Why I Don’t Save and Repurpose Everything

posted by Andrea | 06/6/2017
Print pageEmail page

Several years ago, back when I worked as a professional organizer, I organized for a woman who saved every single tiny scrap of everything… because there was always another use for it.

One of the times I organized for her, I spent over an hour peeling the paper off broken crayons, recycling the tiny paper scraps and sorting the crayons into plastic bags by color — all so she could donate them to a local art teacher who hadn’t even requested the crayons.

I questioned her several times throughout the process, hoping she would see how ridiculous it was for her to “waste” her money paying me to do something totally unnecessary. We could have tossed the broken crayons in 5 seconds and moved on to something much more important (her entire house eventually needed my help).

As I drove home from that appointment, I promised myself I would NEVER EVER let myself be so obsessed with saving, reusing, repurposing, or recycling that I wasted other valuable resources like time, money, and energy. 

I know Dave and I could do a better job of recycling more, wasting less, reusing more, and disposing less — but sometimes, I just have to choose space and sanity over saving the planet.

I realize this might sound somewhat egotistical and self-centered, but there is only so much time and energy I can put into recycling and reusing on a daily basis.

Honestly, every single week I am inundated with opportunities to recycle, repurpose, reuse, etc. — and that’s all fine and wonderful, except for the fact that it all requires quite a bit of extra effort on my part (and a whole lot of extra space to sort and save it all in my home!)

  • Nora’s school collects Box Tops, soup labels, and a long list of other supplies.
  • Our church, Dave’s school, and Nora’s school all ask for “paper donations” for their Paper Gator.
  • The local high school is collecting scrap metal.
  • Our neighbor’s church is collecting a specific list of used baby items.
  • Our church collected scraps of fabric for the GEMS program (but they all needed to be precut to specified sizes).
  • Our friend is requesting used egg cartons for a VBS project for her church.
  • Our other neighbor’s mother-in-law is asking for old pickle jars (which I actually do save to can my own pickles in).
  • A local organization is asking for gently used shoes and coats for their foster care ministry.
  • Most art teachers will take old men’s t-shirts for smocks and broken crayons (but prefer the papers be ripped off first).
  • A local hospital is asking for extra yarn to give to the ladies who knit newborn hats.
  • A local retirement home takes old greeting cards and fabric scraps for various craft projects.
  • My neighbor will sometimes use Nora’s too-small clothes for her daughter.
  • I have a cousin who would probably take James’ too-small clothing if I wanted to drive it out to her.
  • There’s a local organization that takes old pill bottles (I have no idea what they do with them).
  • There are places to recycle batteries, broken technology items, and certain types of hazardous waste.
  • There are organizations that make rags out of tattered clothing that’s too junky to donate.
  • Our library takes new and used books.

The list goes on and on and on — and these are just the examples I thought of in about 3 minutes.

THEN, there’s the glorious world of Pinterest where we can literally find a way to reuse, repurpose, and recycle everything… in really cute and creative ways.

It’s enough to make a person save everything all the time.

Although I’m far from a recycling goddess, I definitely DO think all of these opportunities and organizations are wonderful. I’m so glad there are people and places who are passionate enough about recycling and reusing specific materials to help save our planet and our environment.

However, I simply cannot (and will not) do all of it!

I will not drive myself crazy trying to save every scrap of fabric and yarn, every greeting card, every piece of paper that comes through my door, every box top or soup label, every battery, every egg carton, or every dried up marker and broken crayon.

I will not feel bad tossing socks with holes because (in my opinion) kids’ socks are too small to do anything useful with and Dave’s dress socks aren’t cotton so there isn’t much of a use for them either.

I will not feel guilty if I choose to drop all of our too-small clothing off at one single donation center instead of spending enormous amounts of time and energy dividing it up for various neighbors, relatives, and specific organizations that only want certain sizes or items of clothing.

I will not save piles and piles of unneeded, unused, unwanted, unloved things “just in case” there could be a cool or useful way to repurpose them in the future.

.

Again, I completely understand that not everyone shares my unenthusiastic views of recycling everything all the time — but I do think that with all things in life there has to be a “happy medium” and a whole lot of moderation.

Without moderation, our homes and our spaces can quickly and easily turn into holding grounds for all the things we worry we might need someday, all the things we could potentially reuse in the future, all the things we could technically give to so-and-so the next time we see them, and all the things some other person or organization could possibly use for something at some point. 

