Feeling overwhelmed by the accumulation of another year's worth of stuff? You're not alone! January is the time for fresh starts, but there's nothing fresh about that pile of bags that’s been hanging around since last year's new year's resolution.
We discuss how we can recycle or reuse old items in our houses, where we can take different materials….and when to say fuck it and just throw it all in the bin.
So grab some tea, a bag to sort through, and hit that play button.
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Links and resources:
Article | What really happens to your clothes after you donate them
Article | What Really Happens to Unwanted Clothes?
Article | Seriously, What Are You Supposed to Do With Old Clothes?
Article | The truth behind what really happens to all the clothes rejected by charity shops
Article | HUMANA - Environment
Article | Decluttering is bad for the planet. Here’s how to do it sustainably
Article | Donating Old Computers, Parts, and Equipment to Charity
Book | The conscious closet by Elizabeth Cline
Video | The Difference Between Jumping Rope and Skipping Rope
-Brandee and Hannah
Note: This transcript is mostly unedited.
It's not easy living on a dying planet. But it is easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to making changes and taking action to try and save it. Where do you start? Is it even worth it? Can you really make a difference? Welcome to The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast, where we attempt to answer these questions by spilling the tea on living sustainably in a world that's going to shit. I'm Brandee.
And I'm Hannah. And for years, we've been navigating the big messy gray area of caring about our planet. It hasn't always been smooth sailing, but we're not giving up yet. So brew yourself a cup of tea, get comfy, and let's try and navigate that gray area together.
Hello, Give-a-Shitters. This is Brandee.
And this is Hannah. And you're listening to episode number 22 of The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast.
Whoa. Okay, told me it was my turn to woo. So that's my woo. Yeah.
We just need to like record a whistling sound like put in Oh, yeah.
A bit more authentic based on how we're feeling that day. that'll that'll affect the tone of the Whoo.
I think we're both quite tired this morning. Yeah, still waking up. Yeah, I've got my coffee. I meant to make.
I was gonna make either another coffee or tea, but I didn't. Oh, well. I'll do it after. Anyway, today we are talking about decluttering who which our friend Ellie had sparked the idea for this. This chat. And I think it's a good, timely episode beginning of the year. You know, you get various Christmas gifts, or maybe you hit the sales and you're making room for new things. Or it's just like a kind of good way to like refresh the year a lot of people will start with like their closets. So I thought it would be a good way to kind of tackle like, Okay, how to declutter. Right, it's like it in mind. Because it's easy and nice to think that. Oh, I'm donating it. So someone else is getting use out of it. But as we will discuss, so that is not always the case.
And I think part of when we talked about it, we were talking about it with LA, like he brought up was like, also, how do you like declutter the, like, awkward things, you know, we kind of made me have in our minds, like how we might get rid of, or how we think we can sustainably get rid of something which may or may not be as sustainable as we think. But you know, something, I remember her saying, like, she had like a skipping rope. Like, you know, what do you do with that? Or like, you know, you're like, right, jump rope. skipping work?
Suppose you're skipping?
Yeah, so definitely skipping,
jumping jump, I mean, you're feet. I guess to me, skipping is like, you're skipping down a street down a sidewalk, like, it's another form of like, it's not walking, you're skipping debt, like you're going from one place to another. But I suppose you
know, how we use skipping, but we definitely use skipping for like, the, with the rope that we want to say like, you know, jump rope, or whatever you guys say.
Question is what makes us skip a skip and what makes a jumper jump? Anyways,
and once you're finished with the activity, how do you get rid of pulling rope or jump rope that you no longer want? Or like I was thinking, because I was like, you know, like the kind of on the same vein as like slightly exercising things. I was like, Oh, I've got some, like, yoga blocks that I've never used. And at this point, I'm like, I'm gonna use them. How would I get rid of them? So it was also about that, like, how do we declutter some little things? I'm not really have an answer.
It's hard to have for like those awkward things. It's hard to have like a general answer, because it'll be so dependent on where you live in terms of like, you're trying to, like recycle it. Or like, but that's something more like light bulbs and batteries, things you've used so items, no longer have a use for that are in good condition. I don't know it depends on your, your kind of your circle, like friends and family like who do you know, might, might use it. But as far as like right place to take it to that'll yet be entirely dependent on where you are.
