This blog was written by OES intern Margette Bourne. Thanks!
Is your home overflowing with overwhelming amounts of random knickknacks, clutter and unused possessions that you have accumulated over the years? For many homeowners across America, this is a reality. No, I’m not about to suggest that you apply for some sort of reality TV show where professional organizers help you redecorate your home and clear out your clutter. Rather, if you feel this clutter is overpowering and exhausting, and you can find the time to sort through some of it, there is a way to do so, while maintaining a sense of helping others and the Earth.
Over the past year, I have taken it upon myself to motivate my family in clearing out our cluttered home. Every home has its clutter, but we had accumulated a lot. Between my dad’s home improvement materials, my mom’s collection of random home décor accents, sentimental items and trinkets, and my sister’s and my outgrown clothes and childhood toys, every room and drawer was brimming with excess possessions. We were able to hide a lot of the clutter; we could stash it away in closets or the basement and try to ignore it, but we all agreed we would be better off without it.
After months of work, we whittled away little by little at the clutter, and now have an essentially junk-free house. It was not easy sorting through everything, nor was it simple to find a new home for everything we decided to get rid of. We knew we wanted our old stuff to be put to good use by people who needed it, and we wanted to ensure certain materials that could not be donated were disposed of properly.
So to start, all our old clothes, toys, furniture, antiques, dishware, DVDs, CDs, and similar items were donated to a thrift store that gives its profits to benefit a local hospital. By donating these items, we are able to ensure their reuse and ensure they were diverted from landfills. Starting this summer, the Howard County landfill has a Goodwill trailer for collecting reusable household items the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month.
The difficulty, however, came when dealing with damaged items, old chemicals, and construction materials. My dad had an arsenal of half-used buckets of paints, pesticides, and cleaning chemicals. He recognized that he really did not need all these items, but we knew we could not simply put them in a dumpster and definitely not down a drain. Doing so would release these nasty chemicals into the environment. Instead, we went to the Alpha Ridge landfill in Marriottsville and brought all our Household Hazardous Waste chemicals for proper disposal. This service is available Saturdays April through November. Additionally, we brought all our old and broken computers, monitors, keyboards, and radios, along with an assortment of unneeded wires and cables, and deposited them in the electronic recycling container.
Old papers (important ones shredded first), magazines, and cardboard found a place in the recycling bin. Currently, we now are making the switch to greener cleaning products. There are many chemicals on the market advertised as “green”, but many still contain chemicals that are better avoided. Once you use up your traditional household cleaners, which may be brimming with polluting chemicals, buy organic cleaners, or even better, make your own using nontoxic ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda. There are a great variety of websites online that give you the recipes to make some of these. (Try http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm)
Our clean new home has granted our family some serenity in our hectic lives. We found great benefits in our home clean out, and we know that we benefitted others and the Earth through the precautions we took through the process. Reuse of materials and goods is a key piece of environmental sustainability.
To find out what items are accepted for proper disposal and recycling of HHW and electronics in Howard County visit, www.howardcountymd.gov/HHW.htm . To see what can be recycled in Howard County, check www.howardcountymd.gov/recyclingcollectiondetails.htm . It explains what can be recycled curbside, at the landfill, and offers other resources for things like light bulbs and batteries.
Also, there are a variety of opportunities to benefit your community through donation of your old items. Some that I have found helpful include:
–Donating books to organizations that support global literacy such as Better World Books
–Donating old DVDs and CDs to soldiers overseas through AMVETS
–Donating used bikes and bike parts to Bikes for the WorldMargette Bourne Office of Environmental Sustainability Intern July 2011