If we try hard enough and spend enough time and energy, I’m almost certain we could figure out a way to reuse and repurpose everything — but is that really how we want to live our lives?

Yes, saving the planet is a great goal; yes, we need to consider future generations; yes, we all need to do our parts; BUT we also need to consider how we are using our other resources as well. I honestly don’t think we’re being great stewards if we regularly waste large amounts of time, energy, space, and money in an effort to reuse, recycle, and repurpose every single thing that comes through our doors.

My “Happy Medium”

As I mentioned above, when it comes to recycling, I know Dave and I could do more — but at this point in our lives, there are lots of other ways we choose to spend our time and energy.

That said, there are several ways we repurpose, recycle, and reuse… in ways that fit our current lifestyle.

  • We bring our paper recycling away to whatever Paper Gator is the most convenient when we fill one paper bag with paper.
  • I have a small tin in the kitchen that I use to save box tops for Nora’s school. When it’s full, I put them in a baggie and send them to school with her.
  • We buy almost everything we possibly can used and secondhand.
  • We cut old t-shirts into rags.
  • We use old rags (and sometimes Dave’s old socks) to do really gross cleaning jobs and then toss them.
  • We donate any baby items we have to the baby pantry at our church (they request different things each month and if we have extras, we donate them).
  • If I come across something I know our neighbor would like for her daughter, I put it in a small bag in the laundry room and drop it off ASAP.
  • We bring old technology items to a local organization when they have their free drop off days.
  • We use cloth napkins 98% of the time.
  • We use old milk jugs to water plants and old OJ containers and toilet paper rolls for craft projects.

I’m sure there are actually a lot more things we do, but these are the ones I thought of right away.

The point is that we make SOME effort to save and repurpose items we no longer want or need — but we don’t go crazy trying to save everything or find the perfect new owner for all our castoffs.

In the years I spent working with my many in-home organizing clients, I can say (without a doubt) that physically removing the unneeded items from their homes was the hardest part of the entire process. 

The clients were excited to weed through their things with me. They were eager to purge. They were overjoyed when they realized how much more space they had. BUT, they almost always struggled to take the final step and completely remove their purged items from their home.

Often, the items sat in their basement for a bit, then moved to the garage, then to the trunk of their car… before they realized they could actually use _______, so they pulled that item back out. Then the neighbor asked to borrow _________, which was also in their trunk ready to be donated, so they gave it to their neighbor. Then they reasoned it was probably a good thing they didn’t donate their boxes yet since so many other people could potentially use their things.

So out the boxes came; often, they sat there for months and month and months. SO FRUSTRATING!

I always offered to take all the donated items away for my clients (and mail them a tax form if they wanted it) but so few people ever took me up on that offer. They had such a hard time parting with their things. It was actually kind of sad in my opinion.

My clients spent the money and did the work… but just couldn’t take the final step, and there really wasn’t anything I could do to “force” them to remove the items from their home. Once, I even offered to discount the client’s services if she let me take her boxes to the donation place, but she still wouldn’t budge!

My Plea for You!

Do you feel like your home is packed full of things you hope to sell on specific websites, give to specific people or organizations, bring to specific donation centers or recycling facilities, or just things you are saving because you might have a chance to use them again someday?

If so, I’m begging you to gather all of that stuff up, put it in the trunk of your car, and either deliver it to all those different people, places, and organizations within the next 48 hours, or simply bring everything to the nearest donation drop off center TODAY.

I know it might be difficult, but I’m almost positive you will feel an instant “lightness” about your home and life — maybe as soon as the drive home! 

There is a time and a place for saving, recycling, and repurposing — but there is also a time and a place for simply moving things out of your home as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

With the summer season nearly upon us, I hope this post is the motivation you’ve been waiting for to finally lighten up your home!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Filed under: OrganizingHomeStoragePurging

 
 