But that's definitely like a good side, your family and friends and like, looking at your cycle first is like a good way both to just like to get rid of things. I mean, obviously if they want it, pressurizing people to take your junk, but also that can be a good place to start for things that you they kind of need occasionally. But you don't want to store you might if you ask around, there might be someone who you can borrow those things from first. Or, you know, you can if you're wanting to try out like a new activity, the yoga blocks, you know, if I'd have been able to like, you know, I'm sure there's someone I know who might have had some that they weren't using more, it's fairly quickly. And then I did realize, actually, I have zero motivation to do yoga, and didn't need to go blocks hard in the moment because it is, you know, we have access to very affordable products. Finally, whether they're, like, affordable on a planetary level is another question. But like, so it can be so Oh, just like pick this thing up. But actually, and it feels like more, you know, it feels harder to like Hoby. Like, go through that whole process of like, asking around, you know?
But, yeah, I think that
might be a good place to start.
I think the best way to answer how to declutter better is to answer how to buy better or not buy at all. So like using Yeah, like the things just that asking around? Or using what you have maybe, I don't know, there were existing things you could have used as yoga blocks temporarily, to see if it was something that like you liked, and we're gonna do, because I think often we fall into this habit of like, no, no, I need to buy the thing that's gonna allow me to do the thing, like the running shoes, where you can just run, and then see if like, yeah, if that sticks, and I think compiling like a list of like, whatever questions or resources that like you can go to first before buying something would be like a great kind of little barrier to put into place. But say you don't know, you've just you've done your your January or beginning of 2023, Declutter. Sorry, door slamming in my building again. What do you do with all this stuff? It's likely mostly closed, maybe it is some things like, quote unquote, skipping ropes. So because I and when I was researching for this, a lot of a lot of it's like clothing, focus, and stats and like articles I found because that is like, I think, one of the more common things people do and do more frequently and more volume. I certainly do. That's what I'm kind of donate the most. So yeah, I think you're at this point now, where it probably does feel very overwhelming to think of how to better better kind of get these clothing items out of your home, because, you know, just taking it to the donation center down the road or charity shops or store whatever it is very, a much smaller percentage than what you think is actually getting resold to someone else to get us out of it. Which I'll link all the kind of stuff I found on that. Yeah, which is a shame. Like it's very nice and easy to think like, oh, yeah, like I'm, I don't need this this item anymore. It's not my style anymore, it maybe doesn't fit. Let me just donate it that automatically means it's gonna get reused. So that's I think we're like kind of the guilt comes in. But I don't know when we first talked about like the idea of this episode. i It's like, that's where you're at now. And you have all this like stuff, maybe mostly close to like, get rid of, I don't know personally get it is a bit more motivating to just like, kind of swallow that like guilt pill and donate it knowing that, okay, it's probably going to end up more of that's probably going to end up like, either in a country that like an Africa that causes a lot more harm than good. Just dumping our stuff on them or incinerated landfill. And then like doing better in the future might not be the best option. It's not the most planet friendly option. The it would be nice to like do your research and kind of figure out okay, what's the best thing I can do these clothing items or skipping ropes or whatever it is around your house to Roblox. But if like, you just get it out. And then okay, you take that guilt to them, like drive, maybe a bit of research and Okay, where can in the future? Where's the better place I can take this item, maybe old towels I can take to an animal shelter. And then having that list, but then combining that with like, like some questions ask before buying new things, I think are more kind of impactful and sustainable in the long term. So like, just do the not not perfect thing now. And then give yourself some time to like, kind of do better moving forward. Yeah, I
mean, I think in some ways, there's like, in some ways that what you've just said is like, kind of inevitable to happen. You know, I mean, I feel like there's definitely times I've like, hung on to like a couple of bags of thing I need to do, I don't want them, I need to do something. But then I haven't. And I've just got to a point where I'm like, I'm just like going to chuck them, you know? Or they're just like taking up space. On maybe it's better just to, like, get to that point intentionally. Like you say, and just being like, Okay, I've got all these things. Yeah, I don't know, it feels like hard to say that, because you'll it's kind of most of the time like a shitty option. But then, yeah, then on the other hand, like you say, a lot of the things that we do, thinking that they're like having a positive impact, or take away our guilt, you know, like, Oh, I'm like donating, I'm recycling, etc, etc. They don't really have the image that we think they have. And even if you've done the research, and you know, I mean, you still do I still do I need
to do something based on that research. So like, and what that would be would look differently. Because one thought I had was that, yeah, like, it is nice to have that thought that you're going to donate something and have some sort of impact, like, Goodwill is like one of the most popular thrift stores in the US. And a lot of the proceeds go to like, providing jobs and like supporting local community like it is good, but like I think only about half of like the clothing actually gets resold. And then from there, it gets resold to like, other third parties, like, do they call them like clothing sell salvagers, or I forget, like the article. And then it just kind of goes down and down from there, whether it gets shipped to another country or incinerated or landfill.
