May 12, 2011

De-clutter, Revitalize, Re-Think… Mindfully. ~ Allison Barocas

Photo: Allison Barocas

Something had been weighing me down. Not so much physically, as much as emotionally and perhaps not me, so much as my life.  Baffled, I wracked my brain trying to figure out just what that something was…

Just weeks before,  I had completed another semester of undergrad successfully. Summer vacation has begun and I’m ready to start a new chapter in this little book I like to call college life. So, why I did I feel so heavy?

I shopped. I reconnected with old friends lost in the chaos of life. I treated myself to coffee and frequent lunches.  When all else failed I drove to Lost Gulch lookout in Boulder to let my worries go.

But this time it was to no avail. And then, days ago, I woke up in the morning with the sudden urge to de-clutter.  It was as if something finally clicked. It all made sense now: I hadn’t done my spring-cleaning.

Now, I know this seems silly—not the fact that I hadn’t done my spring-cleaning already, but the fact that I thought doing so would take the weight off of my shoulders. But here’s the funny thing: It helped

I finally let go of things I felt so attached to in seasons past—clothes, office supplies and cleaning supplies. I cleared and cleaned out drawers in every room of my apartment. I finally knew what lurked in the deep, dark corners of my closet and pantry.

I was physically getting rid of so much stuff but more than that I was clearing and sifting through my mind. The mess and disorganization seemed to haunt me all year long, but I just closed the doors, hoping to ignore it for as long as possible until it absolutely had to be dealt with.

Maybe that reflects the way I deal with most issues in my life: I wait for them to look me directly in the eyes before I take action.

But, can you blame me? Who really has time to clean, arrange and sort through so much stuff in the midst of everything else going on in life? How do you juggle schoolwork, exams, appointments, family, friends, a job, a significant other, and maybe even a dog on top of the household?

Some people can do it year round. Maybe they’re much stronger than I am. I need to prioritize. School first. Social-life second. Then, keeping my apartment in check.  (And yes, this really is how I order my duties as a college student).

Go ahead. De-clutter. The weight will be lifted one shirt, shoe and office supply at a time. And, I promise it will help to start a new season and a new chapter in whatever book you call your life.

Here are some helpful hints:

Photo: Venicephotog

Spring is the time to get rid of old clothes, shoes, bedding, and broken furniture; arrange the dresser drawers, clean out the refrigerator, and organize the kitchen cabinets.  Sort out what you need and what you can live without. Put your bulky winter coats and scarves in storage. It’s the time to clean the deepest and darkest corners of your closet, and your mind.

Detach yourself from the piles of meaningless stuff you never thought you could part with seasons ago. See that old sweater you refused to donate, believing in all your heart you would wear it again? Well, that was probably years ago. Just get rid of it.

But, wait. Not so fast.

We have to make sure that we spring-clean mindfully. Cradle-to-cradle. We can’t forget that there is a dark side to the light of spring-cleaning and that is all the waste we generate. Come the end of a school year, even those in Boulder, Colorado, known for being environmentally conscious, generate mass amounts of waste.  Perfectly good cleaning supplies, trash cans, clothes that could otherwise be donated or sold are thrown into the dumpster.

Lucky for dumpster divers, but perhaps detrimental to our environment.  I’ve provided those looking to spring-clean a short guide to doing so in an environmentally friendly way:

Tip: Anything that is in good condition (no holes, no stains) can be sold to Goldmine, Platos Closet and Buffalo Exchange. These stores accept clothes, shoes and accessories year round. Who knows, you might just get some fast cash for your goods or your choice of trade in some awesome vintage apparel.

Tip: If it just so happens that nobody wants to pay you for that sweater we were talking about earlier, donate it.  Salvation Army and Goodwill will gladly accept it and tons of other goods.  Kitchen appliances, dishware, televisions, furniture and picture frames are just a few of the items these stores will take.

Tip: Boulder Freecycle is another great resource for getting rid of your old stuff. Freecycle is a grassroots network and non-profit organization dedicated to keeping trash out of landfills and serving the community by offering loads of free stuff. But remember: The organization works when you give and don’t just take.  Membership is required, but it’s free. Every item must be posted as free, legal, and all-ages material.

Tip: And if you prefer, posting goods to craigslist is another great option. Disclaimer: post at your own risk and take security measures.

Tip: If there is some stuff you throw in the dumpster, do your best to confine it to a box or area outside the dump. It will be easier for diver’s and others to spot. Also, let people know where it will be.

Photo: E. Belknap

These are only a few helpful tips.  These aren’t secrets; most of us have heard of these stores, organizations and sites. However, despite this fact, a lot of us still generate a ton of trash that can otherwise be recycled or even better, reused.

There are lots of people, families and communities that can benefit from your old stuff. By donating and selling we can help keep huge amounts of our waste out of the landfills. I encourage everyone to de-clutter your space and your mind.  But don’t forget to do so mindfully.


Allison Barocas is an undergraduate Senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, majoring in environmental studies and currently interning with elephant journal. Allison was born and raised on Long Island, New York and completed high school in Knoxville, Tennessee. She loves to spend her free time outdoors, going to concerts, running around Denver and traveling.

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