Green Spot: It’s Ok to Toss Some Things

Trying to be ‘green’ is always an interesting thing to do especially in the New Year season of everyone wanting to get organized.  Why?  Well because you get into this somewhat odd debate with yourself about throwing things out.  Should you find another use for the item you want to toss, could somewhat else use it, or could I sell it in a garage sale? Or should it just be tossed into a landfill and be done with it?

For example, I recently got a new backpack to use a to/from work bag as a Christmas gift.  It’s to replace the bag I got for free when I started my first job post-university so the old bag is about nine years old and a buckle recently broke on it.  I could technically repair the buckle and someone else could use it, but really it’s an old work bag.  So does it really matter?

In the end I decided to just toss the bag.  Why? Well because I realized something important.  There are reasonable limits to doing the right thing and if you go to far to the dark green side you may end up unhappy about your life.  The old bag was just taking up space an not being any use to me.  Everyone I know has a work bag already so really the effort involved in repairing the bag and selling it was likely going to be pointless.  Keeping the bad would not make me any happier or improve my life in any way.  So it hit the garbage bin.

So this bring up an interesting concept.  If you want to get organized would you be better off not spending the money on new shelves, storage units or any other organization aid and just toss the stuff  you don’t need instead?  That way you are not consuming any new resources and you have less stuff in your life.  Obviously sell what you can first or give it to charity, but keep it reasonable. Not one really wants your old fry pan with a worn out non-stick coating.

Perhaps the obsession with not throwing stuff is wrong, when the real battle should be about reducing the new stuff you bring into your life. What do you think?  Do you toss things out easily and just avoid new things or do you try to reuse as much as possible?

10 thoughts on “Green Spot: It’s Ok to Toss Some Things”

  1. You bring up a really good point. If you buy less stuff, you have less stuff to manage at home and less stuff to throw out when its no longer useful. An example I’ll use is the ‘Slap Chop’. It looks like a great device to save some time, but how do the celery and carrots get small enough to fit underneath the slap chop in the first place? The answer: They had to be cut down to size with a knife. So, it makes sense to continue using the knife to finish the cutting job and forget about having the the slap chop. The slap chop is just extra stuff to store in the kitchen. Another example is a replacement backpack (same example as yours). I went looking to buy a new one after a rip occurred in my old one. Suitable replacements were over $50. I decided that I didn’t need a new one and instead stitched up my old one. I had fun stitching, something I haven’t done in over a decade. A final example are my vehicles. Instead of replacing my 93 caravans (one winter, one summer), I’m continuing to maintain them. They’re cheap to run and they’re reliable, but I certainly don’t score any cool points. The paint touch-ups are starting to look like bad bruises, but hey, they aren’t in the landfill yet and they carpool myself and four others faithfully back and forth 60kms to work from Monday to Friday. So, I guess you could say I avoid new things and am a reuser. I’m certain I’m saving more money by doing so. It might be one reason why I was able to be debt free, living in a big city on a single income with three kids, at 33.

  2. I think that this stance is a little more viable then a non-consumerist, who refuses to buy any new things (http://thenonconsumeradvocate.com/). Although I can appreciate not buying anything new and enjoy some of the lengths that this particular writer goes to not buy anything new (repairing and otherwise), at the same point it becomes more of a hassle then a money or resource-saving practice. I think it’s great that there are people who are essentially using up the last say 50% usefulness of a depreciated product, but that’s not really my thing.

    I tend to go for quality goods (shoes, clothes, golf equipment that will last) that I hope I won’t have to replace for years.

    I am the worst at throwing things out, I probably would have kept the bag and my spouse would have tossed it.

    I read somewhere (I forget where) that organization systems such as closet organizers and shelving etc sales have increased significantly over the past decades and are projected to continue to expand to hold “stuff” that nobody would have either owned 25 years ago, or need to own now.

    @ HGM – I have talked quite a few people out of the slap-chop, it is pure ridiculousness – a knife seems easier to clean after as well.

  3. Tim, I have a really, really hard time throwing things out. I like just giving things away. Selling it isn’t worth the hassle to me. Even freecycle can be too much of a hassle.
    I’m going to pare everything down to a 5×5 storage unit in a few months. I’ve got way too much stuff that I haven’t even looked at since we moved 6 years ago.
    When we travel in the RV, it’s a good reminder that we don’t need slap-chop types of items to do 99% of the cooking that I like to do.
    Back in my 20’s, I could move house in 1-2 pickup loads. That’s where I’d like to get back to.

  4. Buy quality to start with. Cheap non-stick pans lose that coating quickly, while expensive ones will last for years. Or buy cast iron, which, once seasoned and used, is fairly non-stick and will last generations.

    Same with bags, shoes, mattresses, etc. Buying the cheap ones means you’ll be repairing/replacing them frequently. Spending more up front on a classic style should mean years of use.

  5. I would have repair the bag and gave it to charity 🙂

    I have a very very hard time tossing things… my husband is converting me slowly, hard work hard pain loll!

    But, because I am «greener» than him, I also convert him a little. Before, he wasnt recycling much (paper and glass), and certainly not taking time to drive to charity depot… he was much like: put it on the street, if someone wants it he will pick it up before trash passes!

    Now we give, as much as we can, our unuseful stuff 1-family and friends 2- charity or recycling networks (like Freecycle Montreal)… when stuff is in very good shape and worth it, we try to sell it, wich is good for us making our debt drop a little more 🙂

    Also, we are trying to buy less cheap things… wich is good because quality lasts longer, most of the time is more accurate to our needs and as much as possible is made locally. By the way, I am reading the book Cheap: high cost of discount culture… which I highly recommend to everyone!

  6. I have a 45 year old homemade plywood desk in the garage that I just replaced with one bought at an auction. It is still as usable today as it ever was. Still struggling with what to do with it.

  7. Great post – part of the problem is that we don’t realize how affluent our society is.

    You can repair that bag but that doesn’t mean anyone will want it.

    Canadian Money’s old desk will never find a taker.

    I can remember putting out big old computer monitors out to the curb a few years ago thinking that surely someone can use this – but no.

  8. I am currently going through the greatest decluttering and purging phase I ever had. I have already stopped buying things I don’t need and learned to have less, but beautiful and high quality. And yes, if some of my old things don’t fit that criteria, I am going to eventually replace them – but do it at a slow pace over several years with some unique finds to last me 20 years, rather than in a single shopping trip.

    I will try giving things I don’t need to charity. But if charity does not take it, they go to garbage. I’d rather have the time and energy to contribute to cases I care about, then spend them on making sure that something small and cheap isn’t wasted. I think this is a more efficient use of my resources.

  9. Mmm, some interesting discussion. Thanks everyone. Finding that balance point is always tricky.

    @HGM,

    Ah, the slap chop. Yep, a knife would be easier. There are some many useless products like that that people could get rid of if they were honest with themselves.

    Tim

  10. I love the concept in fact I do it myself. I usually give away stuff I don’t need anymore. I don’t throw away just like that even boxes…haha…I try to recycle and go green.

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