9 ways to declutter and save the planet
I love a burst of spring sunshine as much as anyone but it does make me uncomfortably aware of the extent to which my household standards have slumped over the winter months.
For starters there’s my windows. When did they get so filthy? What grubby-pawed gremlins are responsible for the smudges, smears and general grime that has accumulated on every pane? My lovely window cleaners arrived for their first visit of the year today and honestly, the difference they’ve made is embarrassingly huge.
How is my home stuffed with so much stuff?
As welcome as it is, the result of all that extra light pouring into the house, has a more troublesome repercussion. It makes me realise just how much stuff my home is stuffed with (turns out dark corners, and the backs of cupboards are a great place for stuff to accumulate unnoticed. Who knew).
I had a pretty monumental clear out when I downsized from our family home to the much smaller house I now live in, and promised myself then that I would keep up my less-is-more lifestyle. And whilst I’m definitely better than I was at resisting the temptation to amass stuff for the sake of it, I’m still a looooong way off mastering anything even vaguely resembling a minimalist lifestyle.
Time for another clear out
Time then, for another clear out, and another round of bag-laden trips to the local charity shops. But what about the things that they can’t take? Like my old laptop. My neglected but definitely still usable bike. And those glasses that are no longer strong enough for my increasingly myopic eyesight.
Whereas in the past I might have taken anything I couldn’t easily give to a charity shop to the local dump, I’m obviously far more aware now of the damage to the environment of our throw-away behaviour. So wanting to make sure as much of it as possible is reused/recycled/found a new home, I set about researching places I could take or give it to.
More than just a dump
One of the best is also one of the most surprising, or at least to me. The aforementioned dump. Rather than just being a place to chuck stuff into skips, my local civic amenity site has become a thriving recycling centre. They offer the chance to recycle a wide range of household items from large white goods to batteries. For example, you can donate tins of good quality unused paint for local community groups to use. And they even have an on-site shop that you can donate items to. Most dumps now have similar facilities so it’s definitely worth checking out what your local one offers.
Bikes for Africa
It was through the website for my local site that I found out that selected Sue Ryder shops are taking donations of bikes which are used to help prisoner rehabilitation (I’m assuming the prisoners do the refurbishment of the bikes rather than use them to escape on) and raise funds to provide hospice and neurological care. You can contact your local Sue Ryder shop to see if they’re part of the scheme by clicking here Or you can donate your bike to ReCycle, a charity that refurbishes bikes and sends them to rural communities in Africa where children otherwise have to walk over two hours to get to and from school each day.
Donating the small stuff
People in Africa are also the recipients of glasses donated to Vision Aid Overseas, which uses them as part of their programme to provide sustainable and affordable eye-care across the continent, and Smalls For All is a wonderful little charity that sends gently worn bras (as well as any new pants you might want to donate) to women and girls in 16 different African countries.
As for those old mobile phones gathering dust in a drawer, it’s actually surprising how many charity shops will take them. But you can also donate them direct to charities, and one that makes use of either the phone itself by refurbishing and selling it on, or recycling it in an environmentally friendly way so the parts can be used by the mobile phone industry, is Little Lives. The money raised from the donated phones is used to support disabled and disadvantaged children.
New homes for old technology
On the subject of technology, donating your old computer or laptop to charity is trickier to do, and you need to be very careful that you wipe ALL your data and information off it before you do. WeeCharity is the best organisation I found to give them to. They’re endorsed by Which? and they also take donations of printers, phones and other electrical items, which are stripped down to their component parts by specially trained volunteers who are homeless, disabled or have learning difficulties. The money they raise by selling the parts or any refurbished items, is given to charitable foundations, community groups, outreach centres, PTA groups, children’s services and families in need around the UK.
Reuse, repurpose, recycle
If you’re more - or as - interested in how to reuse, repurpose or recycle the stuff that’s clogging up the corners of your house rather than get rid of it, you need look no further than How Can I Recycle This a brilliant website packed to the gills with information and advice on how to make use of things that might otherwise go in the bin or the charity bag. The site covers over 900 items and includes 14,000 user suggestions. If you can’t find how to repurpose what you’re looking for, I’ll be mightily surprised.
There’s also an excellent site called Recycle Now which will help you find your nearest recycling centre, give you useful information on what can and can’t be recycled and how, and has lots of invaluable tips on how to be less wasteful generally.
I don’t doubt my research rummage around the web has only scratched the surface of what can be done with all the stuff I no longer want, so I’d love to know what organisations or charities you’ve found to give your unwanted goods to. Or how you’ve gone about giving your gear a new life.
Do you have any other socially and/or environmentally friendly ways of getting rid of your stuff to add to this list?
Other posts you’ll enjoy