Leave a comment

28 comments

  1. Erika

    06/07/2017

    This post could not have come at a better time for me! We’re pretty hard on clothing in our house, my husband and I each have a daily “uniform” and so purchase the same article of clothing in several colours a few times a year, and wear it until it until it becomes too decrepit to leave the house in – small holes, ripped seams, etc. Some of the clothes would be cut up into rags, as you suggested. Most of it ended up in our “camping clothes” box. Each year we go camping for a week, and instead of taking our “nice” clothes into the woods, we pull from this camping clothes box.
    Well. I pulled out the box the other night. And was totally overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in there. All year, instead of throwing out or donating clothing, I’d throw it into the camping bin. Periodically the stack of clothes would fall over in the closet (it very quickly exceeded the top of the box). I’d get frustrated trying to shove everything back in. Instead of making the quick decision to simply dispose of some of the clothing, I put it in the box, because I couldn’t take the final step of truly letting something go. I kept telling myself “but I can use this!”.
    After reading your post, I ruthlessly went through that camping bin. I ended up with a big bag to donate – the clothes were in fine repair, just no longer our style or fit (but could have been worn under a sweater, for example), and an even bigger bag of clothes to simply throw away. Jeans with massive holes. Tee-shirts covered in bleach stains. I kept back a few things to replenish our rag supply, but the majority of that box got emptied. And we still have lots of “camping clothes” for our upcoming trip!
    It can be so difficult to take that final step of letting something go for good. But it’s just not worth the mental and physical effort of keeping it, recycling it, donating it, whatever. As you said, sometimes my own sanity has to win!
    Thank you for this post, and for your wonderful blog!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh good — I’m so happy for you! Way to purge!!

    [Reply]

  2. Marsha

    06/07/2017

    Your my favorite blogger. I don’t read a lot of blogs, over the years I’ve tried a lot. But I’ve always kept reading your info. I love your practical point of view. I always agree with the way you do things. I’m just like you. Thanks for the encouragement and advise you put out to us. I’m praying for your family. Such common sense!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Marsha 🙂

    [Reply]

  3. Janet

    06/06/2017

    I totally agree with you Andrea! The only thing I do insist ain’t doing and try to get others to do is to dispose of hazardous waste properly. Don’t through your batteries, paint, solvents, ink cartridges into general waste. Most municipalities have an open drop off centre or door pick up service available that isn’t too much trouble and is a lot safer for city workers and better for the environment too!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    good for you Janet! I think it’s great that you are very passionate about recycling those items (and I know many others who feel the same as you!).
    We’re all doing our little part to help save the planet 🙂

    [Reply]

  4. Erin

    06/06/2017

    Thank you so much for this article. I try to recycle a lot of things but get so sick of it at times. I just gave away 4 garbage bags of clothes that are too big for me now. I was going to sell them but realized that I probably would never get around to doing it. What a relief. I have also given doonas and covers to the place where I work as we have clients who stay overnight and the are always handy. I have had to wash them a few times because I didn’t get around to taking them in. What a waste of time and water.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay for losing weight, and double yay for purging those clothes. Someone, somewhere will get good use out of them and enjoy the bargain price! Meanwhile, you can enjoy the extra space in your home!

    [Reply]

  5. Janet

    06/06/2017

    I was told by a missionary pill bottle (meds.containers) are extremely difficulty to come by in many third world countries, even if you have the money they were simply not available. It was one of the items he collected as the medical center he was involved with most often had to give patients medication to take home wrapped in bits of paper. We have so much and take so much for granted.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes! But as I mentioned in the post, I’m sure there is probably some use somewhere for almost every single thing WE take for granted in our very blessed, very abundant lifestyles. I guess the point I was trying to make is that we can’t always save every single thing and donate or reuse it.

    It’s great that you (and many others) save pill bottles, but there might be things that I save (like box tops for Nora’s school) that you wouldn’t even give a second thought to. We’re all doing our little part to help — but we don’t all have to do everything!

    [Reply]

    JoDi Reply:

    I think she was just explaining why they’re probably collecting the pill bottles since you mentioned that you had no idea what they’d use them for in your post.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    ah yes — you’re probably right! 🙂

    [Reply]

  6. Debbie

    06/06/2017

    Oh my goodness! My mom modeled saving/keeping items to use later for a different purpose. Part of me still has that, but part of me also can’t stand piles and piles of “junk” in our home. I continue to go through our things to donate items on a regular basis. I’m also for saving the planet but other than putting cans, boxes, bottles in our recycling bin I don’t think I can do anything more than that. I suppose I can buy products that are suppose to be better for our environment too but I also assess if the price is something I’d be willing to pay. Thanks for this post! Great points you made!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I definitely think previous generations are much more conscious about saving everything (my grandma probably had 50 cool whip and 50+ sour cream containers in her apartment when she passed away!)

    Also, good for you for at least doing something. If you try to do too much recycling and burn out, you’ll stop all together — which would probably be worse in my opinion!

