Category Archives: Recycled

Closet cleaning lessons

So where was I? Oh yes, continuing to downsize.

Over the last few months we have managed to be rather successful cleaning out our closets. Today I made a concerted effort to make another pass at the closet in the master bedroom. Several months ago I made a first sweep, getting rid of many items on the top shelf that were just being stored away and unused. But today I tackled my clothing to see what I could get rid of.

This was my second attempt at my side of the closet, and my wife still needs to go through her things on her side. I tend to look at downsizing like editing the written word. You make a first pass, reflect, and then come back for more edits as many times is needed.

My process was quite simple. I had a big plastic bin to put clothes in, and I pulled out all my clothes from the closet and laid them on our bed. Then I went through and examined each article of clothing, asking myself “Do I love this?” If the answer was no, then in the bin it went.

By the time I was finished, I filled the bin completely.

Box of clothes

This box of clothes got donated after spending the morning going through my closet.

Lesson one: Re-evaluate your wardrobe at least four times per year.

I recently changed jobs, and the dress code is much more relaxed. That’s great for me, but it means some of the clothes I had for my last job isn’t likely to be worn (particularly the logo’d polo shirts of my former employer). The new gig means I can wear t-shirts and even shorts if I wish (I know, right?), so today was a great time to clean out some of those items.

There are other reasons you might want to re-evaluate your wardrobe at least four times a year.  Are things too big or too small because of, ahem, body changes? Got stains, rips, or items showing signs of wear? Do you really need that t-shirt from that concert you went to a decade ago that is all cracky and gross? Maybe it’s time to donate these items to someplace like Goodwill, turn them into shop rags, or just throw them away.

I took my box of clothes to Goodwill. As an aside, I don’t donate clothes that I wouldn’t otherwise wear. If it has holes or are too worn, those go to the trash.

In the end, I found out I had four black pinstripe pants that I hardly ever wear, so I donated two of them. There were some old shirts that I no longer love, so they got ousted. I found some belts and ties that I haven’t worn in ages. Best of all, I opened some space for some new t-shirts. I’m looking forward to doing some shopping for some fun clothes to wear to work and play.

That brings me to my next tip.

Lesson two: You can recycle metal hangers at your local dry cleaners.

After I was done with my clothing purge, I had several hangers left over. As silly as it may be, I’m a little torn when it comes to hangers. I don’t care for metal hangers, because heavier items like jackets and jeans tend to wear them out much more quickly than plastic hangers. But the problem I have with plastic hangers is, they can’t be recycled. Most plastic hangers I’ve found can’t be thrown into my recycling bin when they break. I have been working on purchasing fewer items that can’t be recycled when I’m done using them, and plastic hangers clearly break that rule. But for now, they win over metal hangers in our household.

Where I live, there are several Scotch Cleaners around town, and one just down the street from me. I called them up and found that they will take your metal hangers and recycle them. So on my way to Goodwill, I stopped in and dropped off the hangers in a special bin they had at the front of the store.

Box of hangers

Got extra hangers around the house? Many dry cleaners will recycle your old metal hangers.

Sadly, I was still left with some plastic hangers (the ones you get from a store when you buy clothing) that neither Goodwill nor the dry cleaners would take. They can’t be recycled, so they came back home with me. From now on I’ll make a conscious effort to not let any of those hangers come home from the store.

Finally, I thought I would mention Project 333. Started by Courtney Carver, Project 333 is a minimalist approach to fashion. I will admit I haven’t given it an honest try, but I have been thinking about it more lately and will likely give her plan a trial in the near future. Read the rules of Project 333 and decide for yourself; maybe it’s just the plan you need for a more simple relationship with your wardrobe.

Tips for a good purge

recycling and trash

Four bins of recycled materials and three bags of trash. Not too bad for a day’s work.

Last week I took Friday off to take advantage of the kids being gone to the grandparents’ house. It’s a good thing they weren’t here, as I might have accidentally thrown them out in the midst of my purge.

So the kids were gone and it was just the wife and I with the house to ourselves. In preparation for kid No. 3 she wanted me to look for a few things she knew was “under the stairs in the basement.”

Oh no. Under the stairs. I wonder what’s down there?

Yeah, it was pretty much what I expected. Some of the things I already knew about: there were baby and kid clothes, holiday decorations and toys. As I dug deep, I found a couple of boxes filled with nothing but empty DVD cases for all the movies we’ve purchased. I tend to store the DVDs in a portable mega case, but kept the individual DVD cases to “help retain the resell value” when the time came to get rid of them.

Of course, that never happened. And there I was, stuck with all these cases and a decision to be made. I decided to recycle all the DVD cases. We’d keep all the movies until they rotted or broke or whatever. If all else failed, I could make frisbees out of them or something.

I will admit I was sightly overwhelmed at first. I had to call a friend for a little pep talk to get me started. Once I got under way, I became a madman. I took pictures or “scanned” the things I wanted to keep. I chucked things I had held onto for years that hadn’t seen the outside of boxes in forever. My sentimental attachment dissipated. And the things I needed input on from my wife, I grabbed her, sat her down, and had her go through those things with me so I knew I wasn’t getting rid of anything important.

It was amazing.

In the end, we had three bags of trash and four bins of recycled materials exit the house. Our trash and recycling containers are filled to the brim now, so I’m kind of in a holding pattern for a few days until they get emptied. I loaded up the back of the van with items to donate, which either went to Goodwill or to a friend who was going to put them in his garage sale.

What a liberating experience!

The purge taught me a few things that I wanted to pass on. I hope you find these helpful.

