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Let’s Talk Trash: Simplifying brings spaciousness into homes and minds

Less stuff means less maintenance, insurance costs, irritating clutter and storage needs

The challenge with simplifying is that it isn’t always simple – especially when we want to do it “green.”

When life is already calling on us to make hundreds of decisions a day, we may fatigue at the thought of sorting things into categories. Lest we lose motivation to even try, remember that doing what’s right always comes with some reward.

First off, here’s a tip to ease any household into streamlining its clutter. Placing a cardboard box (or two) in most rooms is a great start; one for things you’re ready to gift or donate, and another for recycling.

Perhaps surprisingly, CDs, VHS tapes, cassette tapes, broken smoke detectors, computer screens, vacuum cleaners and even broken treadmills all have recycling programs, and items that are primarily made of metal can be taken to any scrap yard for free. You might have a third category box in a central space for items that could be mended or altered enough to be once again enjoyed. Free cardboard boxes are usually available at grocery stores and friends’ basements.

Gifting our excess to others is pretty satisfying. Whether it’s offering clothes kids have outgrown to another family, putting something out on the curb on a sunny day for neighbours to snag, or posting free items on social media exchange forums, there is a feeling of community created. Many of us could benefit from these kinds of positive exchanges, these days especially.

Offering donations to receiving thrift stores is also a simple way to redistribute locally. You might choose a consignment shop and make a little money without having to do any of the work. And, if you come across more valuable treasures, selling them yourself is an option.

There are many free “sale” forums available to do this online; any young person in your life can help you overcome technological hurdles with accessing them. Contactless pickups are often possible with many folks happy with e-transfers or cash in envelopes and leaving the “new-to-you” item outside, under cover, at an agreed on time.

Most of us are not hoarders, but we all can reason our way into keeping things for sentimental value or “just in case” moments. These are valid reasons, and yet can easily slip into justifying keeping almost anything.

The now famous minimalist Marie Kondo offers this basic consideration for what to keep and what to let go: Keep only what sparks joy.

Pouring through all of our possessions, we may start to wonder who owns who. This is a worthy reflection.

There is deep irony in some of our purchases and acquisitions. We may bring them into our space to make our life easier, say getting another bluetooth speaker to avoid carrying yours around, but they may add complications. How much time do you spend pairing, unpairing, charging, locating and getting your devices’ speakers online?

Simplifying brings spaciousness into your home and your mind. Less stuff means less maintenance, insurance costs, irritating clutter and storage needs. You might also find a deeper appreciation for what you keep.

Winter hibernation is the perfect time to get into our basements, closets and “everything” drawers. Happy purging!

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste reduction education program. For more information, email