Right. Yeah, and I do think as well, I mean, then this goes back to like, buying better. But it's like,
yeah, like striving, like, get on the show notes. Yeah, spending money. But
it's like, if you, if you buy better quality clothes, if you can, you know, obviously afford to, then it's likely that when you get to a point, when it doesn't fit, it's not your style anymore, whatever, that you'll be able to donate it and it will actually be be resold or someone might genuinely want it. Whereas like the clothes or that are very, like fashion specific, like trends specific items, then it's obviously going to be harder, right for those items that either have the the quality necessary or like to be even interesting to someone you know,
right? Because a lot of these, like the articles and the articles I was reading, were saying that like most stores, whether it's a thrift store or consignment stores, places like the US Buffalo Exchange, plato's closet that they buy your clothes for, like a low price and on the spot, and then resell it, that they specially those like, they can only take, like, current, like trends, so that that in a way Actually Actually, I think perpetuates the like, buy what's like, in season and then like, donate it quickly, because then they're big. They're only gonna buy it from you. Okay, that's like in season, obviously in good condition as well. Right. Was I reading? Oh, that that there was a line in the article about like resale apps, which, you know, I am a big fan of vintage and occasionally have some issues over indulging in it a bit. But there was this article on the atlantic.com, like that was talking about the downside of resale apps is that they're a lot of work for the sellers, which is why often I don't bother. She talks about going back and forth to like local post office, local consignment or retail stores can take some of the legwork out of like, you know, packaging and going and selling the item and shipping it yourself. The bigger issue that is that recent apps and services aren't really go away. Sorry, my Grammarly is blocking. The next sentence is that resource and services aren't really a bulwark against overconsumption even though they feel that way. And even though they're often marketed as buying secondhand is definitely preferable to buying and discarding brand new stuff. But if you're constantly cycling through clothes and chasing trends, and you're still just as much caught in the teeth of the fashion system as the rest of us, which I read that I was like, Oh, yeah. Guilty. Feel like I've just substituted like, you know, shopping at like pre mark for vintage. But I'm still like consuming similarly.
So that's another like a kind of big a mindset one, isn't it? Yeah. Yeah. Well, yeah, we've gone back to like the pre decluttering stuff. Yeah. So I think like, I think well, maybe as well. One thing going back to decluttering. If the things that you know, you don't want Want any don't think anyone else will want or that isn't in good quality to, to resell or whatever it will donate, then I think this is hard to do. But if you can sometimes break down a product into the separate parts, that increases the chance that something is recycled. Like, my, well, I was just thinking like, for example, like the like the skipping rope thing, if it's like, a plastic, skipping rope, maybe I don't don't know this, but like, for example, can you like, disconnect the handles? Because probably the handles on I don't know, maybe depending on the type of plastic, it might be possible for them to be recycled. Although plastic recycling is a whole other big issue. Yes. Or like removing, like breaking down? Or if it's like kind of like an old school skipping rope with like, wooden like rope. Like, again, breaking down those like two separate parts. You know, like fabric can maybe waste to be recycled. If it's like fabric base, maybe recycled separately. Like together? It can't be. Yeah, maybe. You know, or if you've got like an electronic item. Can you like, make sure you like take out the batteries, because those are quite easy to be like, like a good thing to like, try and recycle. Like take those to like a battery point. At least you know, like that step. Right? Because obviously, the more you know, and this is like just even for your like everyday recycling, like all those things, people. And by people I mean me like to think that will can be recycled. You know, like your your milk carton. Actually, a lot of the time it can't be recycled, because it's like two different materials like put, which is really hard to separate. But if there's some way you can help with that, like separation yourself. If it's possible, it might not be possible. Maybe that's a way.
