Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ It’s Not Easy Being Green

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


Raise your hand if you consider yourself an environmentalist. Mine is up! But as Kermit the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green.”

Being “green” and decluttering often do not feel like they go hand in hand. After all, you might *gasp* throw something away. You might discover that you cannot find another home for an item you no longer want or need. You may have to face up to the fact that you made foolish purchases that you now recognize as being bad for your wallet and bad for the environment.

I was once told that for someone who’s such an aggressive recycler / reuser, I was amazingly good at getting rid of things. Apparently part of how people stay green or  reduce their trash / recycling flow is to reduce their output, simply by hanging onto what they have. Most hoarders probably have very little trash, but that doesn’t make them environmentalists!

I strongly encourage you to find an appropriate new home for anything you no longer want that is reusable. Of course I don’t want you to pitch out perfectly good things, but I also want you to realize that there are somethings for which there may not be another home – somethings are too old, too tired, too broken, and too outdated to be of any continued use.

If you tend to save bits and bobs of things because you just know you’ll be able to do something with it later, you may have to accept that you aren’t going to do anything with your pile of treasures, and neither is anyone else. I recently stumbled into this trap myself. We get prescriptions from Target pharmacy, three of them each month. Target has a really cool design for the prescription bottles, and it includes a rubber-like ring around the neck of the bottle, the yellow band in this photo. Each family member has a different color ring. Sounds like a ingenius idea and when both girls were younger and would sometimes take the same cold medicine, it was really helpful. Here’s the negative: as far as I can tell, they aren’t recyclable, Target won’t take them back, and Target won’t give you a bottle without a ring. So I started saving them. Every time I put a bottle into the recycling, I could have tossed the ring into the bin, but I didn’t. Now I have about 24. I have no stinking idea what to do with them, but now it feels more wrong to throw them away because there are so many of them. I could do something with them. Maybe? Perhaps? Heck if I know. What I know is I can’t think of anything to do with them, and they’re cluttering up my drawer.

Or maybe you actually add to your clutter in your efforts to be a good steward of the environment: you grab a perfectly good item out of bulky trash or from a friend’s discard pile and “rescue it” by hauling it home. Then what? Then does it just sit at your house?  

In the past year, my recycling has gone up astronomically because I started working at a law firm that did not recycle. Now I bring it all home. (Sometimes, frankly, I can’t believe how much of my life is dedicated to refuse of various sorts.) Anything that’s broken, needs to be sold, has a second chance at life, I bring home. Yes, all of it.  But it’s not adding to my clutter, just my workload. The recycling goes directly from the van into the can. I’ve known what I was going to do with every item I brought home before I put it in the van with me: the broken coffee pot went to my daughters’ school for the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) class. The teacher likes for the girls to have real world things to take part – like a fancy, computer-controlled broken coffee pot. The nine 3 ft. by 4 ft. presentation boards were offered up free on Craigslist and snapped up by a man who wanted to make a display for his church. The staples for the stapler than broke were taken to the thrift store, and the stapler itself went into the metal recycling.

It’s great to go those extra steps to make the world a better, less cluttered, and less trashed place, so long as it doesn’t add to your own clutter load.

 Today’s Declutter Item

Here is some more obscure clutter. A bunch on old postcards from our USA days. They came to the surface while digging around in Bridget’s clutter last month. I decided to put them in the recycling just like my mat boards yesterday. It is just paper clutter after all.


“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Cindy,
    I have to laugh because I also worked in a law firm where they didn’t recycle. I used to gather the employees’ aluminum cans from the firm’s break area/kitchen, and take them home with me on the bus in a brown paper grocery bag, so I could take them to a recycling center on the weekends. I’m sure I made a strange sight on the bus in my suit, carrying a large clanking bag of cans. Finally the building started a recycling program, and I could stop looking like a bag lady.

    • Good for you, especially since you had to make an additional trip to the recycling center. That bag lady look does get tiresome after a bit, doesn’t it?

  2. I try to find new uses, give to others, recycle what leaves my home, and try not to bring in stuff on house. However, re things like the Target rings which are useless, I feel no guilt tossing them. I did not create the problem, like the sweeper after the horse parade, I didn ‘t make the mess, but someone expects me to clean up the mess, so not letting someone else guilt me about their mess.
    What I do is try to not bring items into home.
    After reading your post, I contacted my Targert… They don’t requre those rings on meds. So we all need to be pro-active at they point of purchase to refuse things like the rings. Also, we must be pro-active by emailing stores & manft about their over packaging.
    To quote Barny Fiff, at the source of rings & such, we must ” nip it, nip it, nip it”

  3. Oh Cindy, we’re kindered spirits. My work recycles, but not the bigger, nastier things (binders, old computer equipment), so I take on the crusade for them

  4. Believe it or not Cindy I had not read your post draft for this week when I wrote yesterday post. Weird how well they fit together though.

