Cleaning Out The Sustainable Way

By Erika Weisensee
Milwaukie writing mom

There is something so cathartic about cleaning up the clutter at the beginning of a new year. “Dejunkifying,” as I like to call it, leads to a more serene, livable and enjoyable home. But in the age of sustainability, cleaning out requires a little more thought than simply tossing something into the trash. With recycle and donation centers willing to accept a myriad of used things, these days very little needs to go in the garbage. The task then for homeowners becomes sorting through things and finding out who takes what. Here are some guidelines to help you de-clutter the sustainable way.

– Computers and electronics: Designated E-cycle centers around the state of Oregon now provide free recycling of computers, monitors and televisions. Call 1-888-5-ECYCLE or visit for more information. Also, private organizations like accept and then refurbish used computer equipment for schools and organizations.

– Office and craft supplies: If you are buried in scrapbooking materials, sewing or art supplies you don’t need, schools, after-school programs, and senior centers may happily take it off your hands. For those in the Portland Metro area, the non-profit SCRAP (School and Community Reuse Action Project) accepts a wide-range of items for their creative-reuse programs and store. Check their website at for a list of items they need.

– Used clothing, bedding, toys and household items: Domestic violence agencies, homeless shelters and donation centers always need clothing, bedding, toys and household items. Items should be clean and truly usable, without holes or stains if a garment, and in clean and working condition if a toy or small appliance.

– Books: School, libraries, senior centers and used bookstores are among the places to recycle your used reading material. Some bookstores like Powell’s will buy used books, offering a small fee per book or store credit.

– Building supplies: From bags of unused nails to old cabinet doors, extra tiles and hardware, The Rebuilding Center ( is a regional leader in accepting and then selling used building and remodeling supplies.

In this green era, one person’s trash is truly someone else’s treasure. If you don’t know where or how to discard of your used things, simply ask around, make a few phone calls or look on the web.  The result will be a win-win for you, for the community and for the environment.

Erika Weisensee lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism and communication courses at the University of Portland.

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