Green Decluttering

This post is my contribution to the January Green Moms Carnival: “Green Decluttering” hosted by Amber.

I am not an expert in cleaning, especially since Joshua was born. I honestly see no reason to continue to clean the same thing when you can’t even see the dirt there.  If something’s not visibly dirty, I’m not going to clean it.

However, clutter does bother me.  As a teacher, my biggest clutter problem is paper. Piles and piles of paper.  The only thing I’ve found to really remedy the paper pile problem is to not create the clutter in the first place.  In the past few years, I’ve made a real effort to not bring unnecessary paper into the house.   

Here are the best ways I’ve found to reduce my paper clutter at home:

  • Think before I print! I don’t keep my printer hooked up to my laptop at all times, so I actually have to walk into the other room to print.  This really helps reduce my printing because my laziness prevents it.  I have a pretty notebook that I write recipes in, so when I find one online, I copy it down into the notebook.  I’m sure you could do this electronically as well, but I like the notebook method.  
  • Only do work electronically at home.  I don’t bring lesson plans or assignment papers home.  I have them all saved on my computer, so it’s easy to work on documents on the laptop.  The only papers I bring home are ones I have to grade, and I haven’t yet found a way to reduce them!
  • Reduce and then immediately sort junk mail! When I get the mail, I only bring the important items into the house.  The rest of the mail stays in my car (we have a long driveway!) to wait for recycling day or goes right into the recycling bin.  I’ve tried to reduce our junk mail by removing my name from lists, but we still get junk almost every day.
  • Cancel the newspaper! You can read the news online for free.  Or watch it on TV.
  • Pay bills online or set up automatic payments.  You won’t need stamps or envelopes and you won’t ever have a late payment.
  • Immediately recycle envelopes and used scrap paper.  These papers only contribute to clutter and make your piles bigger.  You can save them to write on, but I’ve found that I’d rather use a contained notebook than disheveled scraps of paper.

Just like so many other aspects of being green, reducing consumption is a necessary first step.  The best way to declutter is to prevent clutter in the first place.  Now if only I could apply what I know about paper to toys…

Any tips on reducing toy clutter? I just throw them in a basket so far!

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15 Comments

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15 Responses to Green Decluttering

  1. The toys are never-ending, it’s true. My kids are the first grandchildren on both sides, and we are showered in toys. I do my best not to contribute to it myself, but there’s only so much I can do about everyone else.

    And thanks for the tips on reducing paper clutter! I think I really need to be more proactive about reducing and getting rid of junk mail. The piles of it that I have around are really pretty pointless.

  2. I open mail at my recycle bin, can chuck it in all at once.

  3. Heather

    First, I love your blog. Second, your recipes are delicious. I have tried several and I have never been disappointed :-)

    As for the toys: I try to only keep a few toys out at a time. Rotating the toys keeps them interesting and reduces the clutter.

  4. I’m sending this to my mum — she has a major problem with clutter and is a HS science teacher too!

    A possible way to declutter toys (for when he’s a little older maybe) is to keep them in bins out of reach, but possibly within sight so that he has to specifically ask for those toys. If he doesn’t ask for them for 6 months, toss ‘em!

    I’m just brainstorming — don’t actually have kids as of yet. :-P

  5. ctdaffodil

    rotate the toys in and out of play. Keep a small (laundry size) basket with them in it. Maybe invest in 2 matching (yikes)) plastic laundry baskets one to keep in the closet full of out of play toys and one with the in play toys. I only say plastic laundry basket because, it has been my experience that you can’t wash spit up out of a wicker one. I’ve recycled my plastic laundry baskets from toy bins (kept under the train table) into actual laundry baskets, one hold pool toys, one goes back and forth to the garden.

  6. Toy clutter is always an issue, especially if you have more than one kid! We try to limit the toys coming in first. But still I think they are like rabbits!

    We bought 3 containers with clear drawers for kids to store like belongings in. Yes, it’s plastic, but it’s also flexible and has evolved with their needs. We also have a few “sports” tubs to put their larger, off-sized things in as well.
    Love the ideas on paper clutter. With a kindergartener, it’s a worse problem than ever!

