Take-Action: Spring Cleaning and Giving Things Away

Spring is a time of renewal, a time to clear out the old and bring in the new. After all, it’s not called Spring Cleaning for nothing. But many of us, myself included, get bogged down in the idea of cleaning out our house. Sometimes we wait so long that we feel overwhelmed with the task before us. Questions like, What should I get rid of? What if I need it later? What do I do with all of this stuff? keep us from taking that step of clearing our home so we can have an uncluttered living space.

Today I will answer a few of those questions. This Take-Action Tuesday is about taking the needed steps to clear out the excess stuff in your house and hopefully make a difference in someone else’s life in the process. Some things you may already know and some may open your eyes to several great opportunities to help others while clearing out what you no longer need.



You are probably familiar with the general “rules” for sorting the stuff you go through. One pile is for keeping, one is for giving away, and the last pile is the trash can. If you have not done this for a while, it can be daunting to know where to start. I have stood in front of my closet staring at my clothes with the best intentions, but remain frozen with indecision. If this happens to you (phew…I’m not alone!), take it slow. You don’t have to get it all done in one day.

A few tricks include finding the stuff you haven’t used in the past couple of years. If you haven’t worn it in the past year, you most likely won’t wear it in the future. In full disclosure, I have a red silk Chinese shirt that I refuse to part ways with. I remember last wearing it in 2002, but I am convinced I will wear it again. If you find yourself in this situation, move onto something else you can get rid of. Once you start, the process gets easier, I promise. You will soon find yourself motivated by the empty space before you. Another trick is to put these items in a box under your bed or high in the closet. Out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t miss them after 6 months, let them go.

If you need a little push to get motivated, these women have some great guides on their blogs about getting organized in your closet and throughout the rest of your house:

Spring Cleaning Wardrobe Detox

High Straightenence


Give Away

Once you have your “keep” stuff back in its proper closet, shelf, or cabinet, and the trash is outside, what do you do with the giveaway pile? There are many options available, but the key is to do it fast before items find their way back into your home.


Donations to Charities

You can make donations of gently-used items to thrift stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. You can also find local charities with attached thrift stores. In Mobile, try Seconds on Sage, Penelope’s Closet, and Mobile SPCA Second Chance Retail Shop, to name a few. There are many others out there—look online or contact your favorite charity to see if they have a store or if they can use donated items. Some organizations may not have a storefront, but they may hold rummage sales to raise money. These are great places to donate gently-used clothes, toys, movies, and appliances.

Donations to Shelters

Also consider charities that help high-risk populations like homeless shelters and women’s shelters. Many of their clients come in with the clothes on their backs and need many items that we might take for granted. Most of the charities around town have wish lists on their websites that you can use as a guide. For example, many shelters can use your collection of shampoos, conditioners, and lotions that you accumulate from various hotels. Many women’s shelters will take your unopened “free with purchase” make-up gifts from department store cosmetic counters.



If you want to make a little money and your items are in good condition, consider selling your clothes at a consignment shop. Consignment shops sell your items for you and take a small portion of the sales. This is a great option if you are getting rid of fancy clothes, barely-used appliances, or items that have never been opened/worn. There are stand-alone consignment shops and there are also consignment events like the Wee Exchange that lets you sell children’s clothes, toys, and equipment two times a year. This is a great way to make some money for updating your wardrobe, getting that things you’ve been saving for, or just to put in savings for a rainy day.



Another option is free-cycling, which is giving away your unwanted items to someone who does want them. There are freecycle websites and yahoo groups in most cities where you can post what you have or what you want (usually smaller items like egg cartons and old magazines). Look for one in your area at freecycle.org.



You can also try your hand at upcycling your stuff. While it’s not the same as giving it away, it does transform an item with no use into an item you will use and enjoy. A google search can give you an idea of the possibilities for upcycling a particular item. Pinterest is also a fantastic resource for this kind of thing. You can find tutorials for everything from turning Mardi Gras beads into a chandelier to making a jewelry box out of an old board game. Start your search on our Pinterest page!


Good luck on your spring cleaning and finding new homes for your stuff. Perhaps this will be the year that my red silk shirt makes it to someone else’s home!


Take-Action: Share your Cause

Take-Action Tuesday is the day we share one way you can take action and get involved in your community. Today we are talking about sharing your reasons for caring about a cause or issue with your family and peers. The more we know and understand, the more we care and the more we can change.

Second to “No” I think “”Because” might be the most despised word in a child’s vocabulary.
“Why do I have to go to sleep early?”
“Why do I have to eat my vegies?”
“Because I said so!”
“Why don’t the stars fall out of the sky?”
“Just because, my dear.”
The word “because” can answer the question, but on its own it lacks the ability to give understanding. And understanding is imperative to truly changing how someone sees and reacts to a certain issue.

For example, I didn’t think much about stormwater runoff until I knew how bad it could really be. I would see trash in parking lots and think that it looked horrible, but I didn’t question where it would go. Then I saw a video that showed me exactly where it went and it was even worse than what I saw in the parking lot. It opened my eyes to yet another area where the environment needed protecting.

Photo by mobilepaddler.blogspot.com

But I don’t litter, so what could I do with this information? I decided to share it with my kids so they would know why it is wrong to litter and how that action degrades out environment. On a rainy morning on the drive to school, the kids noticed trash on the streets. I asked them what they thought happened to the trash on the street. They didn’t know the answer. I told them that the rain would go to the storm drains (or the nearest creek) and take with it anything in its path, including the trash. That trash would then be spit out into Dog River and then make its way into Mobile Bay. And not just that trash they saw in that lot, but all the trash on the streets in the city. That’s a lot of trash.

