Winter on the East Coast can be a mixed bag of sleet, snow, rain and dreary gray days. I’m ready for spring – a perfect time for a green clean.
I offer here some easy and affordable tips to de-clutter and spring clean in a way that’s healthy for you and the environment.
Shed the Waste: Donate or Sell
Has your home accumulated a ton of clutter? My piles of junk seem to magically grow. Instead of throwing unwanted items in the garbage, give them a new life.
Here’s how to start: Sort unwanted items into those for donation and those that can be recycled or reused. The last – smaller – pile is things to trash. I also list in Tip 3, below, disposal options for various hazardous or environmentally toxic items.
Most likely, your community has a variety of outlets for donating unwanted items. I offer a list below and a few resources.
- Places of worship typically have thrift shops that accept donations.
- Local community centers, such as homeless shelters and thrift stores.
- Charitable organizations. National ones include:
- Zero Waste Days are usually organized by a municipality. They bring together in one location a variety of organizations that take donations, including furniture, clothing and bulky items. Residents drive up and drop off their donations.
- Takeback programs. Check out this list of companies that will take back their products for donation.
- A-Z list of where to donate. This comprehensive list from The Spruce is excellent.
- Furniture banks. Check out Furniture Banks Organization’s list for a location near you.
- Rye Sustainability’s Where to Donate Guide. If you live in or near Westchester County, NY, this guide is indispensable. (Yes, I’m a little biased, but it really is a useful resource!)
- Online. Ebay and Craigslist are the big dogs in this field.
- Facebook’s Marketplace.
- Garage Sales. Check local laws for what’s permissible.
Re-purpose, Repair or Reuse
Tear up those frayed and old towels, sheets, and clothes and reuse them for all types of cleaning jobs.
Need more containers for all that organizing? Instead of buying new ones, take a look at what you already have at home. Re-purpose them:
- Glass jars – small. I use the smaller spice jars to hold my homemade spice mixes. They’re also a good size to hold small desk supplies (staples, paper clips).
- Glass jars – large. The larger sizes are useful for storing, well, anything: crafts, pasta, sugar, coffee, flour, loose change, sewing supplies… Or use those pretty mason jars to display fresh flowers.
- Baskets from packaged gifts, old Easter baskets, food packaging. The possibilities are endless: store loose toys, office supplies, balls, paper, pet paraphernalia.
- Crates. Infinitely useful. Leave one or two in the back of your car as a catch-all for groceries, sports equipment and other loose items.
- Cloth bags. Useful for storing other bags, bedding, off-season clothing.
- Large plastic containers from yogurt, sour cream, soups. I use these all the time for leftovers and for freezing food. Bring them to the supermarket as containers for bulk purchases.
- Large juice or milk jugs for all manner of liquids – laundry, soap, even water for watering those plants.
- Printer. I have two baskets near my printer – one for unused printer paper and the other for (one-sided) printed paper. Feed the printed paper through your printer (check printer guidelines), and presto – you have extra printer paper. Before printing, fan and loosen the paper and check that edges aren’t frayed or creased.
- Notepaper. Collect used notepaper in one receptacle. Use the remaining clean portions to jot down notes, make grocery lists, put together your to-do list for the day.
- Repair Cafe. These are community workshops with tools and materials for you to repair broken items. Or you can enlist an expert to help. Visit the Repair Cafe site for a list of locations, or to start your own.
When Disposing, Dispose Responsibly
Now that you’ve dealt with your donated, reused and re-purposed piles, take a look at what’s left over. Many items can be recycled.
What’s left (hopefully, a small pile) will be tossed in the garbage. Before you do that, however, check my list below of hazardous materials and how to dispose of them.
Most municipalities have either curbside or drop-off recycling services, or both. Check their guidelines to make sure you’re recycling properly.
- What Can I Recycle? This list from Personal Creations has it all.
- Recycling locator. For those materials and items that aren’t part of your household recycling pickup, Earth911 has a terrific locator.
- Expired/Unused Medication. It’s not as simple as throwing them in the garbage or flushing them down the toilet.
- Batteries. In New York, rechargeable batteries can’t be tossed in the trash. Manufacturers are required to provide free and convenient recycling options.
- Electronics. In New York, the NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act requires manufacturers to provide free and convenient e-waste recycling options. Check your state for disposal requirements.
- Chemicals. The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation has put out a helpful guide for managing and disposing of hazardous waste.
- Paint. Paint needs to be completely hardened before putting in the trash.
- Stir in equal parts kitty litter and wait until it hardens.
- For quick results, use a paint hardener, like Rock Solid Paint Hardener.
Freshen Up Naturally
It’s natural to want your home smelling clean and fresh. But air fresheners and scented cleaning products can pose a hazard to your health and to the environment.
How do you get that fresh scent naturally? A few tips and products below for a sweet-smelling home that’s also green clean.
Open the window!
Now that the weather is warmer, enjoy the natural smells – and sounds – of the outdoors.
Natural Air Fresheners
I hear you. You live in a noisy, sometimes, smelly city. You can’t or don’t want to open the window. For that fresh smell that’s natural, here are some options.
- Baking soda. It works wonders to absorb smells. Keep a box in the fridge, in closets and cabinets. Sprinkle on rugs and in waste bins, vacuum bags and kitty litter boxes.
- Room mist. Aura Cacia Room Mist gets top marks from Environmental Working Group.
- House plants help absorb moisture and reduce smells.
- Baking soda
- ECOS Pets Stain and Odor Remover is made from plants and can be used to combat all pet smells.
- Hang out. If it’s permissible in your community, try line drying clothes. Even if you do it occasionally or dry a portion of your laundry, you’ll be getting that natural fresh scent while reducing those electricity bills.
- Green laundry products. If air drying clothes is not for you, check out my green laundry products picks in my recent post.
Green Clean Your Cleaning Products
Cleaning products filled with chemicals can be toxic for you, your pets and the environment. Consider a green clean of any of these cleaning products and stop using them.
How do you know which ones are safe? And which products are the best? Read my recent post on green cleaning products for information, guides and product picks.