Sitting by the front door at my house are a couple bags of old toys. The next time one of us plans to be near the Goodwill, we’ll drop them off. A few weeks ago I bought our oldest (11) a new/used bike from Neighborhood Bike Works and dropped off two outgrown ones that had been taking up space on our wall. She is growing like curly dock, and she just filled a trash bag with what she’s outgrown. It’s still sitting in the hallway upstairs, waiting to be reviewed by my wife, who handles the stream of hand-me-downs that flows into our house from kids of friends and relatives and right back out in a couple years. Although we think of spring as the time to clean and declutter, the process of getting new stuff and unloading the old never seems to end.
Everything we produce comes with an environmental impact we can measure in greenhouse gases, chemical spills, trees cut down and ore mined from the Earth. I am sure that somewhere in my house we’ve got clear plastic produced by the Bristol plant whose spill sparked a tap water panic in Philadelphia at the end of March. The same goes for goods carried by the ships that strike whales and Atlantic sturgeon. Anything we reuse is something we don’t have to produce.
In this special section we dive into the stuff we get rid of and what it can be used for. We explore the lifecycle of a tee shirt. A hauler talks about what she does with the piles of stuff she drags out of customers’ basements. Colleges do their best to manage the heaps of belongings that college students leave behind in the spring, and groups take advantage of social media to connect people getting rid of furniture and other items with people who need them.
We hope you find inspiration and make the most of your own decluttering. Industry might run on planned obsolescence, endless production and runaway consumer spending, but we don’t have to play along.