  7. Pauline

    Hi Amber from Australia,
    Love your blog. I just showed my husband your ‘de-cluttering’ as he is a big hoarder as well as a printing queen and your pictures on the blizzards.
    Here at the moment, it is very hot (I live in the capital, Canberra) however up North in Queensland and now in Victoria, massive flooding is happening. Very sad :(.
    On the de-cluttering, I was a teacher and very conscious of printing things. Now that I work in an office, I try and get my colleagues to print on both sides of the pages or really think about their printing (however, it seems to falling on deaf eyes as our boss does not like the printing on both sides of the paper). With the toys, when my boys were little we would keep three boxes and rotate the toys every three months. The boys thought it was great. Anyway, keep warm and keep up with the great blog. Pauline

  8. For us, I decided we did have too many toys after we saw what Indian kids lived with and we moved to a smaller house. I think we gave away 80% of what we had and we rotate the rest. Anna is 6 and Lilly is 10 months. For the toys that are out Lilly’s would fill one tub*, Anna would fill four. Stored we have four tubs for each kid. Anna’s friends come over to play and I don’t hear them say “Anna you don’t have enough toys.” In fact when it is time for Anna to clean up her room for the night she tells us she has too many toys to put away. All hers are displayed on bookshelves, I am thinking maybe we should make her a toybox so she can just dump it in.

    For a while we had the shredder in the garage to destroy the junk mail before it came into the house. You are right it is nice to stop it from even getting in the house.

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  10. Your little boy is so adorable. Sniff. I remember those days. I used large plastic bins to separate the toys and kept them along the side of the room. Cars, blocks, etc. I have 4 kids so you could imagine the amount of toys I had.

    Love your paper busting ideas. One less item to worry about.

  11. We have a problem with paper clutter too. It’s drawn to the dining room table like a moth to a flame.

  12. With toys, I try to avoid redundancy. I see that you have two walkers there in the picture. You could put one away in storage. I’ve also made it clear to people in my life that we really prefer not to have a lot of toys, since we live in a small space.
    I go through the toys on a regular basis and chuck/give away toys that have been outgrown, are broken, missing pieces or just flat out annoy me with all their noises and lights!
    As for containing what we do have, I have a bunch of baskets that I toss the small toys in. Kitchen stuff stays with the kitchen. Baby dolls get tossed into the doll crib. And bigger things, like her rocking horse and dolly stroller, I keep on the perimeter of the room. Josh is too young right now but when he gets to be older, you can work with him on putting toys away. We encourage our 2 year old to put one toy away before taking out another to play with, and we also help her clean up the toys before naptime and bedtime.

    When it comes to toys, less is more, and quality trumps quantity!

  13. My main way to reduce clutter and be environmentally friendly is to use clothe dish rags to dust and polish things and not use paper towels. I try to not use more than one paper towel roll a month as an individual. I don’t have kids, but when I baby-sit, I make sure when I do pick up, I check to make sure I recycle some of the clutter you talked about. I try to recycle newspapers and aluminum a lot and if I can’t do it there, then I try to take it home with.

  14. It’s astonishing how much junk mail we get — most of it cash-advance checks from our credit cards, like, every other day, even though I’ve never ever ever used them. Sigh.

    We just did a big toy purge. We have a consignment shop locally where we can get actual money (or store credit) for the stuff that’s worth selling, so that’s an incentive. We asked ourselves what Mikko truly played with and what he hadn’t touched for months. We didn’t involve him in the process, because he’s 3, but I can see that might need to change soon.

    Want to hear something heartbreaking about paper decluttering? (that probably doesn’t apply to anyone else — don’t worry) I did a bunch of it, following online guides about what papers the IRS requires you to keep — and then I was audited by the state of Washington instead, and they had a whole different list, and I had shredded a bunch of the paperwork I needed! I about cried. Now I still paper declutter as much as I can, but I’m sure to save as many digital files as I think I might need.

    So next I need some tips on digital decluttering…

  15. I routinely clean out our closets and toy bins, but lately it seems like despite the toy and clutter control efforts in place at our home, the battle is being lost. I’m sure it’s only going to get worst with us expecting baby #4 in just a couple of weeks!

    My friends and I recently discussed how we keep tabs on the toys and clutter in our homes. Some of us only allow for one toy/game to be played with at a time. Other friends said they ask for lessons and memberships to zoos as birthday gifts for their kids in lieu of more toys. We unanimously said that we rotate the larger toys (the bigger toys are kept in the garage and only a new one is allowed in the house once the previous one has been put back in the garage).

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