How to “declutter” without throwing anything away

plastic knife vertical

When 2016 started, I got a bee in my bonnet: I decided to go through everything I owned, and get rid of whatever I didn’t want anymore. I mean, how am I supposed to save the world with a messy desk??

Yeah, it was the Marie Kondo book, about how “tidying” (i.e., getting rid of all the crap you don’t need or want anymore) changes your life. Which I’m all for. But when push came to shove, this is what made it hard:

It’s not that I’m a hoarder. It’s that I’m an environmentalist.

Cart1Technically, I don’t even know what the word “environmentalist” means. (Anyone? Bueller?) I just know that one of my symptoms is that it’s physically painful to send something to a landfill.

I donated a BUNCHA stuff to Housing Works. A BUNCH. Clothes, shoes, books, household hoo-ha, artwork I was sick of looking at. You can see two loads of it in my badly taken pics (I need to work on my “hero” angle.) Cart2I also recycled a TON of papers. Anything metal was recycled, too. Plastic went into the bin as well, even though most of that will probably still end up in the Great Pacific Gyre, that continent-sized whirlpool of laundry detergent caps, plastic forks and the microbeads from your facial scrub. And you guys know that I even take my food scraps to the compost girl at the farmers market on Saturdays.

But what the heck do you do with something like THIS:


It’s some sort of duck thing that somebody gave me years ago. It’s made of felt, stuffed with I-don’t-know-what (sand? rice? plastic?) with a magnet glued onto the back of it so you can presumably stick it to…your refrigerator door? I put it in with the cat toys years ago, when Romeo was still around, so it’s too dirty to be donated (as if someone would want it). But the little tag says “Hand Made from the Heart.” And to top it off, it’s anthropomorphic, and clearly on some level I’m still 7 years old, because I can’t put the dang thing into the garbage without its sad eyes giving me nightmares.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 5.42.33 PM

Figure A  (I had NO idea there was ketchup in there!) (I hate ketchup.)

Oh, and speaking of plastic forks, I’d been shoving all the ones that came with my food deliveries (god, I’m a hypocrite, aren’t I?) into a shopping bag in a cabinet above the stove for years. A lot of said utensils are wrapped in a paper napkin and then shoved into a little plastic bag along with single-use salt & pepper packets (see Figure A for a visual deconstruction of one such utensil kit).

When I discovered how they were taking over the cabinet, rather than being used in some future/imaginary picnic for needy children, I didn’t know what to do. Now they’re just sitting on my kitchen counter. Waiting for me to find the strength to put them in the “recycling” bin under the sink. (They weren’t even used! They’re not single-use items, they’re “zero-use” items! Aagghghhh!! Help meeee…)


Wanna go for a swim?


That said, Kondo’ing my apartment allowed me to completely rearrange my bedroom, using my bookshelves to divide it visually into two parts, and creating a bad-ass workspace where I’m writing this now. I love my little light-filled “office,” and my cozy sleeping space lined with books on the other side. It’s still a BIG work in progress, just as is my saving the planet (or at least getting people to use less plastic).

And behold! My secret weapon, which I carry around with me, in case there’s any doubt that I’m a HUGE nerd:

Spork horizontal.jpg

(Remind me next time I’m on a date not to pull this out.)

Maybe in my next post I’ll share how I’ve started hounding Chiquita Banana and CVS into giving a hoot. (Remember that campaign? Anybody?) Follow me if you want a heads-up. Meanwhile, feel free to tell me how to find a home for all these damn plastic forks!! Or whatever else you’d like to say in the comments below.

Thanks for reading, peeps!

(And f’it, I’m gonna clean the cat hair off the duck and take it to Housing Works — maybe some crazy hoarder’ll want it for Easter.)


plastic forks

It’s kinda like art, right? (If only.)


7 thoughts on “How to “declutter” without throwing anything away

  1. Irene

    Hey babe! I relate to this week’s post 🙂
    I also have a collection of plastic cutlery from my take-out days! Which I also had some idea I’d keep for dinner parties or picnics. (But I always end up using real silverware for those.) And I, too, don’t know what to do with them!
    I (probably like you) rarely do take-out anymore. But the last times I have,I specifically told them not to include any utensils in the bag; to leave off the plastic bag [though that wasn’t always possible for the delivery-guy; I sometimes returned it to him to bring back to the restaurant!]; and also ask them to use paper containers or foil… But generally, I just avoid take-out altogether.
    I’m actually having a similar crisis over how to get rid of a tube of ‘microbead-scrub’ from back before I realized the crazy permanent damage those plastic microbeads do to the environment. There’s kind of no good way to dispose of it! I can’t flush it, of course; and If I throw it away, the plastic tube and the contents will end up in a landfill and seep into the ground and groundwater… So no matter what, this sucker is going to pollute. I still can’t believe it hasn’t been banned through legislation.
    (And of course I can believe it hasn’t been banned by legislation – in the corporate states of america).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Irene

    Sometimes I think plastic recycling is more dangerous than not, because it gives people the false impression that they can just keep using plastic and it is now somehow environmentally safe. That after you throw it in that bin, it will ‘be taken care of.’ But IT WON’T. It will NEVER COMPLETELY BREAK DOWN EVER! (Or not in human-span terms…) And they don’t even recycle all the plastic in those bins. Much of it — even the plastic with the ‘proper’ recycle-number — ends up in the landfill because there’s not enough of a market to financially sustain the recycling process. (As I understand it the markets wax and wane).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Deb

      Hi! Yup. Ya know how Seamless has a box you can check (well, YOU may not) if you don’t want the plastic utensils? I check it every time, and I ALWAYS get the utensils!! So as of last night (guilty), I have another plastic fork and spoon that came with my (vegan) takeout. But when I do takeout in person, I decline it all. The upsetting part is when you see them take the stuff out and put it “aside,” rather than back from whence they got it. And I agree on the danger of faux recycling.

      I have a whole other post planned for microbead scrub (as well as antibacterial soap!)



    1. Deb

      Oh my gosh, I love that site, Karina! I’ll feature it on the Facebook page (although I’m dubious about their being “reused”–mine come in all different sizes and shapes)…


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