Paying for Postponed Decisions

It’s funny how my work with clients takes on certain patterns. I recently wrote about multiple clients with whom I worked on organizing their jewelry. Lately, I have been visiting storage units with my clients.

As I’ve mentioned before, my very wise organizing colleague, Barbara Hemphill, declared that “Clutter is postponed decisions.®” When you decide to put items into storage, you are not only postponing the decision of what to do with that stuff, you are also paying handily for the luxury of postponing that decision.

Many clients over the years have gotten tired of paying hundreds of dollars each month and have asked me for help in closing down their self-storage units. The one I worked on recently was very satisfying for both the client and me. We went through every box at her Manhattan Mini Storage unit. She decided what should be kept and what should be hauled away, and then I repacked the boxes and added colored tape to each box indicating its destination.

My client arranged for a small moving company and a junk company to come at our next session so that we could empty the unit and close it down. The stuff that the junk company hauled away will be donated or recycled where appropriate, or put in the trash as a last resort. The stuff that she is keeping was moved to her apartment, where we stacked it up in a corner for us to put away at a future date.

Another client asked me to help her organize the storage cage in her building’s basement. The building was planning to haul away anything that wasn’t located securely in the cages, so this was an opportunity for her to review what she had and dispose of what she no longer wanted at no cost. This review reinforced what I’ve always believe: anything kept in an opaque container becomes a mystery. If you can’t see it, you’ll forget what it is.

My favorite moment during that session occurred while looking at another resident’s storage cage. This cage was filled completely with boxes from floor to ceiling, and the only thing keeping the boxes from spilling out was the chain holding the door closed. One of the boxes was labeled “Clothes I Don’t Wear”. That’s telling it like it is! (I don’t suppose I need to tell you what I would advise someone to do about clothes they don’t wear.)

The third storage closet project also took place in the basement of the client’s building. This was a room filled with postponed decisions, much of it relating to the family’s now-adult child. This is a struggle that many of my clients deal with. What do you do with the childhood stuff that your kids leave behind? At what point do you tell them that they need to come review their stuff because you plan to get rid of it?

Here are a few pointers regarding storage units:

  • I believe in renting a storage unit if you know it will be temporary. If you need a few months or a year to park your stuff because of a life change, go for it. However, if you are simply postponing difficult decisions, you will ultimately regret sending the stuff to a costly storage space.
  • Pack your items in well-marked boxes, or put them in clear storage containers. You want to be able to tell at a glance what is in the storage unit so that you can find it when you need it, or decide when it’s time to trash it.
  • Keep a list of everything you’ve added to the unit. You think you will remember, but you won’t.

Another Recycling Bin to Love

Call me fickle. Less than two years ago, I wrote a blog post extolling the small improvements I had made around my home during the slow days of the pandemic. One those improvements was the addition of a Simple Human two-compartment recycling bin in my kitchen. This bin was a definite step up for us, but it was not perfect in light of our recycling situation.

Joseph Joseph GoRecycle 28L Recycling Caddy

So when Facebook showed me an ad for the Joseph Joseph GoRecycle 28L Recycling Caddy, I decided to try it. And boy, do we love it!

The Joseph Joseph Recycling Caddy is perfect for apartment living, as it can be easily transported to the trash room in our building, where we can pour the contents into the larger recycling bins. We have dedicated one section of the caddy for paper, and the other for plastic and glass. Due to the hinged lid, it’s easy to empty out just one of the sections at a time. And the two sides of the lid come together to form a sturdy handle.

Interestingly, the Facebook ad showing this item was from the Design Store of the Museum of Modern Art.  Apparently, it’s not only functional, it’s also considered good design!

So what did I do with the Simple Human two-compartment recycling bin? I held on to it for a couple of months to make sure that I didn’t have another use for it. Then I posted it on Buy Nothing, the Facebook group that I wrote about in a blog post during the pandemic, when I was getting rid of so many things. The recycling bin was the most popular item I ever posted on Buy Nothing — 84 people expressed interest! I had to use a random number generator to pick the winner.

By the way, you can use Buy Nothing even if you are not a Facebook user. You can install the Buy Nothing app on your smart phone without even having a Facebook account.

