Published January 13, 2020
Western culture celebrates the merits of spring cleaning. But what if we shifted our focus to our homes during the winter? We Pacific Northwesterners spend most of our lives during the cold and rainy season inside. And what if we approached our homes’ cleanliness and orderliness from an environmental perspective?
The Japanese tradition of “o-souji” may be extreme for our multi-room, multi-level homes, but we could apply some of the principles to indoor home maintenance and living at the beginning of a new year. An oversimplified explanation of the principle is based on the removal of everything from the home, cleaning/airing everything inside and out, and putting back only the essentials. We’ve all heard about the Kondori Method (Marie Kondo) of putting everything in a pile and keeping only the things that “spark joy.” This method could work for each room of the home, including the garage.
If you’ve recently bought a home and are preparing to move, this is an excellent time to exorcise the things that are weighing you down. Set a box aside for things you don’t want. Place them into the box as you remove items from shelves for packing. You will probably go through another filtering process as you unpack. Keep in mind that what you donate, you will not need to find a home for in your new space. For people in the Portland-metro area, refer to my list of places to donate once you’ve parsed out the things you can leave behind.
You could also create categories for some items, such as those that could be re-gifted. While it’s “the thought that counts,” ask yourself if this is something the person you’re giving to needs, wants, or would appreciate. If they, too, are making efforts to streamline their homes, consider gifts such as consumables, experiences, or a donation to their favorite charity in their name. Over the holidays, my wife and I participated in the Icelandic tradition of re-gifting books we had read. It not only recirculates beloved reading material, but provides a basis for conversation at the next gathering.
There are stricter regulations on what may be put in the recycling bins here in the Portland area. Please refer to Metro’s guide for recycling waste. If you have Styrofoam you’d like to recycle, please contact me about collection. I frequently travel by Agilyx who recycles Styrofoam and #5, so I’d be happy to make a run for our community.
Oregon now charges 5 cents per bag (yes, even paper ones!) at all stores. Consider making totes out of scraps of fabric you already have stored for that some-day craft project. Or see if your creative friend would make one for you with your materials. Buying new non-biodegradable but reusable petroleum-based bags might not be the perfect solution. You can make your own change by using what you already have.
What are some other tips you’d like to share for your environmentally-conscious winter cleaning projects?