Yeah. Or maybe get creative with like how you can do something like that skipping up like, right, I think you're, if that could be helpful. And like, I don't know, moving a mattress and tying it down to like, the back of your car. I don't know. I don't know why the right very specific use popped into my head. Because I've done that multiple times and even as secure as you think it is, before you hop on that highway. It's not as secure as you think. Okay,
yeah, but it's true, actually, like, you know, maybe yeah, you could use that length of rope, whether it's plastic or like fabric, you know, to get to do something with it.
Maybe even like designating like some place in your home. Whether it's a bin under the bed or a box in your garage is like okay, if I don't reuse this, if this is still in the box in however many months pick a timeframe for you. Three months, six months that Okay, then I'll get rid of it to give it like a chance before just immediately like tossing it. Yeah. And for electronics. I
know. So good. Sorry. I was just gonna say it was a good point. Thank you. That was a good playing branding.
Thank you. For electronics, I know there are in the new US and old laptop that I couldn't find someone to use. So I set I like wiped it as if it was like factory like a factory reset and then send it in for free and they they specialize in like recycling the parts of electronics. So that's an option. That's very dependent on where you are, whether that is available. Yeah, I think you know what I saw
in Madrid, which is so random. And I didn't know they did this. But you know, beneath the signs, like advert signs, you know, they're like the kind of thick and the bottom of them. They have the points for recycling batteries. Yep, I've seen as a bust. I was like, that's such like an ingenious like why I don't know, I like never I hadn't really noticed it until I was with someone who was like doing it. And I was like, Oh my God.
Yeah, and I think they have three there's like the regular batteries like double or triple eight. And I think there's like the tiny ones.
Like the flat the circle ones like circle ones. Yeah. And then there was the third one for like,
three I've only ever used those.
Yeah, there's like three holes. I don't know.
Anyways, yeah, just keep an eye on it. Even like in your local grocery store there might be like, like a container for batteries.
Or maybe this thing seasonal which again, this like fits with the like keeping something for X amount of time you know, basically it's like good quality and like usable but I'm just thinking like, again, for example with like toys or like good quality clothing items like you know if you can keep a hold of that for example until like kind of November time when there's often like drives for like, toys or clothes, you know, like winter clothing for homeless or like toys for children who might not get as much at Christmas? Again, those are quite specific things. But maybe there's things that are more like, certain times of the year, you're more likely to get rid of them in a way that's like, genuinely helpful.
Yeah, that came up in the articles I was reading about, like, don't donate winter clothes in the summer and vice versa. Like wait until it'll likely like actually get resold. And there's a need for it, right? Yeah, I ultimately think that like, you have to do some race your own research for like, the area you live like, where can you take coats? Like, is there an annual, like coat drive near you? Is there like, Are there animal shelters that you could kind of jot down and like bookmark for like a ticket for future, you know, linens that no longer no longer work? Like you don't want for whatever reason, especially if they're not in great condition, animal shelters, protect those. So like, if you want to, like, it's great if you have the energy and time to, like, do that now. But like, if you've done a big declutter, and like, have all of this shit, then yeah, I'm just going back to like, just get rid of it. And no, like, no and feel like the not so positive impact that it's having know that it's not like, it's not like, you know, sunshine and rainbows, it like, all of these things are gonna get reused by people, and then using that to drive like, your kind of future action that I think will be a bit more bite sized. Because ultimately, if you go into buying something, I think it's the mentality of like, bringing in new things to mentality you have when you bring in new things, is like trying to shift from, oh, when I no longer have use for this, I can donate it. I think going into it with the mentality of this will likely end up in landfill, I think is like a powerful thing that I've heard recently, and I want to start implementing. So assuming that, yeah, it will be like landfill? How, like, how does that make you feel then about buying the thing? Or bringing the thing and whatever it is? Right.
