Ask UfYH: When Your Trash Isn’t Trash

Q: I am moving come January or February 2015. This seems a lot of time, but, as you know, it is not. My problem is not really the “how to move” stuff. I get that (start now. NOW). I am traveling in an RV (which also needs some unfucking so I am starting there) and won’t be to that home ’til October.

However, it is some kind of trigger for me to throw stuff in the landfill.

When I know I am not taking it with me or using it and it has some use, I am OK giving it to thrift stores. What I CANNOT do is throw something usable in the trash. Trash, well, trash I can do — broken plastic things that can’t be recycled, etc. I have some sample cabinet doors that are very small and seem so cool. Do I just take them to Habitat for Humanity and let them deal with it? URG. There is so much of that stuff — I hate our wasteful society and it just sends me down a rabbit hole of beating myself and our civilization up.

Please just give me some useful advice on how to deal with getting rid of things that can’t seem to go to thrift stores. 

A: I absolutely always advocate using every possible resource to keep from just trashing stuff. Donating and recycling are generally my first suggestions, but there’s a whole lot more as far as resources go if you’re committed to not throwing things out. Some ideas:

  • Contact shelters and schools to see if they have lists of things they’ll accept as donations.
  • If you have a school with an art program nearby, contact them and see if they might be interested in some of the odds and ends.
  • Sites like Freecycle or Craigslist. You’d honestly be surprised at what some people will pick up curbside.

There is this notion, though, that unloading our stuff on other people (especially in the form of donations to thrift stores and charities with broad donation policies) is the best solution to dealing with that stuff. While it is certainly the most common and easiest way to purge your home of extra items, many people don’t realize or choose not to recognize that much of our old crap is just as useless to charities as it is to us, and so we’re treating donation centers as way stations where the items are handled again, and ultimately end up in the landfill anyway. These organizations receive untold amounts of unusable stuff  from people, and they have to use resources to sort, assess, and often dump it. It’s a misconception that all organizations that take donations can and will use all of the things that people “donate.” Too often, it’s really just trash, and we’re assuaging our own guilt about our consumerism by making our stuff someone else’s problem. So it pays for everyone to be a little more thoughtful with donations and make sure what you’re giving away is going to be used, and not that you’re just dumping the problem in someone else’s lap.

And, of course, there is the flip side of this. When you realize how much of what we have ends up as garbage, let that act as a catalyst to put a little more thought into what it is you’re consuming. The more conscious the choices we make from the start of the consumer cycle, the less we’re likely to be contributing to the trash problem.

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[E] Rachel

I punctuate sentences with Oxford commas, and I punctuate disagreements with changesocks. Proud curmudgeon. Get off my lawn.

One thought on “Ask UfYH: When Your Trash Isn’t Trash”

  1. #NotAllCharityShops

    We donate a lot to The Red Cross and Shelter, and here anyway, they recycle what they can’t use and with things like textiles, they get money for what they recycle, so they get all our old clothes and fabric. We do though label the bags to make it a little easier.

    I do struggle with this though. We’re clearing out a lot at the moment and non-clothes things feel horrid to throw out but then, if we didn’t, they’d simply be doing nothing here. When I have to chuck things, I try to treat it as a lesson for myself to be more conscious of what I’m bringing into the house in the first place.

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