Decluttering – zero waste style

Filed in Blog by on September 17, 2008 23 Comments
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time to declutter with zero waste in mind
Way back before I set up the pledge and win zero waste challenge week I though I’d take on an additional pledge of my own.

As well as 4 or so updates on the blog each day I thought I’d be decluttering the house.

Ah, the power of hindsight……….

Needless to say, decluttering went on the back burner, along with housework, sorting my mail, brushing my hair, making the bed and everything else pertaining to ‘normal life’.

Anyway, I’m pleased to announce I have now had a couple of days very successful decluttering and what a lift it gives you! Trouble is, it takes a bit longer now that we are a zero waste family. I admit in the past to going through cupboards and rooms with burgeoning black bags in hand.

I’d tie them up, grunt my way downstairs with them, throw them in the back of the car. A trip to the rubbish tip later and all my accumulated junk was out of sight, out of mind. Buried in the earth forever.

Now I have awakened from my thirty-something years slumber and realised the potential of my actions on the environment. It means decluttering takes a little longer, as all new habits do, but it means a more thorough and conscience-clear job is done.

Imagine my delight when I found out that our local Nursing home is holding their annual fete this weekend! I have a special link with this particular establishment, so taking them things to sell was of great benefit to both of us.

They are now the proud owners of 20 pictures, 2 boxes of books and 2 bags of clothes.

During zero waste week, as you might remember, I listed some books on Amazon. Some of them sold straight away, which left me with a plastic sellotape inner to creatively dispatch. Luckily, as you might remember, Mrs A came to my rescue and had it from me to made into a work of art by her friend, Fran.

I find the beginning of decluttering easy; it’s the continuing that I find more challenging. I begin like a Sergeant major; assertive, sure of myself and not giving into sentiment or taking No for an answer.

Then I start to get a bit softer and more emotional as I start weeding through things. Fond memories come back and they threaten to keep me the Queen of clutter as they tug at my heart strings.

But true to the question that I find helpful ‘Does this represent me now, or who I was?’ I will keep  this at the forefront of my mind and see how things turn out.

Now I’m deciding how long to leave items listed on Amazon before I find them a new home. I’ve run into this one before. I have found things that have been listed for up to a year, which kind of defeats the decluttering idea!

This is where I need to be more ruthless. Perhaps I’ll give things to the end of January. That allows people to buy my items as Christmas presents or for those who like to buy in the January sales ready for next year.

Then my old faithful friends will have to go to Freecycle or the charity shop. Perhaps this can be the second part of my pledge for when our council do their zero waste week. That’s taking place the last week of January, so would tie in well.

I  have to say, I feel great! There is nothing so energising as a good clear out of cupboards and shelves. It’s exhausting, but so rewarding.

Oh, I’ve just listed an old office chair on Freecycle too and that’s being collected tonight. Another hurrah for good old Freecycle – where would we be without it?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (23)

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  1. Oh Mrs G – congratulation on the successful declutter. Now would you please come to my house and do the same. I’ve been promising I would do it for so long but short of tackling one box a week ago, nothing’s budged. At the moment the place is looking like it’s not just been burgled but the burglars actually dumped their own stuff. At least the photo you selected has made me feel better and you’re right about it making you feel better. I remember a book I bought once about decluttering and I did a bit and felt energised just like you said. Problem is, I can’t find it again because ironically it’s lost somewhere in all the clutter. (sigh) 😀

  2. Hi Mrs Green,

    The clutter I have is mostly old family stuff. A certain amount can be recycled. Maybe January is a good time to do it.

    As Zero Waste progresses, there are sure to be further home, and other, issues emerging. If you look at the range of topics covered already it will only get bigger and more influential.

  3. maisie clark says:

    This is also one of the next things on my “to do” list.

    After I have done all the pickling, jam, chutney and minemeat making.

  4. Shymom says:

    I started on a massive de-cluttering when I was off work for the summer. I did manage to get a lot out of the house before life crept in and wrecked my plans.

    My goal was to get rid of 10% of what we owned. So what I would do is count the books on a shelf. If I had 30 then I would HAVE to get rid of 3. Usually I managed to cull a whole lot more.

    My shoe situation was sad. I counted out 34 PAIRS of shoes. Who needs that many shoes? I was able to donate 6 pair of those.

    I kept going like this and took bags and bags to the thrift store. The sad thing is I feel like I hardly made a dent.

  5. Kris says:

    I’ve done quite a bit of declutter preparation in the last few weeks – the bit where you sort through with a clear eye and admit you could let it go.

    I’m not so good at the next bit – in which it leaves my house. So eventually I’ll have to sort through it again to make sure it’s really earmarked to leave.

    As Mrs G says – I too used to get things moving by producing a black bag and making myself just get it out the house. But it always made me unhappy so mostly things don’t leave!