 

Recycling Dos and Don’ts

Every few years, I write about recycling. While we all know the basic rules, it’s the specifics that trip us up. I’m frequently teaching my clients about what doesn’t go in the recycle bin.

Recently, I was contacted by D.B. Container Service, which provides dumpsters here in NYC. They put together a nifty guide called “What Can I Recycle?” Reading through their list of what does and doesn’t get recycled, even I found a few surprises!

Cardboard and Paper

  • You probably already know about: mail, envelopes (including window envelopes), catalogs, receipts, paper bags, phone books, paperback books, comic books, wrapping paper.
  • But you probably didn’t know about pizza boxes (as long as they are free of food and oily liners).

Glass

  • You probably already know about: soda bottles, wine and beer bottles, pickle jars, jelly jars.
  • But you probably didn’t know that ONLY bottles and jars are recyclable. All other glass goes in the trash. Remove metal caps from your bottles and jars and recycle them with metal.

Metal

  • You probably already know about: cans, aluminum foil, aerosol cans, metal lids, caps, and plates.
  • But you probably didn’t know that bulky appliance and tools that are mostly metal — and that fit into the recycling bin — can be recycled that way as well.

Rigid Plastic

  • You probably already know about: bottles, jugs, jars, toys, yogurt and cottage cheese containers, buckets and pails.
  • But you probably didn’t know that only rigid plastics are recycled. If it loses its shape when you squeeze it, then it goes into the trash.
  • Another surprise: drink box cartons, milk cartons, and juice cartons go into the plastic/metal bin, even though you might be tempted to put them in the paper bin!

Things that Can’t Go in the Recycle Bin

  • Batteries.
  • Foam cups, containers, packing peanuts.
  • Flexible plastic, such as toothpaste tubes, single-use coffee pods, straws, basketballs and soccer balls.
  • Glass items that aren’t bottles or jars, such as light bulbs, nail polish bottles, ceramics, or eyeglasses.
  • Soft paper, such as tissue paper, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper.
  • Waxy or plastic-coated paper, such as candy wrappers, granola bar packages, and freezer containers.
  • Electronics.
  • Cassettes and VHS tapes.
  • Tanglers — that is, any string-like items that could wrap around others, including computer cords and wires.

Remember, these rules are just for NYC residents. If you live elsewhere, check your local government website for the recycling rules in your area.

I hope you had a few aha moments when reviewing these rules, especially the don’ts!

 

 

 

New Life for Your Old Electronics

If you receive my monthly newsletter, you’ve seen my listings of electronics recycling events throughout New York City. Most of these events are sponsored by the Lower East Side Ecology Center, a longtime promoter of recycling and composting. The Center opened a permanent drop-off site for electronic waste in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn in 2012.

A recent New York Times article described the role the Center plays in providing old electronics for television shows and movies that need props to reflect an earlier era. Old computers, monitors, rotary phones, copiers, cameras, televisions, record players, typewriters  — these unwanted items are brought to the Center for recycling and end up finding new life on the screen. An item you bring to an e-waste event may end up making an appearance on your favorite TV show!

The Center also has a ReUse store featuring a diverse selection of inexpensive and hard-to-find electronics. This fun video which appeared on local station NY1 shows just what kind of stuff the electronics warehouse holds.

Later this month, the Center will be holding its annual Vintage Electronics Flash Sale at its E-Waste Warehouse, located at 469 President Street in Brooklyn. The sale takes place on Thursday, March 28 and Friday, March 29 from 10AM – 5PM, and Saturday, March 30, 10AM – 4PM.

You can learn more at the Lower East Side Ecology Center at https://www.lesecologycenter.org.

Get a Fabric Recycling Bin in Your Building

The laundry room of my apartment building is not a place that usually fills me with glee. However, I recently went down there for my weekly laundry routine and was delighted to find a clothing donation bin! It is part of a program called refashionNYC that is a joint venture between the NYC Department of Sanitation and the charity HousingWorks.

In addition to clothing, shoes, accessories, and linens, we can deposit fabrics for recycling, even though they might only be reusable as rags. This will keep fabrics out of the landfill.

Would you like to have a bin in your NYC building?  See this page on the Department of Sanitation site for more info, and for access to the on-line application.