    I have to say I agree with you in so much as I think some people who have become environmentally conscious prior to decluttering have a hard time disposing of stuff because it would appear that they are being wasteful. Especially those who have declared themselves such to the world via the internet.

    And it troubles me that less fortunate people out there who have a genuine need can’t get hold of quality secondhand goods because “junkers” snap them up and hoard them. I see evidence of this while working in this environment. People who can’t resist a bargain who troll the thrift stores every week looking for stuff they don’t need, potentially depriving more needy folks from the opportunity to make their lives a little more comfortable.

    I am intrigued with those new prescription bottles. They are a great idea but they do need to think twice about making those rings optional. Perhaps you need to let them know. Or better still get a petition going. If you do decide to throw yours away please cut them so they don’t end up strangling some poor bird at the landfill site. Another suggestion, is there one of those stores/depots that supply manufacturing offcuts etc for artists around where you live. Perhaps you can donate them as a potential art medium. I found this site which doesn’t include any places in TX but it will give you some idea of what I am talking about.

    • Hi – I thought you and Cindy had very cleverly coordinated articles! Last year we downsized our weekly wheelie bin (rubbish) and decided to concentrate more our recycling bin. We were surprised that we were able to manage – though I must confess we occasionally have to buy a pre-pay rubbish bag, maybe once every two months. And our recycling wheelie bin is chock full every fortnight collection.

      • Hi Moni,
        our local government body reduced the size of rubbish bins in our town in a bid to encourage people to reduce their waste. I love this proactive move but I am sure not everyone did. People can still have a larger bin but they have to pay for it. I could put mine out only once a month and it still wouldn’t be full. I am not sure why my recycling reduced though I didn’t think I had made much effort there but if is usually only half full at pick up time now instead of packed full.

    • I did think about them as potential art supplies – my mind doesn’t know what they’re useful for, but I’m sure someone’s does. I also tried them as “win charms” on the top of beer bottles. Unfortunately, they’re just too tight a fit for the bottle neck.

      I was on vacation for a cople days and jsut got home, so I look forward to reading yesterday’s post and admiring how our minds are so well coordinated.

  5. Thinking about those target Rx rings. Or tied into a teething toy? Or used for pre-school to sort by color? (in a muffin tin) Or put into something to be a baby shaker/rattle?
    I don’t believe in spending cash on any of these things so someone else might use the rings this way?

  6. “Or maybe you actually add to your clutter in your efforts to be a good steward of the environment: you grab a perfectly good item out of bulky trash or from a friend’s discard pile and “rescue it” by hauling it home. Then what? Then does it just sit at your house? ”

    Cindy, you just described my husband to a “T”!

    Sometimes when he takes our recycling to our town’s dump/recycling center, he comes home with nearly as many “treasures” as he was dropping off.

    He’s getting better about resisting the temptation to bring more stuff home, but I still have to hustle to keep ahead of him. I often tell him that I keep busy sending out the back door all the stuff he brings with him in the front door. 😉

    • That must be frustrating Becky. Does he actually do anything with his new treasures, or does he just drag them home with a gleam in his eye and then dessert them?

  7. Here in the uk we are in he process of nationally switching from analogue to digital TV signals. In my part of the country the switch was last wednesday. This has meant a huge surge in the purchase of new digital tv’s as all ‘old’ tv’s now no longer work with out the purchase of a digibox, so many are using the opportunity to just upgrade to a digital flatscreen tv.
    It’s seemingly impossible to get rid of the old style tv through freecycle now, as there are so many flooding the market and nobody wants them and it is a real dilemm what to do with them. I understand that our local recycling centres do dismantle electrical goods, but even so it seems a waste.
    We’ve upgraded for various reasons, including for eyesight. I am very reluctant to take the old tv to the recycling centre, but no one seesm to want it…so I must promise myself to only wait so long before it goes. Might as well rip that plaster off…

    • We had a bunch of “old style” TVs at our church garage sale, and we were selling them for FIVE dollars. That’s all we could get. Made me sick. I hate the rebuying of stuff you already have, i.e. albums and cassettes to CDs to uploadable music. VCR tapes to DVDs to Blue Ray. “Old TVs” to new flat screens, etc. Makes me crazy – can’t we leave well enough alone??