What was their response? “Yuck!” And they hadn’t even seen the pictures I had seen earlier. Rather than saying we don’t litter, because well we just don’t litter, I told them why and it made all the difference. They don’t want to look at, swim in, or fish in a waterway full of trash! Who wants to reel in a deflated basketball? Now they know that in order to keep the River and the Bay clean, they need to do their part and throw trash away properly and tell their friends to do the same.

Educating our kids (and our friends and the rest of our family members) is one of the most important things we can do. When they understand where we are coming from, why we do and believe in certain things, it makes it much easier for them to identify with those issues and actions. For example, now when it’s raining and I ask my kids about where the trash on the road goes, they tell me, “Dog River, mom!” I know they wouldn’t know that if I just told them “Because, we just don’t litter.” And I know that over the years they will continue to learn and come to appreciate why our local waterways and environment are so important. Then they too can take care of the environment for their kids and share with them what they learned when they were kids.

For today’s Take Action Tuesday, take some time to share with your friends and family how and why you help to take care of the environment. Whether it is recycling, composting, using eco-friendly products or anything in between, tell them why it’s important to you. You may just find that they see it your way and start taking care of the environment too!


This week is also Environmental Education Week! This is a great resource for teaching kids about nature, wildlife, and the environment: http://eeweek.org/children_and_nature

Tuesday: Make Recycling Happen

Have you ever wondered why something is the way it is? Have you ever wondered how it could be different? Have you ever wondered how change happens?

Take-Action Tuesday is all about taking a chance and making change happen. Today’s story comes to us from Serena, one of Mobile Baykeeper’s most valued volunteers. Her story starts with a simple question.

Don't let your cardboard become waste!

Ask a question.  How many times have you wondered about something and then the thought has quickly fleeted as the hectic pace of the day continues?  Often with the readily available mass amounts of information at our fingertips, we generally ponder and wonder a great many things throughout the day but fail to properly formulate our questions.  For me, my question concerned how to recycle the cardboard and paper waste from work.

The Problem

As an analyst at a local company, several of us had discussed how we should be good stewards and recycle the cardboard boxes that overfilled the company’s dumpster on a weekly basis. Sometimes our cardboard disposal surpassed the dumpster’s capacity, and the company would be required to call for extra waste pick-up that week.  Some of us, as individuals, started carting whatever our compact cars could hold to the Keep Mobile Beautiful Metro Recycling Drop Off site.  The comments of how we wished we could be more effective at recycling kept bouncing through the company hallways.

The Question

Then the comment about a service that offered free paper recycling pick up reached my ears.  I asked the question: “Have we called them?” Blank stares were my answer.  I took five minutes to access the information ready at my fingertips and called Keep Mobile Beautiful. Upon hearing my request, they directed me to Charmayne Watson at The Newark Group.  Two voicemails, one mine and one her timely response, and presto!  One recycled waste dumpster, now being used for a paper materials recycle bin, delivered directly to the company’s site, free-of-charge.

Routine pick-ups were scheduled, and we were told to call when we needed an additional pick up in the week.

Total amount of time it took me to accomplish this: 15 minutes.

The Outcome

The company now recycles its cardboard boxes, shredded paper and other office paper waste. Some employees are even bringing paper from home. (For some the drive to the Metro Recycling Center site is not economical, gas-wise.)  Neighboring companies are also using the recycling bin.  Debris that would have continued to fill landfills is now being recycled at no cost to the companies using the service.  For a small company, it may have started as a matter of economics and cost-effectiveness for waste disposal.  For those of us wondering how to improve or lessen our impact on our environment, it is a matter of asking a question and taking what literally may be five minutes to get an answer and make a difference.

Some Helpful Resources

If you live in Mobile:

If you live outside of Mobile (and many of you do!):

  • Visit http://earth911.com/ to find a recycling center or service near you.
  • Visit Keep America Beautiful to find an affiliate in your area, or other resources about recycling and litter. http://www.kab.org/

Tuesday: Talk to an Elected Representative

Welcome to Take-Action Tuesday, the day where we encourage you to take action in your community. Today we are talking about the importance of communicating with your elected representatives.

The House and the Senate are taking a two week break from Washington D.C.  These breaks are intended for Congressmen to return to their districts to spend time at home AND also to take time to talk with their constituents—that’s you.  As April is Earth Month, why not take time today and contact your Representative and Senator and talk to them about why protecting the environment is so important.

What should you talk about?  First, everyone likes to hear something good.  So if they’ve done something good for the environment lately, say “Thank you.”  Then, tell them your story….why you care so deeply about the environment and why it is important to where you live.  Do you live near the Gulf or an ocean and love to go to the beach?  Tell them how important it is to keep the beaches clean from oil and trash.  Do you love to eat Gulf seafood?  Tell them about how important it is to make sure the waters are clean so seafood is safe to eat.  Do you love to go to your local river and swim, kayak or inner-tube (something I loved to do as a kid)?  Tell your Congressmen why it is so important to protect our stormwater systems so trash on the road doesn’t turn into trash in our rivers.

Hearing from constituents is very important to our leaders.  You need to let them know that you are paying attention to how they are working to protect the environment.  Some people will tell you to let your voice be heard in November on Election Day.  But the truth is, your voice can and should be heard every day of the year.  So take time on this “Take Action Tuesday” to make your voice heard and contact your representative!

Also, check out the link below to view Mobile Baykeeper’s letter-writing guide if you would prefer to communicate with your representatives in writing. http://mobilebaykeeper.org/letter-writing-guide