Decluttering without landfill waste – week 3

Filed in Blog by on January 24, 2011 11 Comments
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Keys can be recycled as mixed metal

Keys can be recycled as mixed metal

Welcome to week three of my decluttering mission. I’m following the advise of Colleen over on 365lessthings and using her weekly mini missions for inspiration.

My personal goal, of course, is to declutter my home without creating any landfill waste. I’ve been doing this by recycling things at our local bring banks and donating items to charity for reuse. The great thing about decluttering is that you can even make yourself a little money by selling things on eBay or Amazon.

Car junk

On Monday we had to clear any junk from the glove compartment of our car. Unfortunately this meant unearthing yet more disposable biros which will have to be used up and eventually landfilled but it also meant I found a couple of reusable shopping bags I had forgotten about so that was a bonus.

Food waste

On Tuesday we had to make a meal from something in our freezer. We no longer have a freezer but I made sure I did my weekly ‘fridge inventory and even made up my mind to use up a couple of tins of things from the cupboard – tins that have been in there several years! If you end up with weekly food waste, check out my one tip for reducing food waste in the ‘fridge. It’s so simple you won’t believe it! And if you’re unsure how to make the most of your freezer, Arctic Aunt has the answers to all the myths surrounding safety and storage.


On Wednesday we had to find something in our home that belongs to someone else and offer it back or regift it if the original owner no longer wanted it. This was a wonderful excuse for me to call up a friend and return one of her books. We spent a lovely morning putting the world to rights and catching up with each other. I was so grateful that this mission pushed me into getting in contact again.

Key recycling

On Thursday we had to declutter our key rings of any unused keys or those annoying charms that whack your knees when you are driving. I’m a minimalist when it comes to the house and car keys, but we did find about 25 keys for our double glazing and several for the old front door! The old defunct keys are now in mixed metal recycling, but I’m not sure what to do with 25 current double glazing keys. They are now in the filing cabinet and we have one in each room. I wonder how many keys double glazing manufacturers give out in their lifetime.

I was looking for somewhere to recycle keys for charity. I know Guide dogs for the blind used to accept them, but sadly they no longer collect them. Over in the US, they have keys for kindness in support for MS sufferers, but I’ve not found anything in the UK. If you know of a key recycling scheme in the UK, please let me know in the comments.

If you want more inspiration check out Louisa’s page on recycling keys.

Recycling art

Friday was a great challenge – we had to look at our walls and get rid of art and wall hangings we no longer wanted. It touched on the ‘sentimental’ side of things which is always difficult. But I was feeling determined and a couple of paintings are now in the charity shop box.

Declutter expired medicines

Saturday was another timely mission; we had to go through our first aid kit and check expiry dates. Fortunately I had nothing that needed throwing out but I did need to get more calendula cream, rescue remedy and yarrow tea. It feels good to have these things in place; feeling organised and equipt to deal with things is the flip side to decluttering, don’t you think?.

Don’t forget, if you have unwanted medicines that are still in date, you may be able to recycle them to help save lives in other areas of the world.

Aspirational clutter

Sunday’s mission was huge for me – we had to go through our sewing kits and get rid of things we would never use. I keep fancying myself as a sewer and I buy kits and cute matching sets of things, but the reality is that I’m not handy (or particularly interested) with a needle and thread. I found this mission highly emotive because firstly there is part of me that feels I should be good at sewing and secondly there is a part of me that feels it could be a new hobby to enjoy. I had to admit to failing miserably on both accounts and feeling a bit inadequate – I follow blogs where people make beautiful items and aspire to being that person myself, but alas it’s not for me.

The other thing this bought up for me was an enormous sense of my own mortality. I realised that sewing, along with a myriad of other ‘should do’ hobbies was not going to happen because even if I started one of the ‘one day’ hobbies right now, I would probably never get through my ‘wishlist’ of things to experience.

Chris Baskind, over on his blog Eco Minia calls this type of clutter ‘aspirational clutter‘. Aspirational clutter according to Chris, are the things we buy with the best of intentions, but never actually get around to using. For me it’s arts and crafts stuff, knitting needles and yarn, and my trusty sewing things.

Anyway, feeling brave and determined I have now put some sewing kits up for sale and put a lot of arts and crafts things into the charity box.

Bonus mission

For anyone who is a seasoned declutter, Colleen challenged us to address the one area of our house that we’ve been avoiding. She asked us to consider what was holding us back from succeeding at decluttering and to look at this task as a series of small, achievable ones – great psychology and the very thing we adopted with our zero waste challenge for the year. Colleen advises us to revisit this space once a week and remove just one unwanted item with the idea that in a few months, we would have made real progress.

I’m still considering what my ‘no go’ area might be and I think I know just the room …

How about you – have you been decluttering this week? Tell me how you have got on and if you fancy some support, why not head over to Colleen’s 365lessthings for inspiration?

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 (11)

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  1. Hi Mrs Green,
    once again you have exceeded all expectation when it comes to carrying out your mini missions. Not only that you are doing an excellent job of trying to find aways to discard everything in an environmentally friendly way. Not that I expected any less from you. I am happy to say that of the 365 things I decluttered from my home last year only 67 weren’t given away or sold and of the 67 a good number were recycled. Good luck with this weeks challenge!