    If we’re all still procrastinating in January perhaps we could have a ‘responsible disposal declutter’ event 🙂

  6. Mrs Green says:

    Hey mrs G. I reckon I would be excellent at decluttering other people’s stuff! I can be ruthless when my emotions aren’t in the way. I know what you mean about the look. I am now the proud owner of a tidy daughter’s bedroom and office. The study is reasonable. Thing is now the downstairs has been neglected 😀 Hope you find your book; which one was it?

    Maisie – I have this to do as well. I got everything together for a grand chutney making session and I’ve even bought milk for some yogurt making (don’t hold your breath). Tonight I made chicken curry and casserole, so that should free up some time for tomorrow and as long as the sun doesn’t come out and threaten to whisk me somewhere lovely for the day for some autumn viewings, I hope to be industrious in the kitchen myself.

    John, you are right about zero waste falling into other areas of life. We’ve had a couple of classics this week, which you will no doubt hear about soon. And as Mr G said last week about his garage, there is a major job that needs doing in there. A year ago I would have hired a skip, but what is a zero waster to do?!

    Hey shymom – 36 pairs of shoes LOL! that is so funny. I think I have 5 which I’m happy about. I know what you mean though. The reality is I have got rid of stacks of stuff over the past week or so, but there is still things falling out of cupboards. Clutter is weird stuff.

    Kris, you sound like a classic procrastinator. I can relate. I really admire these people who chuck stuff in a box and never look at it again. Flylady recommends you sort things and carry it out there and then into the car ready for the charity shop / recycling. I think this is a good idea. It’s no good having it hanging around because then the desire is to have a last peek through, and, if you’re anything like me, you take things back out again.
    Just in case seems to be my mantra LOL!

    I like the sound of your event idea – a ‘responsible disposal declutter’ has a certain ring to it that I like very much. Watch this space eh?!

  7. maisie clark says:

    Well I made Mango Chutney today and have the second lot of mincemeat brewing ready for Christmas.I’ll hopefully be making Red Pepper relish tomorrow if time allows.

    Re the yogurt Tesco have the big pots of Yeo Valley on special at £1 a pot on http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk if thats any help

  8. Hi Mrs Green,

    Zero Waste is admirable but some situations, one-offs, fall outside, especially long standing matters. There must be some useful stuff but other material should be sent to landfill. Hopefully the cleared area will find a worthwhile and sustainable reuse.

  9. Marie Phillips says:

    I have a friend who runs a junior youth club and I find I can give her quite a bit of my “rubbish” i.e. plastic pots of all shapes and sizes, and she uses everything in the crafts section of the youth club.

    I love books and hate to part with them – some I can’t part with – but I am getting better at taking novels to the local Cats Protection charity shop. I also take my “surplus” clothes there, sorting them into saleable items and stuff that is too old to sell (they can sell them as rags thus generating more money for the charity).

    I have still to find a way to recycle cat litter – no don’t even think about it!

  10. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks for the tip about Yeo Valley yogurt, Maisie! You’ve been really busy in the kitchen again. My plans went to pot when a beautiful sunny day came my way. I’m afraid being in the kitchen all day was NOT an option so I read in the sunshine instead. Chutney making can wait for a cold, grey day. Do you have recipes for the three things you mentioned? I would imagine mango and red pepper to be expensive dishes to make – is that right? I would like to make mincemeat though if you could share your recipe.

    Hi John, it’s an interesting thing. Mr G is getting a bit stressed about his garage. With new knowledge and awareness he’s really wondering what on earth he is going to do with everything that is waste. Throwing things away now has an impact on the conscience, whereas before it was all about relief. It will be an interesting assignment.

    Hi Marie, a couple of people have mentioned the option you talk about and I’m going to ask at a local arts club that LMG goes to. Recycling cat litter is something that is difficult for many people and I keep thinking that one day I will come up with the perfect solution. At the moment though it comes down to training a cat to use a dog loo!

  11. maisie clark says:

    The mango one isn’t as expensive as it sounds as you use apples as well, both the chutneys are from a Margueritte Patten preserves book I have.
    The mincemeat is really easy it is a version of Delia.

    I have put the mincemeat on my recipe blog and will do the other 2 soon.

    I didn’t get the Red Pepper one made as yet but will hopefully thius afternoon.

    Costs, I look at this way, as long as it doesn’t cost loads more for the finished product than what I would spend in the shops and it is obviously something we will use then it has to be better as it isn’t processed in the same way as bought goods.

    Here is an example

    Mango Chutney Costs

    Jars = free
    2 mangos = 1.18
    1lb cooking apples = free
    12oz onions = 40
    pickling spices = 30
    white wine vinegar = 50
    1 orange = 25
    20oz sugar = 38

    Total = £3.01 plus a bit for electricity so say £4

    I have 4 440g jars of chutney so that is £1 per jar.

