Archive | May 2014

Conscious Spring Cleaning (and Conscious Consuming)


Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. —William Morris

With Spring here, it is yard sale season in the Eastern US. Yard sale season always gives me the opportunity to clear out the things we no longer need and pick up the things that we do at rock bottom prices. One of the things I appreciate about living here is the myriad of opportunities we have to recycle and reuse items that we, or others, no longer want or need. In a culture with so much desire for, and access to, stuff, there is a lot of opportunity for waste. So when I have a chance to sell or donate something or to buy it used, I always choose those options over buying things new or throwing things away.

This year’s clearing out has a new dimension, in that my family and I are moving abroad for the forseeable future and are working to pare down our “stuff” to a few suitcases and a few boxes to be stored in a friendly garage. As I went through each closet and cabinet, I tried to be as unsentimental and practical as possible. Winter clothes – Donate. Big toys – Donate. Wine glasses – Donate. But when I got to my children’s books or their “Big Bear,” a big stuffed bear in their room, the memories attached to these items gave me pause and made me realize how easily “things” can become infused with memories and how downsizing “stuff” can also mean downsizing cherished memories. But on the other hand, six years ago, when I packed up for another move abroad, I packed things in boxes, put them in storage and haven’t looked at them since. So the practically of removing sentiment from the process is reinforced by the knowledge that most of what we don’t encounter on a regular basis can become relegated to the attic of our minds and easily forgotten. And of course, we can always take pictures to keep the memories alive.

The benefits of decluttering, conscious consumerism and conscious recycling (whether giving away, selling or recycling in the most common definition) are numerous. For many people, clearing clutter not only opens space in their homes and offices, but can also create space in their minds and their days (with less time devoting to cleaning, organizing and finding “stuff”). Buying or finding used items and selling, donating or recycling old items keeps them out of our landfills and benefits our environment (and often, your bank account).

There are many posts on the process and benefits of simplifying the “stuff” in your life. Zen Habits – as you now know as my go-to blog for advice on life – has posts specifically on Decluttering and another on more broadly Simplifying Your Life. For the more sentimental among us, Barrie Davenport of Live Bold and Bloom has a post on How to Simplify When You Really Love Your Stuff.

The following links are opportunities for recycling, donating or buying used in your communities:

Freecycle is an online forum for users to ask for or donate wanted items in their local communities. It started in the US, but has expanded across the world. Check the link to see if there is a group in your community.

Craigslist is a free online classifieds site which provides opportunities to post wanted items or donate or sell unwanted items. Craigslist also has a section for posting yard / garage / boot sales. Also started in the US, this service has expanded worldwide. Check the link to see if there is a group in your community. When using either of these sites, please take necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family, such as meeting in public areas and taking a friend along.

Miss Minimalist provides an extensive list of donation sites for specific goods for readers in the US. Other sites are listed on a post on Apartment Therapy.

Happy Spring Cleaning and Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do you have any great go-to sites for free-cycling, donating or buying used?

(Photo Credit