      • In NZ we have also had to change over to Digital TV’s and yes can’t give away the old tv’s. One chainstore here did a campaign where they took them so they could get them recycled correctly, but they were inundated.
        If I’d forseen that I would eliminate a tv from our bedroom (plus the set of drawers it sat on) I would have jumped, because to get rid of it now will cost me $25-$30.

        • I have an old, big, chunky, perfectly working TV. I hope I can keep it until he dies and not until he cant be used anymore due to any changes in the surrounding infrastructure of it. I got it for free and I would for sure not expect ANYONE to pay me for an old not flatscreen tv. those times are long gone.

          • We put the flat screen in the lounge, and kept the biggest box shape TV in the family room – it has a digital decoder thingee BUT because the screen is square shape not rectangle we miss about 10-15% of the big picture off the left and right margins. We’ve also found despite the best intentions, because it sits on a diagonal angle to the room, it seems to be hiding ground for stuff in the gaps around it. We’re really not sure how or why that keeps happening. Anyway, when I’ve got my house fully decluttered and have eliminated the pieces of furniture in assorted rooms that won’t be required because they are housing unneccesary stufff…….I’m going to reward myself with another big screen to replace that TV. Its ok my Green-365 friends – I have a teenage son whose leaving home will coincide with that time and he has called dibbs on it. The money to pay for it will come from the bank account where all my trademe/ebay sales goes into.

  8. Cindy,
    How about donating those rings to the local kindergarten for making “art”, or would they fit on small wrists as “jewellery”. I just received some photos by email, showing me children, using bits I sent along, for exactly this. 🙂 🙂

    • Preschool!!! I think you’re hit the nail on the head. I’m regularly in touch with my favorite preschool teacher, Ms. Vicki, who can figure out something to do with practically anything. Good call, Ann.

    • Great idea, Ann! I was also going to mention freecycle – I see a lot of posts on there with things just like those rings (otherwise viewed as trash) that can be used by people who like to craft.

  9. Yes, this is me. I have a really hard time throwing things, even items like old socks with holes! I am slowly getting better though. I am glad we don’t have any prescription otherwise I am pretty sure I would also have saved these rings! I also saved all the rubber bands from produce like asparagus, red radishes, etc… until recently. I now apply a limit rule. I have a small container and when my container is full, then the extra item goes to the trash. Now, these things (rubber bands, socks…) sometimes come handy, that’s why I still like to save some, but just a few 🙂

    • Limiting yourself is a good idea Natalie. My parents saved all the twist ties from produce bags, etc. I think they should have imposed a limit. Your hand was in danger of being eaten by twist ties when I was a child.

  10. Target should take the rings back and you should be able to opt out of getting them in the first place. I believe that corporations should take more responsibility for the trash they force on us. I’ve been tempted to mail excessive packaging back to the manufacturer… but it would end up costing me time and money so I just give up.

    • Hi Joanna and welcome to 365 Less Things. I agree they should give the option and in fact I would insist they don’t put them on my bottles or threaten to take my business elsewhere. I am sure that would make them comply. If they can record the color coding for a family surely they can record NO COLOR.

  11. Hi Cindy and 365ers,

    Wow of a post and it just brings home the fact that we live in a ‘Throw Away Society’. Just recently we had a household pick-up, the amount of tv’s on the side of the road was phenomonal. Microwaves, fridges, washing machines, dryers, the list goes on. The digital tv changeover probably caused worldwide pandimonium in the rush for a tv that would work without the box. We upgraded a while ago to a hard drive tv so it eliminated all the other components of digi-box, extra cords, plugs, what-nots and where do these go’s! Honestly I’m glad our old tv blew up and we upgraded early because we actually by-passed a lot of drama. ‘When’ we actually get to watch tv it’s great but I often wonder how soon before this one is superceded by the latest and greatest and then we are back to seeing the streets and recycle centres inundated again! It is a mad merry-go-round!

    As for trying to do the right thing I think I try every possible avenue until I actually ‘chuck’ something but I also ‘throw’ if I know it’s totally useless and would take a world of time to organise. Sometimes we just have to let one ‘slide’ and hope that in the scheme of things we actually get points for trying.

