I had a zero waste crisis earlier this week.
There has been trouble brewing at the Bunch House for a few weeks now. It’s an 850 sq. ft. 2 bedroom home…with one closet. I don’t consider my material things excessive. I like to keep what I need and use frequently, and in a modern home this wasn’t a problem. I had room for a bedroom closet for my clothes and shoes and a hallway closet for coats, linens, tools, toiletries and all the other miscellaneous household things. This home is 112 years old and originally it was only around 600 sq. ft. and it was not built to handle excess crap. Over the last six weeks, this has become increasingly apparent.
The single closet is sandwiched between the two rooms and has two entrance that connect the two bedrooms. The ceilings in the house are 10.5 feet high, but the closet only goes up to around 7 feet with an odd storage area above each closet. Not only is the storage space inconvenient because it’s so high, it’s also, quite frankly, creepy so I didn’t want to store anything up there.
I Googled zero waste decluttering and found nothing so I was on my own.
I knew I wanted to get to the root of the excess so I didn’t want to buy an extra dresser or a complex organizational system or a wardrobe to make it fit. I’ve never had a problem letting go of things, but I’ve never done it on this scale before, much less while trying to minimize waste. I tried getting started last week and cleaned out one room, but the process takes a lot longer when you can’t just throw everything in a bag and chuck it. Luckily, I had all of Memorial weekend to get things in order.
I started by merely separating everything important from all the other stuff and moved everything that wasn’t important into the garage. Making the decision that simple made a big difference. I tried sorting it and figuring out how to get rid of things as I went, but with so much to go through it was taking too long and zapping my motivation. By making it a simple decision, I was able to go through everything quickly and now I can come up with a plan for finding new appropriate homes for everything in the garage.
Once I moved everything, I started small groups. I figured books would be easy to get rid of so I started there. I tried putting a box by the sidewalk like people suggested and no one took anything. I also tried Cash for Books and they wanted to give me like $1.50 for everything and I’d have to deal with shipping them, not ideal. After some research, I found an awesome bookstore less than a mile from my house. This was the kind of bookstore I’ve been looking for, and they gladly took my old books and gave me a $22 store credit. I walked a way with two autobiographies and still had credit to spare. I’m also glad that after I read them, I can return them for credit. I’m going to reserve my credit for books that I can’t find at the library.
I figured the vintage hats and accessories should be fairly easy to find new homes for so that will be next.
Then I put away what was left and there was a lot of room leftover so I didn’t have to venture into the creepy closets. In the process I organized our new rags and cloth napkins and created a designated a basket for the ones that needed to be laundered. I also designated a separate basket for the egg cartons and plastic baskets that need to be returned to the farmers market.
I noticed that in our apartment I had designated areas for leaving stuff. I had baskets by the door for outgoing items, a entry table for mail, a place in the hallway for stuff that needed to be sorted. I thought this would keep things neater but I believe they mask a deeper problem. In our new home, we don’t have a lot of extra space so we have no such areas and instead of accumulating, things tend to just end up where they should. It makes sense actually. If you have a place for junk and mess to accumulate, it will accumulate. If everything has a place, then everything will up in it’s place. Now that I’ve put things away properly, let’s hope it stays that way.