Living green also means living simply. Do we really need all this stuff?? Americans (like me), love their stuff. But more stuff leads to more consumption, which leads to… well, I don’t have to tell you. If we all just started pairing down just a little bit. Getting back to the essentials of what we need to keep happy and healthy on a daily basis, and resist the urge to consume, we could end up with lower credit card bills and reduce our cumulative impact on the environment through reduced demand for consumer goods. Of course, the Bush Administration would like us to spend that tax relief check when we get it. That’s you’re call.
Where to begin? We can start by going through what we already have. Make sure to maximize your recycling and reuse opportunities, and minimize the amount of trash. There are many, many resources out there that will take your donations, accept your electronic goods, and safely dispose of any hazardous waste. Habitat for Humanity will even take paint! With a few tips, you can ensure a successful transition to simpler living.
- Spread Out the Work. Sorting through the contents of an entire home can prove overwhelming for even the most energetic person. It took you many years to gather all of your belongings, so you can’t expect to get through everything in one session. Plan for several 2-5 hour sessions over the course of days or weeks to sort through one room at a time.
- Be Prepared. Downsizing is hard work. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty. And have the tools you’ll need on-hand, including: leaf bags (for donations), boxes, trash bags, permanent markers, labels for sorting, scissors, tape, post its, Ziploc bags, archival quality storage containers for photos and other sensitive keepsakes, and rubber bands.
- Go Room-by-Room. Work in one room at a time. Resist the urge to move things from one to another and then starting work in the second room. Finish one room, move on to the next. You can create piles of items that need to be moved to their “homes” and take them with you when you leave that room. If two or more people are working together, you can each work in separate rooms.
- Divide and Conquer. If any single room is too overwhelming, such as the basement or attic, break it into smaller tasks. Do one section of the room one day and move to the next section the next day. If you allow yourself to become overwhelmed, you may not be able to keep going.
- Stay Organized. Designate one relatively open room to serve as the staging area for those items that you are not keeping. Label and create piles of items that you plan to give to family, donate to charity, or sell at consignment, yard sales, or auction (for more valuable items).
- Identify Your Resources. If you’ve done your job right, you’ll likely have a lot of items that need a new home – one that is not yours! So in advance of starting work, identify charities that you like that also provide pick-up service. You’ll also need haulers that will take away trash, and outlets for recycling or safe disposal of electronic and other hazardous household waste. Local consignments shops and auction houses may also be interested in some of your more valuable items.
- Get Help. If it’s all too much for you to handle on your own, ask for help. You can reach out to family, friends, or neighbors. If they can’t help you, they may be able to recommend professionals who specialize in helping people downsize and organize their homes.
Consultant and writer on sustainability and the environment
Helping you leave a green footprint on the world…