This past Sunday, my husband and I loaded our car with old paint, cleaners, toiletries, medications, electronics and cables and brought them to Prospect Park for the bi-annual SAFE Disposal event. We’ve been doing this for several years and it’s perfect motivation to get our spring cleaning into gear. While we don’t hold on to clutter, it always amazes me how much builds up year after year.

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What I noticed about preparing for this event was that it was very easy to focus only on the items they take. I simply focused on the places in my home where we store these items. For us it was predominantly the downstairs closet, laundry room and bathrooms. It made me think that those who are having trouble with overwhelm in dealing with their clutter can simply focus on one category to recycle. We want to find ways to celebrate an easy win, that offers some relief and also creates momentum.

One of the top clutter causes I see are plastic bags, known in the recycling world as plastic fIlm. These can’t be recycled with your regular recycling as it will jam up the machinery. Try this: focus for 10 minutes in each room and closet of your home and collect all the plastic bags, bubble wrap and used (but clean) ziplock bags. Bag them all up and check with your local supermarket to see if they accept them - most do. I take mine to the Whole Foods Customer Service counter, easy peasy.

After the first big purge of plastic bags, you will want to designate an area to collect other plastic film until your next trip to the market. Once you start to recognize how much and how often plastic film is coming in, you may be surprised at how this awareness shifts your purchases.

By introducing this as a habit in your home, you can make it a bit competitive. Whoever brings the most plastic film into the home each week has to make the trip to the store to return them. I introduced this in my home and it actually changed our pattern of behavior. We started to cook more because if neither of us wanted to suggest ordering in because neither of us wanted to take responsibility for the bag. We now carry totes or just use our backpacks to bring groceries home. This hasn’t become a burden, it’s just a new rule we both have adopted.

With these small changes and by creating easy rules for protecting the planet, you may be surprised at how easily you start to lighten up in your home. Check back next week to learn about responsible clothing recycling options.

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