A good home spring cleaning feels awesome. You’ve purged, you’ve organized and you’ve sorted…but I’m guessing you’ve also created a big pile of stuff to get rid of! Am I right?
In this post, I’ll help you get rid of that spring cleaning pile – without sending much to the landfill!
Why Keep Stuff Out of the Landfill
I know doing a spring cleaning is no fun. It’s also no fun making extra trips to keep all the stuff in the “Get Rid Of” pile out of the landfill. I get it! You’re busy! I’m busy! We have a zillion other things to do besides drive our trash around town.
Indulge me for a minute and let me tell you a little about landfills so you get a sense for why it really matters and how important it is to keep stuff outta there after a spring cleaning.
How Landfills Work
A modern US landfill is basically a large hole in the ground lined with a layer of clay and plastic. The landfill is filled in with garbage in small sections and covered over daily with soil to minimize pests, odors and blowing garbage – yuck!
The buried, decomposing garbage creates leachate (a toxic liquid) as well as methane gas. Both are collected on a regular basis to protect the environment.
In addition, much of what ends up in a landfill represents a loss to the environment and the economy since much of it could have been recycled or reused instead.
For example, a big part of what’s in a landfill is paper that could have been recycled instead. If that paper had been recycled the resoures used to create them – trees and water – could have been conserved. The recycled paper could have been used to make more paper instead of cutting down trees to do it.
See how that all ties together? 🙂
How Long Does Stuff Last In A Landfill
The other quick “selling point” is to share a bit about how long it takes some common items to break down in a landfill. Keep in mind that landfills aren’t made to help garbage decompose. Landfills are made to store garbage which leaves little oxygen to help things break down.
Here are a few things I have in my “get rid of” pile now and how long they will take to break down in a landfill. Got any of this stuff lying around after your spring cleaning?
- Batteries – 100 years
- DVDs/CDs – 1 million years (they are plastic)
- Unwearable clothing/linens/shoes – 25 to 40 years
- Electronics – 100 to 1 million years (they contain lots of different materials)
- Plastic toys – 10 to 10,000 years
- Unusable pencils – 100 to 200 years
- Old toothbrushes – 400 years
You get my point, right? Stuff takes A LONG TIME (like forever) to break down in a landfill – so let’s keep it out of there!
Who’s with me?!
Tips for Sorting During a Spring Cleaning
Going through piles of stuff is really overwhelming for me. First I get stressed about how I’ll get through it all. Then I get stressed about whether or not I should keep something or get rid of it. Then I get stressed about how I can keep things out of the trash and what I can do with it instead.
Since I’m NOT an expert at decluttering – if you saw my house you’d agree – I’m not going to attempt to tell you how to get through a home spring cleaning.
However, I do consider myself an expert on how to keep stuff out of the landfill! We’ll get to that in a minute!
To help get you through the actual process of decluttering and sorting through those piles, closets and cabinets, I want to provide some resources for you.
Here are few to check out:
The Ridiculously Thorough Guide to Decluttering Your Home from the Budget Dumpster
– A really thorough room-by-room guide to help get rid of lots of stuff
A Slob Comes Clean
– Dana shares her “personal deslobification process” with lots of tips for decluttering
– Her mission is to “inspire women to declutter and get organized so they can live in a home that makes them happy.”
How To Get Rid of Plastic Toys from The Pistachio Project
– Brittany provides advice on what to do with unwanted toys but also strategies you can use to help kids part with them.
I hope one of the above resources does it for you! I know I need all the help I can get with a spring cleaning! :-0
Once you have your “Get Rid Of” pile it’s time to figure out how to keep it out of the landfill!
Alternatives to the Landfill
When it comes to spring cleaning I think one of the hardest parts is actually getting the stuff you don’t want, out of your house.
As a general rule, try to donate or sell as much as possible. As tempting as it is, don’t just dump stuff in the trash can!
This may mean you have to think outside the box or do a little homework. Some charitable organizations don’t accept furniture or arts & crafts supplies or pet supplies…but you can find homes for them!
Where to Sell
Craigslist is one of my favorite ways to sell items that are in good condition. I typically use Craigslist for bigger ticket items because it does require a bit of effort.
Once you’ve signed up and listed your item you’ll likely get emails and questions and spend time arranging to show the item and then negotiate the price. I have had good experiences overall and made some decent money!
Another way to make money off your “junk” is to have a yard sale at your own home or join a community yard sale. Sometimes churches or schools will host a large yard sale where you can set up your stuff for free or a small fee – and get more traffic!
Where to Donate
My first stop for getting rid of small items is my neighborhood list serv. Depending on the item I’ll list it as a “Curb Alert” and just put it out. If the item is more valuable, I’ll coordinate showing the item.
My next stop is always Freecycle. It’s a great way to get rid of random items that aren’t typically accepted by charitable organizations – or that your neighbors don’t want.
Freecycle is FREE online source for giving (and getting) stuff for free in your own local group, moderated by local volunteers. You sign up one time and can then post items you have to give away or that you are looking to get. Sign up at https://www.freecycle.org/
Other places where I’ve donated unusual items include church Sunday school programs, preschools, shelters for the homeless or animal shelters.
Where To Toss
Now onto all of those other items that aren’t donatable (probably not a word!) but that I really don’t want to just dump in the trash (aka the landfil)l. That’s all the stuff sitting in my garage – much to my husband’s dismay! :-0
(Speaking of my husband, he’s not a super green guy but he goes along with my craziness! Check out the article he wrote on my blog called “Green Wife, Green Life.” It’s pretty funny! :-))
I’d love to be able to provide you with a complete guide to what to do with ALL of your stuff but I can’t possibly know all the random stuff that’s in your “Get Rid Of” pile! And maybe I don’t want to! :-0
I decided to take a trip through my “Get Rid Of” piles to see what’s lurking and provide some guidance on how to get rid of it.
BTW, do as I say, not as I do! Let’s get that stuff OUT of your house! Say no to piles sitting around for months! 🙂
Here’s a list of items that I came across and how I plan to get rid of them!
(DOWNLOAD THE LIST HERE!)
– GreenDisk mail-in program
– TerraCycle mail-in program
– Best Buy store drop off
Rechargeable Batteries (regular batteries go in the trash :-()
– Best Buy store drop off
Plastic Gift Cards
– Earthworks mail in program
Non-Working Christmas Lights
– HolidayLEDS mail in program
– AwardsMall mail in program
– Nike Reuse a Shoe drop off program
– H&M store drop off
Flat Tennis Balls
– Rebounces mail in program
– TerraCycle mail in program
– TerraCycle mail in program; must purchase collection box which includes return shipping
I know that is sort of a random list but it’s what I found in my house!
If you have items that you aren’t sure how to keep out of the landfill let me know! I’d love to help you find a way!
Happy Spring Cleaning!
PS – I’ve copied the list above into a pdf that you can download and use while you’re spring cleaning!