    Learning to pare down is one thing, making sure we don’t ‘pair up’ anything again is an ongoing job and one that we get better at as time goes on. (this does not include socks, they always need pairing!!) Being environmentally conscious and clutterfree is kind of an oxymoron. Sometimes you just have to ‘chuck it’ and be prepared to be more aware next time you shop or ‘rescue’.

    We have been able to unload a few electrical items to our son’s Tech Dept. at school. they get to pull things apart, try to fix up and generally just have a good informative time learning how things ‘tick’. Not sure what happens with all the bits but we have been subjected to some weird sights around the school come ‘The Arts Open Day’.

  12. Where I live a recycling fee is charged when you purchase tires or electronics. This funds the separate part of the landfill where these items go to be recycled. If the fee is charged to everyone, then everyone is more likely to recycle, rather than a few ‘greenies’ willing to pay.

    I have recently been disposing of things I’ve had for 20, 30 years or more. The sad fact is that some things simply can’t be recycled, particularly if they are composed of many parts and many materials: shoes with leather uppers and man-made soles, slide carousels (remember slides?) made of plastic and metal molded together. Today I tossed a broken carpet cleaner, keeping the cord (copper wire) and the tank (soft plastic) which can be recycled.

    I AM keeping the hockey-puck maker (it was a breadmaker when it was born…) and will dismantle it for the pure enjoyment of doing so. Don’t suppose it will be as much fun as dismantling rotary telephones and wind-up alarm clocks used to be, though.

    • Your fee system for recycling sounds much fairer.
      Good on you for having a good clean out. I bet you feel pleased with your efforts.
      I am fascinated with what a hockey puck maker is?

      • It’s a breadmaker that refuses to turn out bread any longer and instead turns out hard baked breadlike lumps which the magpies love. We’ve repalaced it with a breadmaker that actually works. The magpies will have to go back to fending for themselves.

  13. I am very happy to hear increasing publicity about consciousness of company waste, even for little things like these rings! Recently I became very frustrated when the pharmacy refused to refill my prescription bottle with the SAME drug for the SAME person. If I leave the label on and request a refill, they should be able to do this!! Think of how much plastic is wasted in all the different pharmacies right now. “Proper” disposal of plastic is not enough. We should prevent this waste from being generated in the first place! I have contacted the pharmacy and strongly encourage other people to do the same. If many people start doing this, maybe they will change it.

  14. Did you consider cutting off the stamps for charity – if they’re postcards, the stamps are often picture stamps, or from other countries, which get more money for charities. I collect for orangutans:
    but there are a lot of other charities out there who can use them – just google “charity stamps” or similar and they’ll pop up…?

    • Hi Tracey,
      and may I extend to you a warm welcome to 365 Less Things. Thank you for that suggestion but I am ashamed to say that these postcards were bought but never used so there are no stamps on them.

  15. Aah, old postcards. Perhaps that’s where I will spend some of my time today. I have tons of old postcards. I always tell myself I am going to use them for an art project, but it hasn’t happened yet. I think I need to reconsider whether I really need to hold on to them. Perhaps I will scan the ones I like best and then donate them to the thrift store. Then if I ever want to print them out, I will have the capacity to do that. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Hey Martha Ann,
      I recently decluttered postcards too.
      just like you, I collected them in a vague idea of some artistic projects. I decided that I wouldnt want to waste them, because they are pretty after all and I started to use them for what they are there: I sent them per post to my loved ones. So I think I got rid of around 50 postcards in the last 6 months, some I wrote a letter with it, some I just sent a “thank you for your visit” note, or “I love you very much” (I think my mum got 4 this year already). I like the idea that they get a postcard, because I LOVE receiving postcards, and I will keep sending them until I ran out of them… Although I started to get new postcards in, they dont stay for long anymore, because I bring them home with the idea who gets the next one!

      • What a great idea! I think I will use some of my favorites to send to friends! Ohhhh, I just had a thought. I’m going to move soon. Maybe I’ll use them for change of address cards.

        • perfect, thats the spirit. change of address cards is a very good idea… you will see, its fun doing it, and some people even send you cards in return, yay!

  16. I am desperately searching for those rubber rings from Target’s prescription bottles. A while ago, my friend sent them to me for the cats. They did not like them, but my new kitten goes NUTS over them. If you still have those rings, I will buy them from you and pay for the shipping!!! I don’t live close to a Target, and my friend told me Target doesn’t use them any more. Please feel free to email me. Thanks!

  17. Do you still have the rings from your target prescription bottles? My kitten loves playing with them, but she keeps hiding/losing them. I’d love to have more!