Are you taking it too far? (recycling/donating/selling/repurposing)

I was so happy when my recycle bin was delivered!

Decluttering and letting go of unwanted items is good for the soul. One man’s trash can indeed be another man’s treasure! Repurposing can be a creative and satisfying endeavor. And recycling is good for the planet. But… there’s a limit to what one person can do. You can’t save the planet single-handedly. Don’t forget to save yourself, too!

You can’t save the planet single-handedly. Don't forget to save yourself, too! Share on X

Most of my clients are recyclers and donaters. Some are crafty upcyclers. But even so, if I were to put them all in a room there would be a heated debate over what is ACTUALLY recyclable (and donate-able), what is WORTH recycling (and donating), and how BEST to go about it. Local municipalities, too, differ in their capabilities and guidelines. Selling can be good for the pocketbook, but many sellers are disappointed when their stuff isn’t worth what they thought it was, and discouraged when they realize how much time and energy went into the sale.

Here are some examples where trying to be a good citizen (or a thrifty soul) can get in the way of your responsibility to your own health, well-being, and sanity:

  • Recycling is SO important to you, and your recycling system is SO complicated, that every room in the house has a mini recycle station, but you never actually get the recyclables collected into one spot and take them away from the house to the recycle center. So they are piling up, inside and out, and attracting pests. (Three cheers for neighborhoods with city-provided and city-serviced personal recycle bins!)
This was my own recycle center, prior to receiving my very own city recycle bin!

This recycle system served me well for years. I don’t really need it now that I have my blue bin.

  • You want to donate your unwanted items, but you feel the need to find just the perfect charitable organization to take them to. Blankets to the animal shelter…but you don’t feel you have enough saved up yet. Clothing to the women’s shelter…but it’s only open for donations when you are at work. Craft supplies to ??? So they are all piling up, getting in your way, and gathering dust.
  • You want to have a garage sale, so you are collecting items in the garage. Now the garage is full of things you don’t want, while your valuable car is parked outside in the elements, because you never actually schedule, and announce, and hold the garage sale. Or, maybe you do have the sale but do not immediately take the leftovers to donate to your favorite non-profit.
  • You want to repurpose that chest of drawers in some way. You’re not sure whether you want to make it into a storage bench or what, exactly, but Pinterest is full of ideas! You never get around to deciding, or planning, or getting the tools and supplies to make it happen. So it just sits there cluttering your home, along with umpteen other projects.

I take my cues from my clients. If they are dedicated recyclers, we will by all means recycle… unless their methods are costing too much: too much time and effort making decisions; too much space dedicated to recycling; not the best use of our paid time together.

Sometimes I declare a recycle-free day, often much to their relief. The idea is this: In order to make the biggest difference in your space today, let’s just trash everything (gasp!) because it’s easier and faster. We’ll review and simplify your recycling system so that you don’t end up with another backlog, and you can resume being a good citizen of the planet tomorrow, OK?

On the flip side, I’ve had clients who do not ever recycle or donate in any way. In those cases I say, “Do you mind if I set up recycle and donate bags (or boxes) in addition to trash?” Then I just use them to gather what I personally would rather not see in the trash, and take the bags away to recycle myself.

When a client wants to hang onto something in order to sell it, I ask if they have ever sold on eBay, or on consignment, or held a garage sale before. If it’s something they know how to do, and enjoy doing, more power to them! I will offer local and online selling resources, but I will also strongly encourage them to gift or donate items instead, for the sake of simply being done with it and getting on with their lives.

I recommend picking only one or two places to donate. One of them needs to take just about anything, like Goodwill, to make it a simple chore that is easy to do. My second choice is our local Friends for the Library because I volunteer there weekly and we hold a monthly used book sale.

With repurposing, craft, and fix-it projects I simply ask: Is it really worth doing? Sometimes if just isn’t.

What about you? Are you “taking it too far” and suffering in some way as a result?

Please share with us in the comment section below!

Copyright 2015 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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  1. Sarah Soboleski on July 5, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    This is such a great post and I’m sure it can apply to all of us in one way or another! I’ve run into many of these dilemmas in my work. I have implemented the recycle-free day too and I find that it can be so helpful and much less stressful for folks.

    • Hazel Thornton on July 5, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      I want to respect clients’ values, but am less inclined if it seems that their efforts are stressing them out and causing bigger problems than they are solving!

  2. Nancy Vorsanger on July 5, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    What a great post. It’s all so true! I have seen this many times. Including in my own home! (I worked in the environmental field for many years, and I find throwing things in the trash really hard). But…sometimes you just have to deal with stuff in a way that gets it out of the way, and solve the immediate problems in your home. And then you’re better positioned moving forward to be that good citizen of the planet.

