“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.” – Lin Yutang

Most of us know that the “Green” movement is all about reducing, reusing, recycling and repurposing. In short, it’s simplifying what you have. Its about finding your stuff so you are not buying more of something you already own (and just can’t find). When you simplify your life you are freeing yourself of the burden of maintaining “stuff”. The question you need to ask yourself is “Do I own this stuff or does it owe me?”

Reducing is about having less stuff to maintain and less stuff to take up space in our homes. It’s about refusing to bring new items into the house without removing something. You can’t keep bringing in clothes, shoes, books, furniture, etc, without taking some of the old stuff out. If this remains a “one-way street”, you will soon find yourself overwhelmed with too much. Reducing is about weeding out the things you don’t love so that you can find the stuff you do love.

Reusing refers to passing on unused items to people who can really use them. Most things that we keep stored for use “someday”, never get used. Don’t fall into this trap. If you can’t find something you need right away, then know that someone else would put it to better and more frequent use.

Recycling is the most commonly recognized part of the “Green” movement. Separate out recyclable items from trash. Donate unwanted items like clothing, furniture and old electronic items to the right place.

Repurposing is rethinking how you might use a particular item. For example, if you never use your formal dining room table for eating, could you not use it for a desk or place for the kids to do homework? Maybe you could rearrange the furniture in your house to give it a different feel.

Other “Green Organizing Tips”

  • Choose quality items over quantity. Remember the old saying “less is more” – less stuff to maintain means you have more time to live.
  • Buy cleaning products that are non-toxic to you and to the earth.
  • Remove your name from junk mail lists.
  • Opt out for emailed bank statements, utility bills, credit card bills and credit card statements. This will stop the paper coming into your house.
  • An organized house is a more easily cleaned house. Lose the clutter and cut down on the time spent dusting and moving piles of paper and stuff.
  • Purchase sustainable products – these are things like bamboo, cotton or corn, which can be replenished at the same rate that they are consumed. Bamboo, the fastest growing plant on earth, is becoming one of the most significant and versatile natural resources. Look for it in fabrics and other household items.
  • Bring your own bag or carry your purchases without a bag.
  • Look for ways to save energy around your house. Good examples are unplugging electronics that are not in use (like cell phone rechargers) and using solar powered items.
  • Give gifts that are experiences not things – a movie, a day at the zoo or the baseball park.

Green Organizing Products

Being aware that there are other choices out there is something that we all need to know. With that in mind I chose the following products.

  • Tote bag – I carry this bag into the grocery stores and office supply places so I don’t have to take a plastic bag. It took some getting use to – as far as remembering to carry it into the store – but it’s a habit I am developing.
  • 100% Recycled Hanging Folders – Reuse the hanging folders that you already have but if you need new ones these work great. At this point in time they only come in green. 25 letter size hanging folders. Office Depot $6.99
  • 30% Recycled Copy Paper – Nice paper for everyday use. 500 sheets of letter size paper. Staples $5.99
  • File Folders – Nice recycled brown paper bag look with 3 cool designs printed on the outside. These will liven up your file cabinet. Office Max $5.99
  • Cardboard Paper Media Box and Magazine Box – If you are trying to get away from plastic these desk accessories are a great alternative. They come in paper bag brown with aqua highlights. Both have a handy label so you know what is in the box. Office Max $5.99 each
  • Used Newspaper Pencils & Colored Pencils – Recycled from 100% recycled newspaper, which still bears the print it was rolled from. There are 24 pencils and 12 multi-colored pencils. Office Max $2.59 & $4.29
  • Clean Green Kit – Perfect for home or office. From the method products inc., this kit includes an all-purpose surface cleaner, cleaning wipes, dish soap and hand wash. Plus you get a free caddy to store all the products in. All products are cucumber scent, naturally derived, non-toxic and biodegradable. All the containers are recyclable. Office Depot $14.39
  • Microfiber Cloths – Clean without chemicals, machine washable and reusable. These cloths are perfect for dusting, polishing mirrors, glasses surfaces and stainless steel. Each cloth has a different texture and weave that make them especially great for specific surfaces. Bed Bath & Beyond $12.99
  • Large Milk Crate – Made from paper made into rope and then woven into a basket this heavy-duty crate is perfect for storing magazines and other reading materials. Target $19.99
  • Bamboo 6 Piece Coaster Set – These large coasters make a great place to park your drinks. They are made with bamboo, an ecologically friendly renewable resource. Bed Bath & Beyond $1.99
  • Simply Organic King Pillowcases – This 300 thread count pillowcase is made from 100% organic cotton. It offers superior comfort and a silky smooth finish. The container it comes in is fully recyclable material and the insert is 100% recycled paper. Bed Bath & Beyond $29.99
  • Recycled Quarter-Zip Microfleece – Eddie Bauer has created this lightweight fleece that is perfect for early morning workouts. This one is made from 100% recycled polyester. It comes in a variety of colors for women. www.eddiebauer.com $29.99

This post appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Getting Organized. View article.

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