‘You’re not packing those!’ I shrieked at my friend as I grabbed a huge pair of plastic novelty sunglasses that said HAPPY NEW YEAR 2002 on them from one of her moving boxes.
She laughed and tossed them back in the box and said ‘Oh I’ll probably get rid of them when we unpack at the new house.’
‘Why not get rid of them now?’ I demanded.
I totally get it. Throwing things away is really hard, particularly if you fancy yourself to be a friend of the environment. If you were a child or teenager in the 80s/90s it’s likely you grew up with an excess of ‘stuff’. Cheap manufacturing peaked in this era and there was a massive influx of $2 shops and bargain style stores which meant that almost anyone could buy almost anything for a fairly small amount of money. Which seemed like a good thing at the time but actually resulted in an excess of landfill and most people embracing a disposable, buy-it-cheap-and-replace-it-cheap lifestyle. It also resulted in a lot of hoarding, particularly for older generations who lived through wars and depressions. They were taught to never waste anything and keep things for a rainy day which is obviously excellent but this philosophy needs a little bit of adjusting in an era where everything is affordable and plentiful.
If you’re a hoarder it’s probably for one of three reasons.
1. You’re afraid of throwing away something that you might need in the future.
2. You hate waste.
3. You have sentimental attachments to lots of stuff.
All of these reasons are totally valid, however, if you allow each of them to become excuses you won’t ever throw anything away and then you’ll become like one of those people on TV with 16 birds in your house that don’t live in cages and your couch is a stack of newspapers from 1992. Here’s how to throw things away that are cluttering up your life. I’m talking about items that are useless, broken or un-giftable. I’m a huge believer in giving items away and recycling things but sometimes, sometimes you’ve got to be a grown up and chuck that stuff away. Here’s how.
How to Throw Things Away Like A God Damn Grown Up
Old Magazines and Newspapers
Most magazines are monthly and most newspapers are daily so by the time the new edition of either has been released, the previous edition should be gone from your home. If you collect certain magazines, that’s fine, but limit your collections to one or two titles or be super brave and ditch this habit completely. I used to collect Frankie magazines but after a few years I realised I had a pile of out-of-date magazines that I never had the time to re-read so their only purpose seemed to be making moving house a nightmare. Although it’s a beautiful publication and letting go of the collection wasn’t easy, I haven’t once regretted ditching them. I actually tried to give them away but no one wanted them so I took them to my local primary school for the art room. You may be really attached to your 30-year-old mint condition collection of Wallpaper magazines but what purpose do they serve other than to add clutter to your life? If the collection brings you joy, by all means, keep it but if all you’re doing is lugging it around in a storage box and moving it from the corner of one garage to another, you might want to consider donating them.
I was at a friend’s house not long ago and he was packing up dinner leftovers. He grabbed a plastic container from the cupboard, and although the container was clean he saw that there was a ring of crusty and irremovable scum around the inside of the container, he said ‘Ew!’ and promptly put it back in the cupboard and selected another container. Throw. That. Shit. Out. I understand that people hate waste, believe me I’m a toothpaste tube cutter from way back but if something in your home becomes un-useable through wear and tear you need to throw it away. You could also chuck it in a corner of the garage with 50 other gross plastic containers to use ‘one day’ but I can guarantee you will only use about 5% of them. Be in control and throw it away, or see if there’s a primary school nearby that might be able use them for art or gardening.
If socks have holes in them, throw them away. Laddered tights? Throw them away. Underwear that has lost it’s elastic? In. The. Bin. I love to upcycle and recycle as much as anyone but there are very few ways for you to reuse shreds of material that have spent years cupping your nether regions. You can absolutely use them as rags in your own home but if you already have a giant pile in your garage you seldom use, just pick them up and chuck them in the bin. Check with your local charities and see if they accept used underwear (in my experience, most don’t) but if you can’t find a use for your old skanky grundies, get rid of them.
If you offer it to friends and there’s no takers you have few options other than to chuck it in a corner of your garage because you can’t bring yourself to throw it away OR you can just throw it away. Chuck it in a hopper, take it to the tip or leave it on the street for hard rubbish collection if your city does that. If it’s broken and un-fixable and no one else wants it, get rid of it. There is absolutely no point in keeping furniture that is broken beyond repair. If you take it to your local tip, they might even put your broken furniture on sale in their parts store so it can be re-used.
Confession: I’m a bit of a sap and if there’s one thing that I tend to hoard it’s little notes, birthday cards and random little gifts from friends that I’ve collected over the years. I keep anything truly meaningful like cards from Mr Smaggle or special letters from friends but I ditch EVERYTHING else. Any card that says ‘Dear Carly, have a rad birthday love from Insert Friends Name’, wedding invites, birthday invites, thank you cards, Christmas cards, cards from students and crap from old boyfriends get thrown in the bin. I have a friend who has about 10 shoeboxes, each one dedicated to an ex-boyfriend and she’s happily married now. What is she keeping that stuff for? I understand keeping a sweet note or necklace from an ex but a whole box full of crap including an empty Maltesers packet from the first time you went to the movies is a bit overkill, especially if you aren’t even with that person anymore. Grab all that stuff, shred it and recycle it.
Bank Slips and Misc Papers
You only need to keep the last 7 years of your payment slips, bank statements and tax return documents. The rest can be shredded and recycled. What about that box of papers you brought home from that job you quit 10 years ago? Do you need those? Nope. Didn’t think so. Recycle them. What about every university assignment you’ve ever done? That poorly researched essay that you wrote about Madame Bovary that you got 51% for? Do you need that? Nope? Recycle it. What about all the text books you spent a fortune on and weren’t able to sell? Recycle them. Giving stuff like this valuable real estate in your home isn’t going to give you more value for money out of them. Ditch them.
DVDs and CDs
It’s been about 8 years since I’ve had a DVD or CD player in my home, however, up until about a 4 years ago, I had shelves FULL of CDS and DVDS. I finally copied all my CDS and DVDS onto a hardrive and I donated the hard copies to charity and to be perfectly honest if Spotify and Netflix had been as awesome back then as they are now, I wouldn’t have even wasted four days copying them. I know this sounds drastic and many people can’t cope with the concept of ditching all their CDS but if you literally can’t remember the last time you put a disc in a machine then you need to cleanse yourself of that mess.
Also… Don’t Buy Cheap Shit
This is the most important point. If you continue to spend money on poorly manufactured crap your imprint on the earth is going to be massive. It took me a really long time to realise that buying one horrible $20 fry pan every year adds up to a beautiful $120 (on sale) Scanpan over the course of six years. Same goes with plastic lunch containers. 10 x $3 supermarket lunch containers = 1 awesome glass Pyrex lunch container that will last for ages. Start making better purchasing choices and you’ll save both the planet and your wallet.