Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cutting clutter the green way

Clutter can really cloud a persons mind after a while. If I walk into my house and there is clutter and junk everywhere, I simply cannot even think straight. Then I start to look around and notice all the things I asked my children to pick up but they didn't. I walk through my house and start to notice everything from finger prints on walls, toothpaste spit in the sink, dirty clothes on the floor, and so on. I literally scream in my head "Ahhhhh!". Breath.. just breath! 
Most of the clutter is easily avoidable. Its usually things that I want to fix, donate, or are awaiting a final place in my home. I have a problem with putting things by my front door thinking that this will help me remember to take care of them. Not so much. I really do have the worst memory and my poor husband gets so bent out of shape about it. Sorry honey!  By thinking about things and avoiding things, you can get a hold on your clutter problem. If your not using it and your not enjoying it, get rid of its the most ecological way possible.  So this means you need to sell it, give it to friends or family, or repair it. Don't forget about recycling it so the  raw materials can be used again. The worst thing you can do is throw it away. 


*Avoid processed food or individual serving size packaging. Its always more expensive and it creates more waste than a single larger package.  Things like processed food, medications are now individual doses for traveling, to go food, etc. Just avoid it all together.

*Buy products that are in recyclable packaging or even better is to buy stuff in no packaging.  

*Buy in bulk whenever possible. Everything from food to shampoo or conditioner can be bought in bulk. Reuse your container when you go to buy more. Some stores have policies so you might want to call the store ahead of time. Places like Whole Foods, New Seasons or any all natural store usually want you to bring your own. Just make sure to wash the container out really well.

*Just because you buy a big box of something doesn't mean its less packaging. Read the label really closely and make sure it truly is a larger amount. Some crackers or snack foods are in single serving sizes in really large box's. 

* Want to recycle hazardous or poisonous materials? Keep all contents into the original containers and never remove labels. Workers at the recycling center use this information to put each item in its place. While were on the subject never ever put toxic anything into different containers like soda pop bottles etc. Many children die each year because they thought they were drinking or eating something when really it was toxic stuff their family members put in it. 

*Buy only as much as you can use in a reasonable amount of time. Lets say you need cement powder. You see a killer deal on it and want to buy a ton of it. Think about it before you buy. If you do not use it up quickly or store it smart, it will turn hard from moisture in the air. How about instead of storing it, let your friends/family use up the rest. Better of getting used then having to throw it away later. Same goes for food. Buy what you need. If its not able to be frozen or dried then give it away.

*Buy high quality durable goods. Buying a expensive tool once may be less expensive than buying a cheaply made cheaper one and having to replace it several times. You will be also buying fewer items in return making your home less cluttered. Also look for items that can be repaired. Most items now days are meant to be used and when broken you have to discard them. Buy something with good quality and can be fixed. 

*Owning more than you can take care of it also a way to be too cluttered. For example clothing. I get so much free clothing from friends and family that it would take over. Finally I realized I cannot store THAT MUCH clothing and had to purge. Now I keep what I want and give the rest away to friends or family. Problem solved!  The same idea can be used in other ways. Garage items like lumber, paints, etc. Things can deteriorate after time and really should be used sooner than later. Wood warps and things like putty dry out. These things would be not usable and would need to be thrown out. If you only bought what you needed, you will be saving yourself money. Its better than throwing your money away.

*Take care of your possessions. Clean them, fix them and store them correctly. Its always a good rule to do this to anything before you put it away. Next time you go to use that item your going to have to take extra time to fix or clean it. Just do it at that time and save yourself time later.


*Do your editing or doodling on the computer not on paper. Your wasting paper.

*Make double sided copies. Use up each side and you will be using less paper. Then you will have less clutter later.

*Use blank side of paper that comes into your home for drafts or note paper. I use my blank side papers to print up color pages for my kids. We reuse any paper with a blank side and then we recycle it when done. 

*Store reams of paper up off the ground in a dry spot. Once paper gets wet it will mildew and you cannot use it. This means it needs to be recycled and it waste your money. Also properly stored paper is less likely to jam your printer.


Living sustainable required more than simple loading empty containers into a recycling bin and waiting for some company to take them away. Processing raw materials into reusable form requires a ton of energy;reusing materials conserves all the original processing energy.  Before the Industrial Revolution, people were painfully aware of how much effort went into the objects that made up their material world.  Back then most of the work was done by hand and people tried to reuse everything they could. When your shirt was unrepairable it was used for fabric to make quilts or made into rug's.  Sweaters and coats with holy arms were turned into vest.  Pants were turned into shorts or skirts. All lumber, bricks and building stones were reused for future projects.  Many even turned their collecting of these things into a living. Now days everything is so cheaply made that nothing is worth anything and usually gets discarded. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." A famous quote our foremother's used to say. Now more than ever this quote means so much.


