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Spring cleaning with a reuse mindset

2022-03-25 10:16 AM | Reuse Minnesota (Administrator)

Spring cleaning with a reuse mindset
Incorporating eco-friendly practices and actions into our seasonal transition

The promise of warmer weather and longer days means spring is here! And with that, a good dose of spring cleaning is in order. We have some great tips to help motivate you, and reuse solutions you can use. 

Before buying cleaning supplies, do an inventory of what you already have. As you run out of your cleaning products, consider switching to more eco-friendly versions. Many containers can be washed out and reused with your own cleaning recipes. Hennepin County Environment and Energy and Dakota County both have effective green cleaning recipes that are not only less-toxic, but they are often less expensive than store brands. They also often require ingredients you already have around the house, such as white vinegar and dish soap. If you are cleaning around pets and little ones, or have your kids help with cleaning, it’s much safer to equip them with these types of non-toxic cleaners than some of the more harsh products.

Hennepin County Environment and Energy green cleaning recipes
Dakota County healthy household cleaning guide

Tip: Instead of using disposable paper towels or wipes, washable rags (including old bed linens and clothing items) and towels can do the trick. They are more durable and can be used again and again! Keep your cleaning supplies to a minimum. By simplifying your routine, you’ll be saving space, time, and money!

Where to begin
Make a plan to tackle one room at a time, and you won’t find yourself overwhelmed. Perhaps your garage is a priority, because you’re ready to winterize your snowblower (wishful thinking?) and dig out your bikes and sports equipment. Or maybe your closet is your focus, because you want to rotate your wardrobe and usher in the spring with seasonally appropriate looks and pieces. Break up your tasks to make getting started less daunting! 

Tip: Make major cleaning a year round activity. It’s an easier practice to maintain if you incorporate regular deep cleaning into your routine than to focus on it only once a year. 

Deciding what to keep and reuse, repair, or donate/give away
As you go through each area in your home, cleaning and sneezing, it's helpful to have a sorting process for the items you encounter. Designate a box or area in your home where you can place:

1. Items to keep and put-away immediately
2. Items to keep, but need repairing/maintenance
3. Items to donate/swap as is|
4. Items to donate/swap, but need repairing

This process makes it easier to stay focused and get items where they need to be.  

Tip: You can continue this type of sorting process throughout the year (similar to maintaining deep cleaning in your routine instead of just once a year). That way it's easier to see when you should add a repair or donation stop to errands.

Repair your items
As you find items that no longer work or are slightly damaged, the most convenient option may appear to be throwing it away. However, something as small as sewing on a new button or taking an appliance apart to clean it helps maintain our belongings, keeping them in working condition, and ensure we can keep using them longer. When we don’t have all the tools and skills to repair things ourselves, there are other people and services that do! Reuse Minnesota has members in the repair industry that can provide the fix or help teach you how to do it yourself. Reach out to your network to see if someone has the expertise to repair your stuff. Local counties also host fix-it clinics throughout the year. These events connect volunteers with individuals who need help fixing or repairing something. 

Upcoming fix-it clinics

April 16, 2022: Dakota County Fix-It clinic
May 7, 2022: Anoka County Fix-It clinic
May 21, 2022: Dakota County Fix-It clinic
June 4, 2022: Anoka County Fix-It clinic

Tip: Offer up your own tools or skills to help someone. Look for video tutorials online to help diagnose or fix your belongings. Find more repair resources in our directory.   

Creative reuse
When an item no longer serves its original purpose, it can be tempting to recycle it or even throw it away. What if you could give it a second life by repurposing it? By doing so, it gives the item a new function and even more value.

Sometimes seeing beyond the ordinary use of an item can be tricky. Fortunately, a quick search on the internet will yield countless ideas on how to upcycle items. For example, your favorite can of soup or deli meat container can be repurposed into part of a garage organization system. TV cabinets that are no longer popular in homes can be reused as a craft closet or even a mini bar. Broken plastic laundry baskets can be tied back together with rope, and serve as a corral for sports equipment in the garage. The possibilities are endless!  

Tip: Reach out to your network and see if people have ideas on how you can repurpose an item. A quick search on the internet can help get your creative juices flowing, and who knows what you’ll come up with! 

Host or find a swap event
Reuse Minnesota recently gave a presentation to government staff on how to host a swap event. You can find that recording here. Swap events can be tailored to fit any type of item. Cities have hosted media swaps, clothing swaps, and gardening tool swaps. You don’t have to be giving away items to attend either - swaps are designed to get stuff into the hands of people that want them - for free! Generally, people give away usable items they no longer want or need, and take things they can use. Reuse Minnesota will be hosting another presentation for the general public on how to plan swap events. Look for the offering on our website soon. Swap events can be a great way to connect communities and neighborhoods, while at the same time encouraging reuse of existing items (instead of purchasing new) and reducing the number of items ending up in the waste stream.

Upcoming swap events

May 24, 2022: St. Louis Park Gardening Swap
July 28, 2022: St. Louis Park Clothing Swap
August 24, 2022: St. Louis Park Media Swap

Tip: Start small and organize a swap event with your friends and family. You might start with clothing, craft supplies, or puzzles. Have bigger aspirations? Organize one for your neighborhood or community!

Donate unwanted items
Generally, if an item is something you’d give to a friend or family member, it’s a safe bet it can be donated. If it could use some altering to make it fully usable again, put it in a repair pile. You can consider items for reuse if it’s something that can be used again, such as bubble wrap from a package, or coffee and soup cans as tool storage in your garage. You could also view it as something that was intended for single-use, but could be used again before being recycled or put in the trash.      

Donation centers

Several Reuse Minnesota members accept donations
Reuse Minnesota also has a list of resources that will help you find a donation center near you
Join your neighborhood Buy Nothing group

Tip: Get your items to the organizations that need them. Check out individual websites to see what they are accepting. This will ensure your donations will be put to good use!

Change your habits and behaviors
Getting rid of clutter can be freeing, but let’s not forget why we ended up with so much stuff in the first place. Take stock of everything you find yourself wanting to get rid of and note why it’s no longer desired. Do you own multiples of items? Do you feel pressure to keep up with the latest gadgets and trends, but it doesn’t fit with your personal style? Are the items you’ve purchased breaking too quickly and requiring replacements? Are you being given items you don’t like or want? Taking the time to examine what you don’t want or need will help prevent those items from coming back into your home again. Save yourself time and money, and do a gut check when you’re considering purchasing something new. Do you truly need the item or are you reacting to a trend or boredom? Are there options to rent the item or borrow it from a friend? Can you get a secondhand option for your next purchase? Are you sure the item is durable, high quality, and has options for repairing so you can avoid replacing it as often? Make these simple changes or take these actions today, and your spring cleaning will be easier next year!

Reuse Minnesota was founded in 2012 and is a member-based nonprofit that supports repair, resale, and rental businesses, bringing visibility to the reuse sector as a means to lower our state's impact on the environment.

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