Linda Rauscher, a Chestnut Hill resident and self-professed tree hugger, has been an environmental educator in the Northwest for over 10 years. She is a sustainability enthusiast who serves on the Board of Green in Chestnut Hill and is passionate about the greening of Philadelphia.

by Linda Rauscher

De-cluttering is all the rage. Think Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” or “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter,” by Margareta Magnusson.

Decisions, decisions. Typically, decluttering is a “mindful” process of evaluating each item’ s utility or ability to “spark joy” as a measure of what to keep. But what if, say, your pipes burst — as mine did this summer — and your space was suddenly reduced by a quarter? Let the forced and harried de-cluttering begin. It was a sort of Kamikaze Marie Kondo.

As an environmental educator and sustainability enthusiast, my decisions were focused not so much on what to keep but on how to sustainably unload most of what I didn’t. I wanted to keep within the sustainability paradigm of reuse and recycle. I found this was a quite easy task in our area and an adventure at that.

First, there are great options for simply sharing functional items with your neighbors. One of these being the local “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook. A wonderful avenue for recycling your belongings amongst your neighbors. These groups are arranged by zip code to ensure the giving is local. You simply alert the community on your local Buy Nothing site of the item/items you are gifting, and folks respond by stating their interest.

The concept of Buy Nothing groups is that it establishes a gift economy. Folks express their interest, and the giver can use any criterion he or she wishes to pass the gift along. Unlike other sites, it does not operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Established in Bainbridge Island, Washington, it boils down to neighbors sharing resources and rejecting our current scarcity model. Since its inception,it has become a worldwide social movement with Buy Nothing groups in 30 countries.

Not only can material items be shared, but services such as cooking or guitar lessons can be as well. Almost anything you can imagine. It redistributes materials and services and in the end helps to build community. One of my gift recipients, who received a knitting book, started a knitting club with other members of the group. Another was thinking about offering cooking lessons with the pans she acquired. As long as the item or service is legal, the possibilities are endless. There are other options, however, if the Buy Nothing group doesn’t work for you.

“Freecycling” is another easy and effective way to redistribute your belongings and ensure they are not landfill-bound. Freecycling can be part of an organized event where items are donated and then made accessible to the public at a specific time or a specific place. For those requiring immediate gratification, however, an instant freecycle can be arranged as a Curb Alert on your community’s local Facebook Yard Sale site.

Unlike the Buy Nothing site, this Facebook group is set up for selling your wares, and you might deem some of your items sale-worthy and assign a price. However, you can also issue a Curb Alert informing your neighbors that you will be placing your things on the curb for the taking. I rarely have leftovers when I have issued a Curb Alert, but for those items not taken, I evaluate what can go to Salvation Army or Goodwill and what needs special recycling.

The Salvation Army will take almost anything. Items such as used batteries and certain electronics, however, must be handled separately as household hazardous waste. Throughout the year many communities like Chestnut Hill offer “weird waste days,” where you can feel confident that your hazardous waste is not going to the landfill. The next local electronics waste recycling day, sponsored by Weavers Way Coop’s Environment Committee, will be on Saturday, March 23, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Norwood-Fontbonne Academy. Also, the Streets Department offers hazardous waste recycling at its Domino Lane location.

So what about those items that you deem too valuable to merely give away? There’s always an in-real-life yard sale, online yard sale site or consignment. Regardless of what option you choose, it should “spark joy” knowing your once-loved items have found their way out of a landfill.

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