And I definitely, yeah, as well, like, similar to that, like really recognizing how long that you're buying will be around for, you know, and most things you buy will outlive by hundreds of years. Like, I mean, like most plastics, most fabrics, will take hundreds of years more to decompose than you will ever be alive. Which makes more fit. But is okay, is this thing worth and it might it might be and of course it's not all on you because we're in a society where things have been like designed in that way. And those are like the materials that are like available and commonly used or have been have been used commonly, even though that's changing. So obviously we are also limited around like what we can buy that's also like affordable. But yeah, those like to fact
it's interesting it's like there's no like oh shit, this is like a hard kind of gray area to navigate because on one hand I'm thinking like what you're saying like Okay, be kinder like to ourselves, like we're not in a system that's set up to like value things. What was the just sociologist and the minimalist documentary is that we Oh, how did she put it? We are no longer materialistic and like, the true sense of the word. But we are like overly materialistic and like the modern sense. So like, original sense the word I think she meant is like we value the materials, materialist materialism, like we value and appreciate all of these things. But then like modern day use, and I think I'm totally butchering this but the modern day use is more of like it's like I don't know how you look how you appear keeping up with trends and obsessed with like having things the materialism but like you don't really value the things so like a weird kind of mix so so yeah, we are in some ways like fighting a losing battle because we're surrounded by like all this pressure to bring in new things. which I know sounds like a different topic from decluttering but I think they're very much related and then because it to constantly bring in new things then you have to then get rid of the previous things so like this week's like last week's trend is no longer relevant to like this week's trends so we can make room for this week's Yeah, and there's just the sheer volume of stuff like it's hard to sustainably declutter recycle. Um, There's just so much of it. Yeah. So it's this like, okay, behind yourself finding losing battle, but also like, then I was, like I was saying earlier, like, let that guilt kind of drive you to like,
it's, I think it's just like feeling I'm trying to like, yeah, no, it does, because I'm just gonna like noting how I wrote. So I just like said that really harsh thing, which was, everything is going to outlive you. So you better be careful about what you're buying. And then I immediately wanted to, like, remove some of that guilt, right, like, and that's how I just like phrase it, and then I went, but actually, you know, which is also true. But actually, we live in a society where it's hard to do the right that thing. So there's like, tension, it's like, very hard to like, stay in that. You know, and also, it's hard to stay in that space of like, true Gill, true. Sadness, or like remorse, or like a heavy emotion. There's this, like, desire, I think, at least in me or my, but I think other people do it as well to like, then sue that emotion. But also, it's not completely productive to say in a space of like, guilt and shame and like, sadness, you know, I don't know, it's like, how do you like, navigate those two emotions together? Like, I don't know, we live in this system, we need to feel this guilt, or the shame or the sadness or this like frustration to like, drive action? Well, maybe we don't maybe that's not what drives action, maybe it's like hope and like, positivity. And that we can change
is tough because capitalism companies like want us to, to be in the cycle of like, consuming and getting rid of making room for more. So yeah, it is really hard to fight that. But it's, I mean, it kind of goes to the general like, trying to, like live your values more, it's like recognizing, like, individual action versus corporate action, like recognizing that, like, they are different things, but they are related. And you can like, understand and accept that like, okay, so like, society has impacted me negatively when it comes to consuming and like, and trashing a large number of things. But I have I, I do have a say, and I do have control over like what comes into my home. And then that can like I think have a ripple effect of that how people around you start like viewing things and maybe calling up their local shelter before just trashing their, you know, old towels. So I think, yeah, it only comes out like how important is it to you to take better care of your things. And that includes getting rid of them, like what happens to them after they know I have a use for you. Because if we live in a world that like people, so you can vote with your dollar and obviously it's very dependent on your horses, your socioeconomic status, like what you know, buying, like $50 ethically made t shirt over the $5 one because that is quite a big