The instinct when downsizing or simplifying one’s life is to gather up all unnecessary belongings, toss them into plastic bags, and throw everything in the dumpster.  While you may not regret the fast-paced system to get all the clutter out of your living space, it is important to be aware of the many options we have to deal with these items.  Whether you are environmentally-conscious or want to capitalize on sellable items, here is a list of methods we all should consider when clearing clutter from our lives.

  1.  Recycling products:  Reduse.  Reuse. Recycle.  Three words many of us chanted during our earth science classes in elementary school, perhaps still ingrained in the back of our mind when we toss scraps of paper, cans, or cardboard.  The list goes beyond consumables.  When we begin to simplify our lives, we often start by pulling out a trash bag or garbage can and designate a spot to chuck all unwanted items and bits of trash we find.  What I often forget is that many items I unceremoniously dump into the “circular file” have the potential to be recycled.  Being aware that every item you throw away still causes damage to the environment should change the way we plan our downsizing; there is bound to be a good many things we will throw out, so we must make an effort to recycle what we can.
  2. Re-purposing products:  Occasionally I discover that I am in need of some item to fill a role in organizing my belongings.  While cleaning out, I often come across something that I assumed I had no use for, only to realize that I can re-purpose it.  For example, my unused pencil bag became a container for hairbands and bobby pins.  We have many items that can be re-purposed instead of thrown away.  We live in a world of manufactured goods that are meant for one thing only: to be used.  Why not creatively re-purpose an item you might throw away into something useful?  The least we can do is to consider a function the item can do instead of throwing it out immediately.  This may come in handy for those of us who do not like waste or feel obligated to keep particular possessions.
  3. Re-selling products:  If we have exhausted our creativity to put an item to use or simply have no space to keep it, we should remember another strategy with multiple benefits: the humble garage sale.  While you may not get rid of a bunch of stuff immediately following cleaning, you will be able to sell items that are in good condition.  It may take more time to officially move items out of the house, especially if you begin cleaning in the winter months, but come garage sale season, you will benefit much more by selling items than ignoring their potential re-sale value.  Another option is to use websites like Craigslist, Amazon, eBay, and your local newspaper.  Throughout college, I used Bookbyte to sell many of my college textbooks.  This was an incredibly convenient option for me since it did not take much time and I made money on books that cost me an arm and a leg to buy for class.
  4. Donating:  If you have items that you no longer need that are in decent condition.  I find this a good options to clear out any left over items from my garage sales.  It not only gives quality items to those who need it, but helps keep me on track with moving boxes of unused stuff out of my house.  Similarly to garage sales, you give the items a chance to be used – as they should be – instead of piling up in a landfill.

Cultivating personal awareness about the impact garbage and unwanted items has on the environment is a good step to take when simplifying your life.  Take time to invest in your environment by recycling, re-purposing, re-selling, or donating your belongings.  Pass it on!

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