  3. Sabrina Q. on July 19, 2015 at 6:42 am

    I love these examples of taking action blocks regarding getting rid of stuff through donating, recycling, and selling. I especially liked the block that a person would make the process so complicated that they can’t sustain it. I have had clients that do this and had to explain that they need to take action and simply the process so they can use the process easier. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Jane on August 1, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I’ve found craigslist and freecycle (thank you, Hazel!) To be very helpful when purging. You can put the limitations right in the ad – it only has three legs, I can’t help move it and I need it gone by tomorrow. Hint – if it’s something I think it’s going to be really popular I post it for only ten minutes and take it down. I also say that the whole thing will take place via email, as I’m not a big phone person.

    • Hazel Thornton on August 2, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      Good tips, Jane! Thanks.

  5. Jill Robson on August 5, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Great article Hazel, you are right people get just as stuck in what they want to do with their stuff as they do letting it go in the first place. When we get stuck on what we are going to do with something, putting out at the curb with FREE on it usually works. 😉

    • Hazel Thornton on August 5, 2015 at 8:39 am

      Thanks, Jill! Whatever it takes!

    • Janet Barclay on April 12, 2016 at 11:48 am

      When we were downsizing and had a LOT of stuff to get rid of, we put it out by the curb for bulk garbage pick-up. We were only allowed to put out two items, but it wasn’t a problem, because usually someone would come by and take them before the garbage truck came by, freeing us up to put out two more – and so on…

      • Hazel Thornton on April 24, 2016 at 9:44 am

        Also (don’t know about Canada) there’s Great way to get rid of stuff. I don’t tell all of my clients about it though, because it’s also a great way to get more stuff!

  6. Olive Wagar on August 16, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I appreciate your suggestion for a recycle-free day and will be sure to use it when necessary! Sometimes you just need to get rid of the backlog so you can have a fresh start!!

    • Hazel Thornton on August 18, 2015 at 8:09 am


  7. Seana Turner on April 13, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    I follow my client’s leads on the whole recycling thing. It can end up taking a lot of time, especially if there is a large amount of clutter and the items are soiled. I say “there is a season for all things,” and sometimes the season to epicycle is later, after the bulk of the situation is under control! #POBC

    • Hazel Thornton on April 24, 2016 at 9:44 am


  8. Nancy Haworth on April 13, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    This is a wonderful post! I have often come across the scenario where a person is saving so much for a garage sale or to sell online, that an entire room or garage is full, and selling is not something they know how to do or enjoy doing. I encourage clients to donate, unless there’s a clear plan, or the items are of great value and can be easily sold. Reclaiming that space again is much more valuable to most of my clients.

    • Hazel Thornton on April 24, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Agreed! Thanks, Nancy!

  9. Debbie Pendell on April 14, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Clutter is bad; hoarding is bad; and sometimes the purging systems are bad. 🙁 Wow! I think I like the idea of having just a couple of donation centers in mind. It would be great if we could deliver every item to a worthy non-profit, but that just isn’t practical.

  10. Olive Wagar on April 15, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Great analysis, Hazel! I have one of those extra large recycle bins too. Makes it very easy! But I like your DIY version too, which I will suggest to my clients. I also recommend Vietnam Vets since they come right to your door to pick up donations. Hope to meet you at NAPO Atlanta!! Thanks for posting to P.O.B.C.!

  11. Sabrina Quairoli on April 26, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    We have recycled plastic and paper since we got married – 20 years now. We have two bins that we use just for recycling them. It works well for us. Our dumpster never gets completely full each week which makes me happy.

  12. Mary E. Rossow on December 15, 2018 at 4:11 pm


    Excellent article. I have my own designated drop-off places (local homeless shelter, Savers®️, and library.

    Plus, for a quick “direct donation”, I set it on the curb (I live at a corner that gets quite a bit of ‍♀️foot, bike & car traffic during the day.)

    That is handy for esoteric things that are not useful to shelters & charities:
    * gardening pots & tools
    * odd electronics
    * large or weird furniture

    All usually gone by end of day, sometimes gone in minutes… which of course thrills me right down to my bone marrow!!!

    When I’m cleaning my garage, I’ll take a load to curb every 20 minutes or so, and “POOF”… it disappears.

    So satisfying, especially when I come across expensive, useful things that are new or in great shape, yet the mere passing of time has proven I WILL NEVER USE THEM.

    After a day of give-a-ways like that, I always go to bed with a huge smile on my face.

    My new mantra is:

    “The person who dies with the LEAST amount of stuff wins❣️”


    • Hazel Thornton on December 18, 2018 at 10:18 am

      Thanks for chiming in, Mary. I like your new mantra!

  13. Damaris Welles on April 23, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    It’s a constant struggle to be kind to the earth, but also facilitate clients lightening their clutter load.

    As you note, the “I’m going to sell this,” is a big barrier, because it often means the belongings are moved to another pile and remain there indefinitely!

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