difference. You can also choose not to buy something, and then you have less to declutter. So it's hard to like, say, kind of general things when it is so dependent on like, you're not just where you are in terms of like the resources, you have to like to declutter your items, but like what's important to you? Right? So for me, I think the approach I'm gonna take is, like I have I have I use one of those, like granny carts, I don't know what the proper term is for them, like the grocery carts. So I have to have one to like, usually, to like bring like calendar up the stairs, because it's, it weighs a lot, but I what I do is I will put like clothing in it that I would like to get rid of and go to Amana, which I found some some articles on that. I'll link because I don't think we have time to talk about something I wanted to talk about in that article. Anyway. It's currently full of like clothing that I was getting rid of like I have bins under my bed I have one bin things that are too small and one bin of things that like I'm not sure about maybe at the season. And that's like my limit what fits in those bins is for that like two categories like that's, that's my limit. So I'm just I'm slowly going through and I like I have stuff to get rid of. And I'm going to take it to your mouth, excuse me, which was like a chain mostly clothing secondhand. But the articles I will say that it only 14% of the clothing gets resold and they are constantly doing like those sale days to like get rid of stuff like everything's four year old three to one euros to bring in the new stuff so but I've also been going through like since COVID Like of not just buying to like feel like to have some sort of control over what's going on in the world but also I wear different sizes now. And my style is also changing at the same time, and the type of clothing. So I'm in like a bit of like a weird period of like, I'm going through more clothing than I might normally,
then you have been. Yeah. So
see, I think I'm going to try to, to, like, set up new mindset. And my brain was like, Okay, this, if I bring this item home, it is unlikely to ever get used by anyone else. And then like, Ryan, the hope is that that will that will lead to fewer items coming in.
Right then yeah. Just saying, yeah. And then just get chucked away. But also Yeah, being.
So it's, it's there is no, it's like people's life work balance, there is no like, kind of like destination. And then you're there. It's, it's a constantly like evolving thing. Like, what do you have the capacity for right now? Do you have the time and energy to, to sort out your pile of stuff to get rid of to ensure that it gets either used or recycle properly? Or are you at a time where you just get rid of it? And then,
right. And sometimes getting rid of things gives you like a lot of mental freedom? Yes. So depending on the type of person you are, sometimes just having all those bags piled up. To me, it's such a like, in your mind, that it's also not particularly conducive, like isn't not productive to have that stuff, though.
So I give you listener permission to just get rid of it. And then put some sort of system in place, simple, sustainable system in place for you. To prevent this prevent you like feeling like this, again, in the future, feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff that you no longer want. So whether that's setting barriers, questions to ask yourself before bringing items in, or Yeah, coming up with some sort of resource list of places around you where you can better kind of donate specific items, like we mentioned. I don't know. I don't know what what that solution might look like for you. But this mindset thing is what I'm going to try. What about you, we have three minutes left?
Um, what am I going to do? I? Great question two minutes. 55. I think I don't know if there's anything. Law specific. Maybe Yeah, maybe I'll take that permission to just throw away some things and also maybe investigate a few more. Like, swap them sure there's like Facebook's swap. Oh, yeah. There's so many Whatsapp group. You know, maybe there's like, do that research now, like you say, for like, when I next one, something, maybe like keeping a bit of a list of things that I've got in the back of my head that I want to try or want to do? So I'm not just kind of, you know, I'm like, an impulsive. shopper. I'm like, oh, I need that thing. And then I'm just like, okay.
Yeah, I am doing Absolutely.
Right. All right. Listen, I was, let us know, at doing a big declutter in January,
or February, March, whatever, whatever you're listening to this
way, whenever you're listening. Let us know what you've done with the things or the things that you've like found a great solution for things you find most difficult to get rid of? Yeah, let us know. Send us a voice note.
Voice Note the TM sustainable living.com/contact. We'll share it in a future episode. Or on Instagram, living, you know where we are.
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All right, Give-a-Shitter, tea you later. Get it? Tea you later? As in, see you later? So punny…
Transcribed by https://otter.ai