This is a great tip that works for getting organized and staying that way
MAR. 5TH, 2010 AT 8:59 AM

Put a trash can in every room. Every room. Even the room where you’ve never had a trash can because you can go five steps away and put it in the trash in the next room, so having a second trash can seems wasteful.

And then ask yourself, where are your recycling bins? If you’re like most people, they’re in the kitchen, pantry, or garage–out-of-the-way utility spaces where you won’t have to look at the recycling. Now ask yourself, where do you create the recycling? In the kitchen, sure. But how about by your desk? In your living room? Everywhere you create more recycling, put another recycling bin. It doesn’t have to be a big blue bin like the ones you put out on the curb; an ordinary trash can does just fine. (Or if you’re trying to get rid of cardboard boxes, a smallish box makes an excellent green recycling container.)

Now look at the size of the trash cans and recycling bins you already have out. Are they big enough? Or do they regularly overflow before you’re ready to change them? You might be tempted to blame yourself–“The trash can is the right size, I just need to empty it more.” Don’t do it! You’re not in the wrong. The trash can is too small and needs to be replaced with a bigger one. The ideal size for any trash can is one that needs to be emptied right around the time you’re prepared to empty it. For high-volume rooms like the kitchen, this should be weekly or biweekly, whenever trash day comes; for lower-volume rooms, once every two weeks, or a month, or every two months is fine. Go through your house and right-size your trash cans and recycling bins.

Why is all this fussing with trash cans important? Because garbage is an important part of clutter. If it doesn’t go straight into a can, it piles up around you, filling surfaces (so you can’t use them and have to put objects elsewhere, creating more displaced clutter) and the floor (so you have to walk around it, creating islands where other things gather) and filling in the spaces between your existing clutter with dusty, sticky chum (so it’s harder to declutter when you’re ready to tackle it) and making the place look more cluttered than it is. If you get into the habit of putting trash or recycling straight into a bin when you’re done with it, your clutter will accumulate far more slowly and be much easier to clear and clean.

Don’t fight your own tendencies when you do this. It may make sense to walk five steps into the other room to throw trash away, but are you actually taking those five steps? It may sound better to empty a small can daily, but are you doing it daily? It may be more efficient to keep all the recycling bins by the back door, but is all the recycling making it to the back door, or is your TV room full of Coke bottles? The answer isn’t to fix you. The answer is to fix your surroundings. After all, discipline takes weeks, months, years to acquire, but a trash can is $5.

ETA: Read the comments for more excellent tips on dealing with trash and recycling.

The essay that sparked off this post is “Stuff,” by Tyler Gore.


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