Now days everything is disposable and it really makes me sick. You can easily avoid having clutter is you avoid certain things.  And these few changes can make a HUGE difference in our solid waste.

*STOP buying paper towels and use cloth napkins. Just wash them with your normal wash after each use. 

*Stop buying plastic wrap and aluminum foil.  Instead use unbleached wax paper because it can be composted.  

*Pack lunches in sturdy, reusable and insulated lunch bags rather than paper bags. You can buy reusable fabric bags instead of the zip lock style ones. Just wash them once a week.  

*Instead of buying individual size portions of food, pack your own in reusable containers. 

Party Waste Reduction

This was a hard thing for me to do but i'm now 100% free of party waste. Yippee!  I no longer have to worry about buying paper plates or plastic utensils and feel guilty about it.

*Use your own plates, cups and utensils. Just wash them when your done. I have 2 sets of dishes.  One set for everyday use and the other I only pull out when we have company. Again you can use your fabric napkins we talked about a minute ago. 

*Reuse posters to make party signs. You can make a Happy Birthday sign and reuse it many times.

*If you really do not want to go through the hassle of washing all these items, there are many products out there that are eco friendly. You can now find preserved plastic cutlery (recycled plastic turned into new items) and compostable cutlery that is environmentally friendly and a great alternative.  Nat0Ur, Inc is a company where you can find many great eco friendly products. They sell everything from potato based biodegradable compost bags, leaf and yard bags, cups, bowls, plates, drinking straws, cup lids, boxes, food containers, and cutlery.


*Stop buying wrapping paper.  It is the worst when it comes to gift waste. Its bought and used once before it's thrown away. 

*Use homemade fabric bags made from fabric scraps. It can be used so many times before it falls apart. 

*Use new pillowcases in a pretty pattern.  

*A new silk scarf can be used as gift wrapping.

*Canvas tote bag, a colander, garden basket, or a fancy potting plant can be used for putting a gift in.  


*Most plastic can be recycled but recyclers will not pick them up at your curb. Call your local recycling program and ask which plastic's they take. All plastic in my home is saved and taken in. Everything from bread plastic bags, plastic ties off the bread bags, plastic strip you take off frozen juice containers, and even plastic you find in a envelope. It all can be reused.

*Glass is the first thing people think of that can be easily recycled. If you do not take off lids or caps, they will not take them.  Only clean and unbroken glass will be recycled. So be careful when you store these items. Our recycle program only takes glass that the opening is smaller than the rest of the glass container. Might call to make sure.

*Making aluminum cans from old cans uses 95% less energy than making new ones from raw bauxite ore. This is why aluminum cans are a valuable commodity. So recycle those cans!

*All aluminum should be clean and free of food residues before its recycled. They will not take it if its not clean. Everything from yogurt tops, aluminum wrapper from chocolate bars, to aluminum you use in the kitchen. It's all recyclable.

*Any type of paper can be recycled as long as its not coated with any wax. Cereal boxes, wrapping paper, and even egg cartons. Throw it all in.

*Plastics can be a tricky one. Call your local recycling program to ask which #'s of plastic they take.  Remember that if they do not take it at the curb, it doesn't mean they do not accept them. They might want these taken in separately so they can be recycled easier. Some machines that separate items may not be able to recognize all plastics. 

*Plastic grocery bags can be avoided by bringing in your own reusable fabric bags. Most stores now have a recycling program for their plastic bags. Look for large bins in the front of the stores. I avoid them all together. If I do not have a bag, I carry all items in my hand or put them back in my cart and load them in my car. When I get home my kids like to help me bring things in the house. This way even my small 5 yr olds can help!

*Foam packaging peanuts can be avoided really easy. Do not buy unless its local. This way you can ask not to be packaged. If you do not bring them into your home, you will not need to store them or figure out what to do with them. Now days you can find eco friendly corn based packaging peanuts that can be put into your compost. . Ask for this alternative if your needing to package and ship anything. Also ask for paper tape to tape the package shut. 

*Computers, phones, and other electronics can be taken care of a few ways. If it's working donate it. If its broken, take it apart and recycle it.  

*Old carpet can be recycled. If you cannot recycle it at your local recycle program, try calling local carpet shops. Ask if they participate in a carpet recycling program.  

*Appliances that no longer work or are fixable also can be easily removed from your home. One good way is to look in your local paper in the want ad's. 99% of the time you will find a want ad for unwanted appliances. They will even come for free and haul it away. They will take it, break it down and recycle it completely. We had a neighbor who did this. He would drive around the city and pick up appliances people would leave on their yard or driveway hoping someone would take it. Just throw a "FREE" sign on it and guarantee it will be gone.

To find more ways to green up your home, check out this great book. Green Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck. This is my new favorite author and i'm already on her 2nd book. Find it at your local bookstore but if you cannot find it, its available at Amazon.


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