Clearing Out for the New Year

With the holidays behind us, has the urge to purge taken hold of you? Here are some tips to clear out the old stuff responsibly.

As the year comes to a close, do you find your home filled with a bunch of stuff you don’t know what to do with? Cleaning up and clearing things out from the holidays is a perfect time to start fresh for 2012. I mean wouldn’t it be great to clean out a few closets, donate items to charitable organizations and take down the tree before, say, St. Patrick’s Day? Here are some tips that might help you plan your tidying-up strategy in the most planet-friendly manner.Holiday items:

  • Compost, chip, or donate your real tree for wildlife habitat. Many cities and counties have programs for helping you dispose of your tree. Check soon: most programs start the week after Christmas.

  • Carefully box or cover your artificial tree for storage and reuse. Dust and mildew from an improperly stored tree can wreak havoc on immune systems next year.

  • Recycle holiday cards and gift-wrap and/or store for reuse. Used cards and heavier wrapping paper can be repurposed for next year’s holiday tags and craft projects.

  • What about those battery-powered decorations, toys and gadgets? Hopefully you chose rechargeable batteries instead of regular ones. Recycle regular batteries instead of sending them to the landfill. You can find info on how and where at opens in a new tab.

Closet and cabinet clutter:

  • While you are clearing away the holiday items (and changing the battery on your smoke alarm) what about a quick sweep of the pantry? Do you have canned goods close to expiration dates? Rice, beans or flours that have been languishing on the shelf for more than a year or two? Compost non-meat edibles that have expired, or plan to use those on the cusp as soon as possible. Do a sweep of the fridge, too. Has that apple butter been lurking in the back of the fridge since 1999? Time to move on.

  • Plan on making healthier choices in the new year? Prepare some space for all that good stuff. If you have foods in your pantry that your family won’t eat or that don’t fit with your current (or planned) dietary regime, food banks need donations after the holidays, too.

  • If you had new linens and towels gifted to you this season, many pet rescue organizations would appreciate your old ones.


  • Were you lucky enough to receive a new computer or other electronic equipment during the holidays? Donate your old stuff instead of running a history of technology museum in your garage or filling a landfill with toxic electronics. Here in Central Texas, Goodwill takes all electronic equipment for reuse. If they can’t fix or repurpose the equipment, they recycle it appropriately. Who does this in your city? Computers With Causes opens in a new tab looks like a really good resource.

  • Many Whole Foods Market stores have electronics collection drives every winter. Check with the closest one opens in a new tab to see if their Team Members have one planned.

  • Did you splurge on a new phone or mobile device this winter? If you’re ready to recycle your old ones along with batteries, chargers and other accessories, the Environmental Protection Agency opens in a new tab website has a special section focused on recycling these items. Remember to clear your personal data from the phone before you recycling and save that special picture of Fido or Fluffy.

Other stuff:

  • Are you an avid reader? This is a good time to do a sweep of print material around the house. Review your book and magazine collection to see what can go to another home. Does a friend like mysteries? Would the neighbor’s children like the books your family has outgrown? Would the nursing home on your way to work appreciate 2011 editions of National Geographic, the New Yorker, or Dog Fancy magazine?

  • Did you get what you REALLY wanted — a gift card? Once you use it, don’t toss it in the trash. Bring it to any Whole Foods Market and we will recycle it for you. (Learn about our own recycled gift cards opens in a new tab). If you received one you won’t use, remember that many charitable organizations would love to have it — you can re-gift with a clear conscience!

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