Pare down: Green your move, green your life
As I pack up to move, I find a lot of things I didn't know I had, or never really needed. Here are some great tips for what to do with all that extra stuff, and how to avoid acquiring more of it in the future.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 17:43
ALL ABOARD: It can be hard determining what is enough, and what is too much to keep while moving. (Photo: TheMuuj/Flickr)
Packing to move can be a pain. I know this because I'm going through it right now.
As I pack, I find a lot of things I didn't know I had, or never really needed. Now I have to deal with them. The hassle doesn't come from packing up things, wrapping them in newspaper and such, it's more of the "how do I justify bringing this with me?" debate. Sometimes we hang on to things we really don't use "just in case" we find it may come in handy down the road. Other times we hang on to silly sentimental things, such as receipts and junk gifts we received long ago. Or worse, we find things that we bought two or three of because we forgot we already had one hidden somewhere amongst all our other junk.
I look at moving as the perfect time to thin out belongings and simplify. So what do we do with such things? And since we are starting new, how can we prevent ourselves from racking up clutter again?
Often times, we just have to learn to let go. After all, it's not the object that holds the memories. My movie ticket to see "Iron Man 2" with my current boyfriend is a good memento of a wonderful evening and the start to a beautiful relationship I'm still in. However, I'd still have the memories of that day, even if I had accidentally tossed the ticket stub.
1. It's times like these that keeping a journal to document the memories comes in handy. Then you won't have to worry about keeping all the little mementos. For a nice, online (and private) journal, I suggest Penzu. With Penzu, you can add pictures and write your heart out. They say a picture is worth a thousand words — can you say the same about that ticket stub? If you don't keep a journal already, maybe it's the perfect time to sit down with your mementos and write about them.
2. A lot of times, it's a good idea to take digital pictures of things before you donate or toss them. You can then store these pictures on your computer or burn them to CDs which take up much less room than actually keeping all that stuff. I thought about this one too late, but now I wish I had taken pictures of my old trophies before I sent them off to be refurbished and reused. (Total Awards and Promotions is a cool company that accepts old trophies for reuse, so I sent mine there. Do you know of any other places that reuse trophies?)
3. The same goes with my prom dress. It doesn't fit me anymore, and I hardly go to such elegant parties that I'd be justified in keeping it anyway. It goes without saying that I have pictures of my prom dress (back when it still fit!) so donating it to a cause like the many listed at DonateMyDress.org seems like the most reasonable choice. Though people continually tell me I'll miss it, I hardly have since that night more than four years ago anyway, and if I want my future daughter to see my dress, I'll proudly show her pictures. The chance that she'll want to wear it and that it would fit her is slim.
"I'll keep it just in case"
Recently, the family got a new blender to replace the old 30-year-old one that doesn't work. When I asked if I could get rid of the old one, my step-dad insisted we keep it just in case our new one stopped working. I just laughed.
The rooms and drawers we fill with things that own us do nothing for us. We have to constantly clean these items and shuffle them around to get to what we really need. The time and cost of keeping them around is often more than they are worth. Plus, if we learned how to do without them in the first place, normally we can go on just fine without them.
I have no room for such items in my move, as I am putting everything into one car. Letting go of these items was not hard for me, but I urge anybody who does take issue with it to really question the value of hanging on to such random things.
1. For things that are still useful, you may want want to consider donating them to your local religious organization or charity. Sure, it may be useful, but you haven't found a use for it yet, so maybe somebody else can.
2. If the idea of donating to strangers completely terrifies you, consider hosting a swap shop party. The idea is simple: somebody (probably the one with the most stuff) hosts a party where friends come and donate stuff to a pile of "give-aways." Then everybody can go through the stuff and take what they need or want. It's always a surprise to see what stuff people take.
3. Think of friends and family. If you have a purse that a friend keeps complimenting, give it to her before you consider putting it in that donation pile! Some of my friends have started posting pictures on social media sites of stuff they are willing to part with. Some have prices, some are free — and it's like they have created an exclusive FreeCycle site or Craigslist among their networks. (Don't be afraid to use those sites to advertise getting rid of things, too.)
We always seem to have multiples of food items. Somehow families end up with two bottles of ranch dressing in the fridge (both half full) or expired items in the back of the pantry as newer items are in use.
1. To avoid the situation in the first place, not stocking up too much is a good plan. I've recently started shopping daily (or at least every other day) to avoid needing to buy things that will just go bad in my fridge. This is something I intend to keep doing even after I get settled again — it's already saved me so much money and ensures my meals are fresh.
2. Another way to avoid having the problem ever start is: anything you truly use should always be easily accessible. Sure, things like Christmas decorations and such can be stored in the attic until the proper time to use them, but what else do you have up there? For me, I found an old toaster that I forgot I had (and had acquired one since), a second set of dishes a friend could use and a coffee maker (despite the fact that I never drink coffee). Finding these things, and getting rid of them, was liberating. Now, I know I'm packing up only what I really need and not extras.
3. OK, prevention tips are great, but what can I do in the meantime to reduce multiples? The easiest thing is to give excess to friends and family. Be creative! Too much food can mean just giving it away or it can translate to a dinner party. Too many bottles of moisturizer (a problem I often battle) can become part of "spa" gifts for friends.
4. Churches or neighborhoods often have community yard sales to help raise funding for a cause. If that is not an option, consider holding one yourself and either keeping the proceeds or donating them to a charity. Tip: more people come to a yard sale if they know the money raised will go to a good cause. Advertising that fact could help you get rid of your stuff faster!
Despite the feeling I get, people still ask me why I get rid of things and how I can do it so easily. The answer is this: I figure if I don't appreciate it enough to cling on to it or find a way to use it regularly, then somebody else might. With each item, I look at it for a bit, let the memories flow freely, and then imagine somebody else holding that item and and being happy to have and use it. My trophies, in my mind, are already making another little soccer star grin with pride. The way I see it, a girl is falling in love with my prom dress the same way I did when I first saw it. And my friend is happily using my old dishes and grateful she doesn't have to buy her own.
And that is not just recycling the physical material, it's recycling the positive energy associated with it. Pass it on.