Reduce, reuse, and recycle has been a mantra of the environmental movement for many years. It’s also really good advice for anyone serious about uncluttering.
You don’t need to remove clutter if you don’t let it enter your home or office in the first place. The following are some ways “reduce” might apply to your space:
- Get off mailing lists. Registering with the DMAchoice mail preference service will help eliminate junk mail, while registering your opt-out preferences with OptOutPreScreen.com will help eliminate credit card offers. To get rid of mail from organizations I’ve done business with in the past, I call the catalog companies and charities that send me solicitations, but you could also use a service such as 41pounds.org or Catalog Choice.
- Consider borrowing or renting things you use only rarely or need for just a short time. For example, my neighbor and I share the use of my high-quality hole punch. Neither of us needs this very often, so it would be silly for us both to own one. I also see requests to borrow things on my freecycle group, and that often works out. (Nextdoor or Facebook groups might also help with this.) Another example: Your library can provide an alternative to buying books, and you can still buy any that you really want to own after reading the library copy.
- Consider whether your current magazine subscriptions still make sense.
- When you’re shopping, be a careful purchaser and minimize the number of purchases you later come to regret.
- Don’t take every free item that you’re offered.
When you no longer need or want an item, you can often find it a good new home with someone who does need or want it. You might:
- Sell it using a local or online consignment store, eBay, Craigslist, a garage sale, etc.
- Donate it to a charity, which may give you a tax deduction. That charity might be a large organization like Goodwill, a local charity-run thrift store, a pet rescue/adoption agency that can use old towels, a church that gives things away to the needy, etc. Some organizations will pick things up, which is handy when you have big, bulky items. You can also ship off certain donations for free using Give Back Box. You might want to create a list of local donation sites, noting what types of things they accept, so it’s easy to do the donating when the time comes.
- Give it away to a friend or family member (if you’re sure the person wants it) or pass it along using freecycle, Nextdoor, a Facebook group, etc.
If things can’t reasonably be reused, perhaps they can be recycled. Each locale handles recycling differently, so you’ll want to ensure you know how recycling works where you live. My city has curbside recycling, but there are also less convenient organizations that take things my local garbage company does not. When I had a friend getting rid of hundreds of home-recorded VCR tapes, I drove my very full car to a recycling center that takes them.
You’ll also want to know how your locale handles electronic and toxic waste, prescription medications, and medical sharps. These often require special disposal methods.
When the three r’s don’t work
Sometimes things really do need to just go in the trash. If you’ve carefully considered your options and can’t find another reasonable way to discard something, you don’t need to feel bad about just tossing it. And sometimes, even if there are other options, you may be under time pressure or have other constraints that mean you need to be less conscientious about how things get discarded. That’s okay. The three r’s are an ideal, not something that must be followed under every circumstance.