There was a time when we all, without thinking, would put things in the trash.

Now, because of growing environmental concerns, we are looking for eco-friendly strategies. We want to do it “right.”  But the best way to avoid adding to the landfill can get confusing. As organizers, we help clients deal with this confusion by offering informed and local options about what to do with unwanted items.


It’s easier than ever to re-home unneeded items. If your neighborhood allows it, try putting items on the curb…but keep in mind, if it doesn’t get picked up right away, it probably isn’t all that desirable and may need another solution; try promoting it on Freecycle, NextDoor, Facebook Marketplace and/or Craigslist. These sites can help you locate new owners. If you’re trying to sell these items, carefully consider the cost of your time required to post, negotiate and facilitate the transaction. Offering things for free can be a much easier solution. 

Your trash could be someone else’s treasure: 

  • Try offering up cleaning supplies and paint for free before taking them to hazardous waste 
  • Back issues of obscure (and not-so-obscure) magazines have been picked up
  • Broken furniture might be picked up by a budding woodworker
  • Habit For Humanity collects reusable building materials and other items through their ReStore outlets

Recycling and Disposal

It’s important to know the rules for your curbside trash and recycle pick-up because it can vary widely from city to city. Beware of “wish-cycling”: there is a trend that people put items in recycling, hoping they will be recycled.  For example, a pizza box with grease stains will contaminate a recycling plant’s processing machine, and instead, that pizza box can go in the compost bin (if you have one). A general rule: when in doubt, throw it out.

A quick Google search can help you find safe disposal options for items that don’t go in your curbside bins. Items such as: 

  • Plastic bubble wrap
  • Styrofoam
  • Batteries
  • Ink and laser cartridges
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Hazardous waste like paint, fluorescent light bulbs, medications

Reuse or Repurpose

Making use of items you already own is the best solution for the planet. This can apply to furniture, household items, clothing, and packing. Before you buy, look around to see if you already have items you can reuse or reassign.  

Shop wisely

Begin with the end in mind. If you find you need to purchase new items, looks for items made of materials that can be easily recycled or repurposed, like wood, glass, metal and rattan. Try to buy good quality items that will last. The items that are cheap – especially furniture – won’t last as long and won’t be as re-sellable or donatable when the time comes to say good-bye to them.

You don’t have to do it all perfectly! Whatever you do to avoid blithely tossing things in the trash is a small victory.  If everyone does a little bit, that adds up to a lot.