for us all to do the right thing?
  3. Prescription Drugs. I didn’t realize the importance of proper disposal of prescription drugs until a cousin who is a doctor grimaced when someone suggested at a family gathering to just throw them into the trash. “No, no, no!” she said. “It goes into our water supply. That is not a good idea.” But here again the problem is the difficulty of doing the right thing. (Just take a look at these FDA guidelines and you’ll see what I mean.) So here again, I think we need help, and probably in this case pharmacies are the most likely source of assistance. Why couldn’t people bring unused/unwanted drugs back to pharmacies to be properly disposed of? Certainly they would know how to do it, right? The only option for me to properly dispose of the expired prescriptions in our home when I looked into this last summer was to drive several miles to a government office in an area with very little available parking to turn them in. It has to be made easier if we want people to do it.

I think most people understand the importance of protecting our earth from contamination. But if it’s too difficult to do things the right way, they will be tempted or forced into doing them the wrong way.

Are there other categories of items that you’ve found difficult to reuse, donate, or recycle when downsizing, or information about programs that make recycling shoes/CDs/prescription drugs easier? If so, I hope you’ll add them to the comment box below, so we can help spread the word.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor, writing coach, travel blogger, 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.


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.


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

Dealing with Holiday Aftermath: An Ecological Approach

We’re not exactly through “the holidays” yet, but there certainly has been a flurry of activity for the past few weeks, hasn’t there?

Now, a little bit more than midway through it all, is a good time to think about how we can deal with the aftermath–all that wrapping paper, all those strings of lights, all those Christmas trees,  all the “trimmings and trappings,” in a way that does minimal damage to (or may even help) the earth.

Here’s a post we published a couple of years ago with some tips about “green” ways to deal with the holiday aftermath. This year I learned that Mom’s Organic Market, which has stores along the Mid-Atlantic coast from Pennsylvania to Virginia, has a great recycling program that includes holiday lights and corks. (Real corks only, not the synthetic ones–in many areas you can recycle synthetic ones along with the rest of your plastic). You can even get discounts on the purchase of new holiday lights when you turn your old ones in.

Timing can be important–if you know about locations or deadlines for holiday-related recycling in your area that you’d like to share with your neighbors, please feel free to share the information by commenting on this post.

Here’s wishing you safe and pleasant celebration into the New Year–and a green year ahead!

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




America Recycles Day is November 15

Screen shot 2013-07-04 at 10.32.12 AM

That’s right, next week  it’s America Recycles Day. And how are we doin’ with that, anyway?

Well, only about 38% of Americans describe themselves as avid recyclers. Which is a good start; but we’ve still got a long way to go.

This year, the Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful (KAB) have launched a public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling, with the goal of making recycling a daily social norm.

The campaign directs audiences to IWantToBeRecycled.org, a new website with a localized search tool allowing users to find where to recycle either at their curbside or their nearest recycling center. Visitors to the website can learn about the recycling process through an interactive infographic, and obtain detailed information on what materials can be recycled, how they should be recycled, and what products they can become in the future.

Both of the above sites are great centralized sources of information for individuals and organizations who want to step up their recycling efforts, and need help finding out how to go about “doing the right thing.”

And here’s our contribution to America Recycles Day:  links to a few of our previous posts that offer some guidance in how to dispose of the “pesky” items nobody knows what to do with when downsizing a home, in an ecologically responsible way:

Carpeting and Rugs



Videotapes, CDS and other Pesky Items

It can be daunting, thinking about all the waste we’ve generated, and how much of it still ends up in landfills. But let’s not be daunted. Let’s be excited, instead, about all the clever ways we’re finding to reuse, recycle–and keep America beautiful.

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

Where Have All Your Shoes Gone?


Gone to landfills everywhere. Each year more than 350 million pairs of shoes are discarded, according to the statistics on one charity’s website. Why? Probably because most people do not know what to do with used shoes.

The first thing to know: All shoes are recyclable.

When shoes are discarded, they are incinerated, releasing harmful dioxins into the atmosphere. So donating them is kinder to the environment.

Shoes can be donated to most large charities that collect clothing, they can be donated to non-profit organizations that specialize in sending shoes to those in need, or they can be given to companies that recycle the materials to create new products.

Here is a list of charities and organizations that accept donations of shoes and either send them to people in need or recycle their component parts.

CrocsCares http://crocscares.com/donate-your-crocs/

Many of the Crocs stores will accept donations of gently used Crocs and send to Souls4Souls to be cleaned and donated to those in need.

Donate Your Old Shoes http://donateyouroldshoes.org/

This non-profit collects shoes (that are dropped off or mailed in) and puts them “on the shoeless worldwide” by including them in shipments made by other humanitarian organizations.

Nike Reuse-A-Shoe http://www.nikereuseashoe.com/

Since 1990, Nike’s reuse program takes worn out athletic shoes from any manufacturer, separates the components and turns the materials into new sports surfaces.

Okabashi Recycling Program http://www.okabashi.com/Recycle/b/2493603011

This manufacturer of flip flops and other plastic footwear welcomes returns of its used footwear, which it grinds up and uses in producing new products, in a closed-loop recycling process.

One World Running http://oneworldrunning.com/drop-off-locations/

An international program that provides running shoes to those in need in the U.S. and around the world.

Pick Up Please http://www.pickupplease.org/donate-clothing?gclid=CJat8MeK5bkCFZCd4AodkQwAfA

A service that will pick up shoes and clothes (and household goods), generating funds for programs provided by the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Recycled Runners http://www.recycledrunners.com/

This program has an online recycling and donation directory for local and international recycling programs. Fill in a city or town and find nearby drop-off sites.

Run the Planet Shoes Recycling Program http://www.runtheplanet.com/shoes/selection/recycle.asp

This online running shoe store has compiled a list of more than a dozen shoe recycling programs around the world.

Share Your Soles http://shareyoursoles.org/

This charity gives away shoes in a way that respects and honors the dignity of those who receive them. The gently used shoes are sanitized and polished before donation. Drop off locations are mostly in the Chicago area.

Shoes for the Cure http://shoesforthecure.com/

A professional recycling company specializing in recycling shoes sets up bins, reconditions the shoes for those in need or recycles the materials, and donates the proceeds to local hospitals.

Soles4Souls http://www.soles4souls.org/

This charity collects used shoes and donates them to those in need around the world, from homeless shelters in the U.S. to orphanages in Africa.

Let’s keep our shoes out of the landfill and where they belong – on people’s feet.

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