    Mango Chutney in Sainsburys is £1.18 for 310g jar and that is the cheapest version.

  12. Poppy says:

    Cat Litter – As far as I’m aware, the Wood and paper based litters can be composted (minus obvious deposits that can be flushed down the loo).

  13. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks Maisie – it makes a lot of sense. I STILL haven’t made my culinary delights, but no doubt I will get there soon. The clouds have come again, so perhaps today as I am preparing Sunday lunch I could chop up the pieces for the marrow chutney 🙂

    Good idea on the cat litter, Poppy. Yesterday we were accosted in our local shop by someone who cornered us and said ‘So what am I supposed to do with my cat litter then?’ 😀 I think people think we have the magical answers to everything, but this one is still eluding me a little. I’d love to “bottom” it out though **groan**

  14. Shymom says:

    Regarding cat litter:

    Here, West coast of the U.S., they advise us not to put cat droppings in the toilet. It seems cats carry a parasite, harmless to people and pets, that kills sea otters. Sewage gets treated before it is released into the ocean but it doesn’t kill the parasites.

    If I were to compost cat litter, I would only do so if I were to use the compost exclusively on ornamental plants. There would still be traces of droppings and urine in the litter, and I doubt that my compost pile wouldn’t get hot enough, for long enough, to kill off all of the parasites/bacteria. (That’s also why I don’t use cow manure in my compost, only worm castings.)

    So I don’t have a answer for this one at all.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    Hello Shymom,
    That is interesting information about not putting cat poo into the toilet. Although it seems a bit rich as I’m sure humans have all sorts of nasties within them such as parasites and drugs. but if this particular parasite kills sea otters, then that is not good.

    Using the compost on ornamental plants is a good idea. Thing is though, I know that cats use my garden as a litter tray; right in the middle of my vegetables, so what is the difference from tipping a tray on there anyway?

    It’s a real conundrum isn’t it and I don’t yet have the answer either!
    Thanks for adding all your info though; very interesting…..

  16. dottyspots says:

    Could you not put the litter into a dogwaste composter? I posted a link to making your own a while ago in the comments on here (I think).

  17. Poppy says:

    Given the amount of rubbish that finds its way into our oceans, I find the possibility of a link between treated cat faeces and sea otters a little hard to take on board.

  18. Mrs Green says:

    here is the link to the dogwaste composter – you need to read through the comments to find the link. Thanks Dottyspots.

    Poppy; I think it’s erm, interesting, to say the least……
    There is this quote from Wikipedia: “A University of California, Davis study of dead sea otters collected from 1998 to 2004 found that toxoplasmosis was the cause of death for 13% of the animals” and an old BBC story where a researcher was calling for cats to be kept INDOORS!
    The link sounds a little lacking in evidence for me.

  19. Shymom says:

    The reason for the cats being kept indoors is that they wouldn’t be exposed to toxoplasmosis in the first place. So, I would assume, if your cat is an indoor only cat, who has never been exposed to toxoplasmosis, then it should be fine to flush the poo.

    Yes, I agree the BBC link was a bit light on facts. Try this instead

    http://www.enn.com/pollution/article/21976

    I realize that not everyone is on board with this or thinks the link between the two even exists. Then again there are individuals who don’t think global warming is in any way caused by humans. Thus, the reason for education.

  20. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks for the link, Shymom – it’s an interesting article. As you say some people find it hard to link the two, but for others it will be obvious.
    Thank goodness for differing opinions, it makes conversation so much more interesting and enlightening!

  21. Kathryn says:

    Thanks for the link to the cat litter options! I will keep thinking, though using it composted on ornamental plants is a good idea, I seem to have such a lot that I would never use it all. Perhaps there is an income opportunity here!

    We live in Plymouth and the council has been trying to go green for a long time, though they could do better. We do have a vast array of recycling banks for clothes, books, bedding and other soft goods which are run by various charities. These are usually near bottle and plastic banks which keep them in peoples minds hopefully when they are recyling the normal stuff. But as zero waste includes no recycling I presume we have a long way to go yet!

    Love the site!

  22. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Kathryn,
    It’s interesting to hear how different councils approach recycling. It still amazes me that quality of facilities is dependant on nothing other than postcode.
    You bring up an interesting point about zero waste meaning no recycling; I used to feel the same way too. but now I can see that viewing our rubbish as a ‘resource’ ie recycling is part of the zero waste option.
    To create zero waste would require living off the land and no longer using many modern products and services. It’s a great ideal, but one that many will never reach; nor have the desire to.
    But making things that have longevity built in (rather than obsolescence) and making things from materials that can be reused and recycled is far more sustainable than what we have now.

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