Why We Should Stop Throwing Everything Away

The urge to purge takes many forms: spring cleaning, back-to-school organizing or a New Year’s resolution to minimize and prioritize better. It’s no secret that our consumer culture leads to lots of stuff. The average American home size has more than doubled since the 1950s, to more than 2,300 square feet. That’s a lot of space for clothing, furniture and athletic gear.

Why We Should Stop Throwing Everything Away

Of course, possessions in and of themselves aren’t inherently bad. In fact, many have sentimental value or have been given to us or made by loved ones. However, once a home becomes overrun with possessions, it can be hard to get organized and differentiate.

Our first instinct might be to roll out a dumpster and chuck it all. Understandable, but not responsible from an environmental or emotional perspective. So how can you get your things under control without throwing them all away?

Why not donate, hold onto heirlooms or find a new purpose for your things by upcycling them? Here is a closer look at how and why we can stop throwing everything away.

Give to Others by Donating

Americans are great at making trash. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we create almost 4 1/2 pounds of waste a day for a total of more than 250 million tons of trash every year. This consumer mentality isn’t good for us and it’s not good for the environment.

How much of that trash could be used by others? Lots of it. Sure, lots of people will throw a bag of clothing we bought five years ago into the donate bin, but what about giving from the clothes we still wear?

Our kids’ closets are particularly ripe for this movement to minimize. They receive so many gifts from well-meaning relatives and friends, but they certainly don’t need an entire closet of clothes or an entire playroom of toys. By engaging our kids in the donation process, we can teach them about needs versus wants and about compassion for others. 

Hold Onto Heirlooms

If you are lucky enough to be the recipient of family heirlooms, think long and hard before including them in your latest purge. While that antique table may not fit into your midcentury modern vibe, it is a sign of the love and care your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents took in preserving something special for your family. Other family heirloom items that are worth preserving are clocks, old-fashioned toys, jewelry, letters, diaries and furniture.

Find New Purpose by Recycling  

About 25 percent of Americans with two-car garages have packed so much stuff in them that they can’t actually use them to park their cars, and 32 percent don’t have room for one vehicle. We are cluttering ourselves out of our own homes, and within that unused clutter are potential new-to-you finds.

There are many ways to repurpose your old stuff into new treasures, like turning a ladder into a bookshelf or an old television set into an aquarium.

Ever look around your home or apartment and wonder, “where did all this stuff come from?” If so, resist the urge to throw everything into the trash. Instead, consider donating, identifying family heirlooms or items of familial importance, and looking for opportunities to recycle or upcycle.    


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Bobbi Peterson loves writing and regularly posts on her blog Living Life Green. She’s also a freelance writer, green living advocate and environmentalist. You can find more from Bobbi on Twitter.

Author: Bobbi Peterson

Bobbi Peterson loves writing and regularly posts on her blog Living Life Green. She’s also a freelance writer, green living advocate and environmentalist. You can find more from Bobbi on Twitter.

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  1. Hi, Bobbi! Good food for thought in this post, and good timing for me. We’re in the process of downsizing and getting ready to move, so that means going through everything in the house. It is tempting to just chuck everything because it’s the easy thing to do, but there are plenty of better ways to deal with it. I’ve made a list of items to give away and have offered them to family first. Whatever isn’t claimed will be donated to charity.

    Not so sure I agree with you about family heirlooms, though. If I don’t like something that was passed down, I’d ask other family members first if they would like to have it. If not, out it goes. Guess I’m just not very sentimental. 🙂

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    • Hi Marge! I’m so happy you enjoyed Bobbi’s post. I agree. Passing on to family members and charity makes me feel good. 🙂

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  2. I usually make toys for my son from the broken furniture. Not entirely is thrifty, it’s like the passion, I really enjoy doing that.

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    • That’s awesome Ray! I’m not very crafty, but that’s such a great way to put something old to good use!

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  3. Such thoughtful ideas of yours, that’s really nice!

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