    [Reply]

  7. Pamela

    06/06/2017

    Yes, yes, yes.

    We’re (hopefully) not done having babies so I do keep baby/kid stuff for now but I also don’t hesitate to throw stuff away if it’s ruined (like second hand leggings that ripped).

    If something is truly ruined, or if I just feel like it’s gross (like holey old underwear!) it gets thrown away.

    If it’s something that can be re-sold, it goes in a goodwill pile and we donate stuff relatively regularly.

    Other than that, I typically don’t save anything. I am working on bringing my husband around to this way of thinking too…it’s a slow process but at least most of his “possibly useful’ stuff is in the garage!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    You know what — I honestly get rid of a lot of baby things even between babies! It’s all things I get for a few bucks at thrift stores or garage sales and I figure I can purchase it again IF I decide I ever want or need it again in the future.

    I know that probably sounds totally crazy to many people (and I do hold onto bigger ticket items) but for the most part, we store very few baby items that we are not currently using — and I’ve never once regretted donating or purging something before we were “done” having kids.

    Also, the holey underwear comment made me laugh and think of a church garage sale I was at about a month ago — they were literally selling a significant amount of used men’s underwear. I did not inspect it for holes, but it was definitley very clear that the underwear was USED and I found that so disturbingly gross for a church garage sale!

    [Reply]

  8. Maryin Maryland

    06/06/2017

    I have about fifteen objects that others have listed on eBay or Etsy for $20-60.I have pictures of them. It would be so much easier to donate them to the church’s (any church”s) silent auction. I should stop looking at websites where people crow about having turned their junk into money.

    One big triumph…When I moved in with my husband his clothes filled 5 ft of his 6 ft closet, but I had only seen him wear about eight items in the previous four years. One Saturday we had invited folks to dinner and planned on vacuuming before they came. I looked at my watch and said that if we sped through his closet and picked out anything he hadn’t worn since he met me, we would have time for a brief romantic interlude and still get the vacuuming done before the company arrived. We boxed 3/4 of his clothes and jumped into bed. When we got up he said, “If you’d do the vacuuming, I could take these boxes to the men’s shelter before the company gets here.” Yes, yes, yes…

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is hilarious! Such a great story — thanks for sharing 🙂

    [Reply]

  9. Stel

    06/06/2017

    Those little crayons…along with any takeaway cartons etc that cannot go in recycling, candle wax pools…I chuck in my “fire starter” crate. When we pack firewood, those go in as firestarters so I don’t have to use chemicals.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    good to know 🙂 We never start fires so we have no need for this right now — but I’ll keep it tucked away in the section of my brain for all those random facts!!

    [Reply]

  10. Organize 365

    06/06/2017

    Amen.

    [Reply]

  11. Veneta

    06/06/2017

    Thank you, Andrea! I really needed to hear that. I’m one of those people and, as we speak, I have a trunk full of baby clothes I was planning on donating to a specific organization but haven’t made it there yet. I’ll go drop them off today.

    I also have several other piles at home that need to go but I’m saving them for various projects/organizations. Why is it that kids clothes and toys in particular just take over all available space?

    I appreciate the inspiration.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hope you made it to the drop off location today!!

    [Reply]

  12. Iliana

    06/06/2017

    Thanks Andrea for another great post!! It gives me the motivation I need to continue the process of decluttering my home. It is not easy to get rid of things, but your reasons are very valid.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, it’s always a continuing “work in progress” isn’t it!!

    [Reply]

  13. Roxanne

    06/06/2017

    I think you’re already doing a great job of reusing and recycling by buying secondhand items as often as you do- it’s even more “environmentally friendly” than it is to buy new items (even if they’re recyclable/biodegradable) because the secondhand items don’t use more raw materials and energy to create them. Kind of a big-picture way of looking at it, but as my father-in-law once said, the most energy-efficient house is the one that’s already built 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks — that’s what I tell myself too 🙂
    I honestly do think buying secondhand and used items is one of the better ways to cut down on waste and excess packaging.

    [Reply]

    JoDi Reply:

    I came to post a similar comment so I’ll just second this one! By buying secondhand, you’re already repurposing/reusing someone else’s stuff so you’re way ahead of the game. We recycle a lot because our county has such a great curbside recycling program, and I donate a lot of our old clothes and household items, but dividing things up to give to various groups is something I just don’t have time for. It all goes to Goodwill!

    [Reply]