Welcome in the New (Year) by Recycling and Giving Away the Old

When the holidays are over, the long cold days of winter have just begun. Most of us spend a lot of time indoors. Why not put that time to good use. In fact, winter is the perfect time for a little bit of spring cleaning “_.or rather recycling, especially your wardrobe. Many of us either buy new clothes for the holidays or receive them as gifts. If your drawers and closets have become overcrowded, give some of it away. Recycling your old clothes is a great way to help those who are less fortunate. My modus operandi is this: I cannot bring something new into the house without giving something away”_.an even exchange if you will. Something new comes in and something old goes out.

Recently I had a dinner party and I asked my guests if I could take their coats. When I opened the coat closet in the foyer, there was not one empty hanger. One of the guests asked who else lived in the house with me. “I live alone”, I replied and only later realized why the question was asked. I must admit that I was a bit horrified that I had accumulated so many coats and jackets. In a country of blatant consumerism, and with many people in need, I realized that I certainly had done my part to keep the economy going but that I needed to give back. I made a promise to give away all the coats, jackets and other articles of clothing that I had not worn in two years. I had an epiphany about what going “green” really means. Going “green” is not just about the environment. It’s an attitude about life. I realized that being “green” is also about recycling anything, including clothing. Since I had decided a while ago to live a “green” lifestyle, I gathered more jackets and coats than I care to mention and donated them.

The idea is simple. Find a new home for the things we don’t use by either giving them away to a friend or neighbor who can use them or donate them. Many articles in our homes that we have tired of would be welcome additions in other homes such as furniture, books, CD’s, tapes, DVD’s, pet toys, children’s toys, kitchen tools and utensils, lawn furniture, bicycles. The list is virtually endless. What are you hiding in your garage and attic? Cleaning out your house and giving stuff away creates space for new energy and new ideas.

Hate to throw things away? Me too. I recently looked under my kitchen sink and found at least four glass flower vases. That started me wondering how many more of these I had stashed away because I didn’t want to throw them away. Can you believe I found ten flower vases? While I feel very fortunate to have been the recipient of so many beautiful flower arrangements, I felt guilty about throwing away perfectly good flower vases. So I put them in paper bags and took them to a local flower mart. At first, they thought I wanted to sell them. When they found out I just wanted to give them away, they were delighted to take them off my hands. Another “green” win-win situation.

I’ve also started recycling the wire hangers that come from the cleaners. How many of us remove the article of clothing and then ball up the hanger and throw it in the trash? Too many. They’re perfectly fine hangers and could be used again. I collect mine in a shopping bag that I leave in my closet. When the bag is full, I take it to my cleaners when I go to drop off or pick up dry cleaning. They were surprised at first and a bit took aback when I showed up with this bag of hangers. I explained that I felt bad about throwing them away and hoped that they could reuse them. I don’t know if they do or not, but I feel better when I try to limit my garbage and trash to what is absolutely necessary.

Ever trade stuff with your friends when you were a kid? I did. Well, how about trading with your grown-up friends? I recently received a lovely old garden dining set from a friend who wasn’t using it anymore. She was happy to give it to me with the stipulation that I never paint it. I agreed wholeheartedly because it had such a beautiful patina. In exchange, her husband went shopping in my coat closet. Remember the overloaded coat closet I mentioned earlier. Well, not only did he pick out a couple of coats, he was also the recipient of several sweaters that I had not worn in a few years. It was a trade made in heaven. So, why not trade with your friends. You never know. Something old to you is something new for someone else.

There are many places to recycle household goods in your community. Libraries often have annual book sales and would love to have your old books. Homeless shelters, halfway houses, and other community sponsored homes may be in need of your old computers, televisions and other electronics. Call them and ask them what they need. You never know what you might have that they might need.

The Household Goods Recycling Ministry (HGRM) in Acton, Massachusetts is just one of many not-for-profit agencies that collect, store, and distribute furniture and household goods. Search in your state under “household recycling” to find one near you.

Renovating your kitchen? Did you know that you can donate your old kitchen cabinetry and appliances to Recovery Unlimited? Recovery Unlimited is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization and donations are tax deductible. Instead of destroying something perfectly useful, let someone in need benefit from your gift. You get the gift of “green” and the satisfaction of know that not only did you not contribute to a landfill, some deserving family will have the kitchen. It’s a win-win.

Cars can be donated to charity as well. There are many organizations that accept cars and give you a tax deductible donation receipt including the SPCA, the Red Cross, the USO and countless others. Check out DonateACar.com to find hundreds of places to donate your car to state. If you are a charity and would like to be part of the program where you can accept car donations, go to [email protected] for information.

As you can see, almost anything can be recycled. So this winter season, why not get in the “green” groove and get rid of all those items catching dust in your home. If you haven’t used it in a year, chances are you not likely to ever use it again. Let someone else benefit from your generosity. You’ll feel good knowing you did something nice for someone else, for the environment and for yourself.

And there you have it.