Guest Column

May 24, 2011

By Contributor

Spring Cleaning Week helps residents clear out the clutter

Winning the war against clutter can be tremendously satisfying. That may be why a whole industry has developed around fighting clutter.

You can see it on Oprah, and you can ooh and ah at the worst cases on shows like “Hoarders.” You can even pay an organization coach to get your clutter under control — if you’re willing to pay up to $50 an hour.

But you can also just take a few easy steps on your own. Because cutting clutter means reducing waste, the King County “Recycle More. It’s Easy to Do.” program designated May 9-13 as Spring Cleaning Week. You can find lots of resources at, but here are a few to get you going.

Let’s start in the home office, often the most cluttered room in the home:

  • Jettison junk mail. Those foot-high piles of papers in your office include a lot of junk mail, don’t they? Catalogs and coupons and fliers. Aiiee! Get in the habit of either filing incoming mail or putting it directly in the recycling bin. Better yet, get off of mailing lists by using the free non-profit service
  • Pitch packing material. Get rid of that Styrofoam stuff sitting in the corner because you don’t know what to do with it. To find stores that will accept your clean used packing peanuts (they reuse them), go to or call the polystyrene industry’s Peanut Hotline at 800-828-2214. For those bulky Styrofoam packing chunks, recycling options are limited, but V & G Styro Recycle in Renton just west of IKEA ( will take them at no charge.
  • Unplug your electronic waste. Under the state’s E-Cycle Washington program, the electronics industry pays the recycling cost for computers, monitors and TVs, so you don’t have to! Maple Valley Goodwill participates in E-Cycle or find recycling and reuse locations and info (you may have to pay to recycle some items, like printers) at and

Now let’s zip into the kitchen and cut clutter there:

  • Free your food. You know those canned or packaged goods just taking up space in your cupboard, that you’re never going to use? If they’re still in good shape, donate them to food banks.
  • Corral your containers. Does it seem like your Tupperware-type containers are breeding? Weed them out! Turn them into containers for your kids’ crayons or other supplies.

Let’s end with a few quick tips for the rest of the house:

  • Donate, donate, donate! Thrift stores can really use your stuff, and your donations often benefit non-profits.
  • Let recycling multiply. To capture all your paper and other recyclables, make sure you have recycling bins in the home office, kids’ rooms, bathroom, even the garage and basement.

These tips are just a start. You probably have your own great ideas, and you can visit for more. Reduce, reuse, recycle and rein in the clutter.

Tom Watson is the King County EcoConsumer. Comment at

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