10 items you can purge RIGHT NOW!

Decluttering can be a stressful task, and it always seems so daunting at first.

But have no fear! Here are 10 easy things you can purge right now. And who knows, maybe once you start with these easy items, it will motivate you to tackle other areas of your home!

1.       Cookbooks. How many cookbooks do you own? And how many do you actually use? Most people that I talk to use cookbooks and recipe cards occasionally, but most of the time search online for recipes because they are more easily customized. Cookbooks may be taking up valuable space in your kitchen! If you are worried about whether or not you’ll be able to find specific recipes again, try photocopying them or taking a picture of them on your phone for easy reference. There are many cookbooks at local libraries, and often cookbooks have an online version anyway.

2.       Extra hangers. Those extra hangers in your closet could be a bad influence! They are practically screaming at you, please fill me with clothes – and then next thing you know you are shopping again 😉 If you don’t want to get rid of all of them, you can just move them to another closet that is not used as frequently. But if you are willing to part with some or all, thrift stores and charity shops would love to have them! Wire ones can be brought to dry cleaners to be re-used as well.

3.       Socks without matches. We all have them. The dryer definitely eats them. Have you been keeping them in case the pair will be reunited again? If it’s been more than a few weeks, it is probably not going to happen. If you don’t like wearing mismatched socks, they can be used as dusting “gloves” if you are wanting to give them an extra life, but otherwise it will be in your best interest to dispose of them rather than having them clutter up your laundry area.

4.       Toys your kids don’t play with. Let your kids go through their toys and pick out the ones they don’t like anymore, or do it yourself! If they’ve been in a box in the basement for years, they are probably forgotten at this point. Instead donate them so a new child can love and enjoy them!

5.       Appliances you don’t use. Maybe it was a wedding gift? Maybe you bought it because you had good intentions of juicing or making your own purees? Whatever the case may be, it could be taking up valuable space in your cupboards. Instead, donate these items to a thrift store, post on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace, or donate to the KW Library of Things (if you’re local to Kitchener-Waterloo) so you can still have access to it if you decide you want to use it again!

6.       Duplicated/blurry photos. This can be an easy task to do while watching TV or listening to music. Go through your photos – either in albums or boxes and take out the ones that are blurry, duplicates, if you don’t know the context of it or who the people are in it. We often keep and store all kinds of photos, but if they don’t mean anything to you, they probably don’t mean anything to other people either!

7.       Expired medication. Go through your medicine cabinet and see what is in there. Medications often only have a shelf life of a year or so until they are ineffectual, so they are best to be disposed of. While doing this, take note of what items have expired and consider not purchasing them again, or purchase them in smaller quantities. Any expired medications/prescriptions/vitamins can be taken to your local pharmacy to be disposed of properly - they just prefer them to be in the original container so they know what the contents are. DO NOT flush them down the toilet or put them in the regular trash, as this allows those chemicals into our waterways.

8.       Expired food. Go through your cupboards, see what food items have “expired”, and use your best judgement of whether you would trust eating them still. Most items are still good after the best before date listed on the container, especially if it hasn’t been opened. If you are still willing to eat them, make sure you put them on your menu for the week. If you not willing to eat them, compost the contents if possible (and safe to do so), and see if you can recycle the container – that way there is less going to the landfill. And make sure to not purchase that item again, or at least put it in a more obvious location so that you don’t pass over it before the due date.

9.       Magazines/newspapers. If you like to have magazines and newspapers sent to your home, or if you pick them up at a store, often they are left lying around because you paid for them. But do you actually read them a second time (or a first?)? They can take up a lot of room, and they weight quite a bit on your bookshelf. Unwanted magazines may be able to be donated to local libraries or thrift stores – or you can try posting them online for free so you know someone will take them to read or do crafts with. Consider getting the online version of your magazine, or read it at the library instead.