1. Free up as much space as you can in trash and/or recycling containers. Our refuse is picked up every Wednesday, so filling our trash and recycling containers on Friday kind of boxed us into a corner until trash day. While the recycling was empty, the trash can was about one-third of the way full. Had I to do it over again, I would have sorted my recycling better and taken it to one of the recycling centers we have in town so I’d still have room for household recycling. I’m unsure what I could have done about the trash, however. Sometimes you just have a lot to throw out.

2. If you need input from a partner about your stuff, then go get your partner! Several of the items I got rid of I had put off for a long time because I wasn’t sure if I should keep or pitch them. The lightbulb moment for me came when I realized I needed my wife’s guidance, and made myself, right then, to go ask her to sit down with me to make progress. This was incredibly helpful, as there was much that needed to go, but a few other things she wanted to keep that I might have otherwise thrown out. By devoting a little time with her, I was happy with the decision we made together and didn’t think anything we got rid of was a mistake.

3. Be prepared for the unexpected. I had forgotten all about the DVD cases, and after I got over the initial shock of seeing how many there were, I was able to get on with business. The simple fact is this: we’re pretty good at accumulating “stuff” and keeping it forever. There will be things hidden you have completely forgotten about. That’s OK. Take your time and do what you can; it doesn’t have to be perfect today. Which leads me to my last point …

4. It’s OK if you don’t get through everything in one setting. I have three boxes of pictures that I don’t want to get rid of, but I would like to keep. I’m working on some options for turning old film prints into digital so I can keep them in my hard drive and external backups. This is going to take time. I realized early on that it wasn’t going to all get done in one day, and accepted it. I weeded out a few photographs I absolutely knew I didn’t want to keep and then stored the rest in a plastic storage container for processing later. And really, you’ll get to a point where you need to stop the process and enjoy your life. There will be time for future edits — pace yourself.

I’m go glad I took a day off of work for this. When we were done (for the time being) I reveled in what we accomplished. I’m really starting to enjoy the freedom of having fewer possessions. It gives me some satisfaction to know that in the event of a weather emergency like a tornado, we’ll now have room to get under the stairs in the basement. Perhaps most important, I found it easier to let go of things that I thought I needed to keep, but clearly weren’t that important or else I would have used them.

The really odd part? I wonder just how deep this rabbit hole goes. How much can I get rid of? Were will it end? What is the endgame?

I guess we’ll just have to see. I’m excited for the possibilities.

Purge with care

The top of our refrigerator has become our version of my parents’ roll-top desk. For us, it is the place where “I’ll deal with it later” things like junk mail, odds and ends, and other assorted crap end up.

I was cleaning out our makeshift junk repository when I saw this heart-shaped box.

heart-shaped box

This heart-shaped box contained a Valentine’s Day gift for the wife.

I thought, “Oh yeah, I remember that. I went to the $1 store and picked up some cheap stuff to use for Valentine’s Day.” We must have forgotten to do something with it, but since it was on top of the refrigerator, that wasn’t a big surprise.

I was about to throw it away, but my wife, Amy, decided to look inside real quick. It’s a good thing she did.

heart-shaped box with money in it

Turns out, the box has $20 cash and and $25 gift card in it. Glad we didn’t throw that away!

Inside the box was a $20 bill and a $25 Visa gift card.

Good grief.

There are a few takeaways from this near miss:

  • Have a system in place to handle your gift giving and receiving event. My aunt once threw away a $50 bill by accident one year. After the family unsuccessfully dug through the trash, it was decided it likely got burned up when my grandfather took the trash out earlier that day (country living means you burn your trash).
  • Even though it was “just a dollar,” I spent money on packaging for a gift that has been forgotten for months. I donated the box to Goodwill. What was the point of that again?
  • Some types of gifts might not be the best choice for the person, or, at the time. I’m sure my wife likes to get gifts, but let’s face it: it clearly didn’t appear to add value to her at that time, otherwise she might have been more aware of her gift’s disappearance (she claims that’s not the case, but I’m skeptical). Perhaps I need to learn more about my wife to see what kind of gift would be a better choice.

The main point is: purge with care. Take a moment and review what you’re throwing out, because you might be throwing out more than just stuff.

Car scrapping and the end of the Cold War

car toys

Hot Wheels car carrier and portable playset.

One of my favorite pastimes as a kid was playing with Hot Wheels™, Matchbox™ and other types of small cars.

That tire case above is full of cars, trucks, tanks, planes and helicopters that was well loved, a lot of times in the bathtub. I would often grab that case and the Sears Service Center case pictured and play in the family room of my parents’ home.

We had red, shag carpet for a long time in that room, so playing with the cars on the floor caused me to pretend that I was driving through the jungle or high grass.

If you can tell from the picture, I had a few airplanes as well. I guess I was a child of the Cold War, but only the last remnants of it. It’s not like I had to do “Duck and Cover” drills in school or anything. But we had Rambo, G.I. Joe, Rocky IV, Reagan and Gorbachev – we knew the Russians were our enemy. I flew those planes all over the house. My imagination and those metal vehicles took me places.

These items have been sitting in my closet for the last year. My parents hadn’t thrown them out so when I discovered them at their house, I brought them to mine where they’ve stayed ever since.

And now they’re gone, donated to Goodwill.

The one thing that caught me off guard about my old, tired cars and sets was the reaction of my oldest daughter. She took them off to her room to play with them for awhile until it was time for them to go. The cars no longer provided value to me, but she’s definitely interested.

So I promised her we would get her a new set eventually. What she doesn’t know is that my eventually comes with a catch: we have to get the room she shares with her sister under control first.

We’ll get there. Baby steps. But first, the parents need to lead the way. Then we can go find some cars that add value to her childhood.