Clean up at home, save cash and help the environment

 Have you ever stopped to think how much stuff you have? Do you even remember exactly what you own, down to the last mismatched sock in your drawer or screwdriver in your toolbox? A big cleanup around the home, shed and yard can lighten your environmental impact and save money.

When it comes to hardware fixtures and fittings, I can be a bit of a pack rat. The thing is, I’m not particularly handy. I’m like lightning with a hammer as I never strike twice in the same place. There’s a part of me that wishes I could don a tool belt, grunt appropriately and actually know what I’m doing. Regardless of my limitations, my ambitions often exceed my capabilities and if I see screws, hinges and bits and pieces on sale, impulse buying can kick in.

“I haven’t got one of those – I reckon I’ll be needing that for <insert project never to be completed here>”.

The problem is, often I do have one of those at home – or 6. Buying in bulk is green sometimes, but in these instances, it’s certainly not.

As this was a recurring problem with me, so I went through everything in my shed and was amazed at what I found. Memory refreshed, I won’t be buying any of “those” items for a while. Larger items or ones in quantity I inventoried and entered the details on a spreadsheet. A quick look at that before I go to the hardware store should keep me in check for a while.

OK, so it’s nice to be organized to a degree, but how does that benefit the environment? Well, I’ll not only be saving money, but the resources that go into the dozens of hinges, screws, nails, sealant or whatever I would buy otherwise – and all of these items are resource intensive. 

You can do the same in your home – go through your pantry, your cleaning cupboard, office supplies and kitchen cabinets and get familiar with what you own again. You may find you won’t have to buy any of product X,Y, Z for some time. Perhaps you’ll have products with a limited shelf life such as food items that need to be used soon – reducing food waste is a huge green step that many of us need to take.

You might come across items that can be recycled, allowing resources tied up in something  not being utilized to be reused. Perhaps you’ll find things you can give away or sell; possibly stopping someone from having to buy that item new.

The other benefit of a big cleanup at home is to discover if your household has become a domestic toxic waste dump. Cans of paint, old glue, automotive chemicals; just about every suburban street has enough toxic waste stashed behind those picket fences to do some real damage to the environment. 

I also did this a while back and was shocked at what had accumulated. As it was spread around the house and the shed in various cupboards and on shelves, I didn’t think we had much, but when it was all in a pile, I felt quite ashamed of myself. The exercise was good in two ways.

a) Now that everything is together, I can dispose of it responsibly at a proper hazardous waste facility when the opportunity arises.

b) Every time I buy products now, I think a little more about what is going to happen if I don’t use it all – it’s a form of precycling. This forces me to hunt around for non/less environmentally harsh products or buy a smaller quantity – and sometimes, buy nothing at all unless it’s really, really needed.

In some ways it’s very sad that many of use do not remember every single item we own. In some countries, people can as they own so little. Hyperconsumption is the root of many environmental problems and social issues. If you’re someone who does remember all you have because you’ve chosen to live a simple life; more power to you.