  2. Julie Day says:

    You are so good. I am trying so hard to be like you but not succeeding so far. I am still decluttering. Want to sort out a file box on my computer desk and a cupboard drawer. I have clothes that I am going to take to the charity shop. I have just found out from my council that I can recycle at home empty stamp books. Yay.

  3. Mrs Green says:

    @Colleen ( Sounds like you had such a successful year, colleen – without adding too much to landfill; well done you and thanks for the continuing inspiration…

    @Julie Day: Great news on the empty stamps books; every little helps 😉 At least you have some goals, Julie – that’s great and it’s where it all starts…

  4. Ben says:

    Although I didn’t predict it, I have noticed that when I mention to anyone that I throw away very little rubbish, one of the regular questions or assumptions is that I’m hoarding stuff in my house! Thankfully I’m not, in fact if anything I’ve been indirectly reducing clutter from accumulating through all of the waste reduction efforts.

    Now I use far less disposable items, consume less packaging and use more reusable things I’m discovering I have less clutter/waste entering the house. Aside from the attached clutter that comes with items we want (packaging normally) or the excess clutter of having many disposable items around the house when one long lasting one will do, I’m also questioning the actual items I consume a lot more too, questions about how much I need it and is it worth the money and materials that have gone in to making it. It’s rare now that I buy something and never use it.

    As for the existing items, with so many of them having been bought long before I started the whole zero waste thing, I’m dealing with those as needed. However, my shift away from the bin being convenient is also making me sell items more and find new uses for stuff I don’t need, so I’m saving resources and money, in fact I’ve made a significant amount of money from eBay selling, so clutter reduction has turned in to a helpful income during the summer holidays and I’ve been encouraged to clear it out rather than avoid doing anything with it so far. Anyway, I’m glad to say the overall trend is towards less clutter, not more since I started this.

  5. Jo says:

    Bravo on the mini-missions, Mrs Green!

    Aspirational clutter is hard for me as well. Last year, I almost decided to donate everything, but at the last minute I decided – with a friend – to join a crafting group, in hopes that I will get some things made. I do enjoy sewing and the like, though, so it was an easy decision to make. And I can always go back to plan A if it doesn’t work out.

  6. Jane says:

    Always worried that in case of fire we will be unable to get out so keys for windows are on a small hook at the side of the window frame or under a curtain. This also means we are less likely to lose them!

    At the office we found people seemed to have lost a key we don’t use a lot but is still necessary presumably because they had decluttered it at some time not remembering what it was. We considered putting those plastic tops on all the ones we next issued unless we find some other way of making one Yale type key look strikingly different from another. I used to use nail polish to colour the top of a key. Anybody got any other good ideas that work?

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Ben: Ben, we have that too. When journalists of tv crews come over you can almost sense the disappointment that we don’t live like Steptoe and Son! I’m with you on the way of thinking BEFORE buying things – obviously we let LMG buy as she wishes (and she makes some great decisions sometimes) but as adults we stop and think very carefully before buying anything. It just makes us more conscious of what we are doing; it’s nothing about deprivation (but then I don’t need to tell you that 😀 ). Glad you profited from your decluttering too. Any tips or gizmos for making ebay selling quicker? I used to find it took ages to upload everything – it’s probably several years since I sold through eBay so perhaps it is better now?

    @Jo: I love your story about actually signing up for a class instead of getting rid of stuff Jo and I’m really pleased you are enjoying it! Well done you 🙂

    @Jane: That’s what we’ve now done, Jane. The only problem room is LMGs – she’s a bit of a daredevil, so it’s good that her window is locked; however I do want her to have easy access to a key if she needs it…. (It’s not over-protective mother syndrome either; she really is fearless and once fell out of a bedroom window – unscathed of course 😉 )
    I just stick a bit of coloured paper over the ends of keys to differentiate them.. It works for us; not very high tech, but it works 😉

  8. Ben says:

    @Mrs Green: I’ve been using eBay for some years now and it has got better in a number of ways since I started. Paypal, although not without some issues does make the whole thing potentially faster and easier, and you can now use the “list another like this” option to list a number of identical or similar items quickly. I used this option for a pile of game cartridges to save time. It’s a bit time intensive though, you do have to take photos of everything and spend time typing the details in, possibly researching a price and maybe answering questions. Packaging and posting takes time too. The plus side is that I tend to realise good prices for my items on there. Practice makes anything quicker though and I do tend to break up the tasks, take photos of everything one day, research the next and upload it all another. Easier to spend 20 minutes here and there than to do it all at once. I do try to upload in bulk though as this tends to result in less trips to the post office later.

  9. Jane says:

    I need to offer some padded envelopes. I see people offering them on a local website. I guess somebody sends books or perhaps game cartridges by post and uses them.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Ben: Sounds like a great plan Ben – thanks for taking time to explain how you do things. I have a real aversion to packing things up for some reason; it’s one of my pet hate jobs. Perhaps I should pay LMG to do it for me 😀

    @Jane: When I offered some padded envelopes I had 6 people on Freecycle after them. When you consider how expensive they are, it’s not surprising that eBayer like to grab them as it keeps their P&P costs down.

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