10.   Business cards. How often do you go to trade shows, networking events, or at an event and you come home with a stack of business cards? When I am decluttering someone’s space I find these all over the place! And often the client has no idea who the person was that gave it to them, or why they took it in the first place. Recycle the ones you do not need or remember. And next time you’re at a show or event, consider taking a picture of the business card, preferably with the person of booth in the background so you remember the context! There is a great app called Camcard that helps you organize and store contacts from business cards. I will often just follow the company on their social media rather than taking their card.

How to Shop Without a Plastic Bag

You’ve heard all the people talking about it. How plastic bags are essentially suffocating the earth, either in landfills, oceans or just out and about in rural and urban landscapes.

But it’s hard to switch to reusable right? I mean you have about 20 reusable bags at home, but you always seem to forget them when going to the store… And then you have to get another plastic bag again.

You are not alone!

But there are things that can help you along in your plastic bag-free life!

Firstly, it is always best to use whatever you already have. So if you have a stockpile of reusable bags, I strongly encourage you to use them. I prefer the bags that are made out of actual cloth, not the structured ones that have a plastic coating on the outside. The cloth ones are able to be put in the washing machine, whereas the plastic coated ones are not. There have been a lot of cases of people getting sick from salmonella and e-coli because of the bacteria left in their bags after they’ve used it to carry meat or eggs, and then weren’t able to wash it afterwards. So if possible, use the ones that are able to be washed, and do so especially after they’ve transported possible contaminants.

If you find that you are always forgetting them, rethink your methods! If you take a car to go shopping, keep them in the car. But don’t put them in the trunk – put them within your sight like in the front passenger seat. By having them right in front of you, you will be more prone to remember them. If you don’t have room in the passenger seat because someone is sitting there, ask them to be the bag-rememberer (that’s a word, right? 😉). If someone else is keeping you in check, you are more likely to remember. You could even have a post-it note on your dashboard saying “Don’t forget your bags!”. A friendly reminder at the beginning of your journey can really help solidify it in your mind. And of course, when you are done shopping (and washing your bags), make sure to return them to your car so you have them for next time!

If you are the type to walk, bike or take public transit to go shopping, make sure to store your bags right by the front door so you grab them on your way out. Having a basket with all of your low-waste shopping supplies like jars, bags, and other containers can be a really handy way to reduce your single-use plastic consumption. Just make sure to return your bags and other items after you have brought them back home.

If you want a more extreme way to help you remember – “punish” yourself for forgetting your bags. Refuse the plastic bag that is offered, and then awkwardly carry everything home with you, in your purse or in your arms. Or force yourself to leave behind items that you cannot carry. This will be just inconvenient enough to make it so that you never forget your bags again.

I find that a lot of people respond very well to using collapsible, reusable bags for their shopping. I really like the brand ChicoBag, who are the original creators of these types of bags. They fit nicely in a purse or backpack, and are always there when you need them! It is easier to remember them if you always have them in the same pocket or area of your purse, that way you can double check before you leave the house to make sure they are there. These types of bags are great for more impulsive shopping because they are always on you! So you will have no excuse to take a plastic bag!

Sometimes, even if you bring bags with you, you are still stuck with someone trying to insist that you take a bag. I find this especially happens when I go shopping at the Farmer’s Market. At the Market they are trying to be as efficient as possible, and since it has been expected over the last 20 years that people just want plastic bags, that is still the norm at a lot of places. The Market can be a wonderful place to find package-free items, so it is ironic that bags just get thrown at you, but alas, we as a culture are not perfect yet…

My tip for avoiding bags at the Market is to be very assertive! I work it into my “script” when I talk to the vendors: “Hello, I’m going to get 3 peppers and I don’t need a bag” OR “Hi there, can I get a basket of mushrooms, but can you pour them into my own bag?”. Sometimes you have to say it multiple times, but don’t give up! I once was trying to get oranges, but they were in baskets lined with a plastic bag. When I paid for a basket, I started picking them out of the basket and placing them in my own bag and the vendor said “they’re already in a bag!” and when I responded that I didn’t want it he was so confused and a bit aggressive that I should take it because it’s free!

It’s incredible how much further we have to go in our plastic-free journey but will little steps that we can incorporate into our daily lives, we can all make a difference!