Think Before You Toss: Decluttering and Sustainability

Our monthly blog, edited by Dayenu (climate action and environmental justice) Circle members Chris Wynn and Sharon Smaller,  will give you ideas, information, resources, and things you can do to make this world a better place environmentally, tikkun olam. As a community, we can learn from each other, so we welcome your ideas and questions. Please share with us your successes in your endeavors to “go green.”

Quite possibly, one of your top New Year’s resolutions is to declutter and organize your home. You might wonder how this goal is connected to sustainability. The Green Maven kvells over the sustainability principle of Repair, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle or the 4 R’s. You can employ the 4 R’s and put them to good use whether you are cleaning out your office desk or tackling the dreaded basement.

For instance, the first R or Repair can be as simple as sewing on a button on your jeans or taking that broken lamp into a neighborhood repair cafe. For Reduce, you might feel frustrated after buying something only to realize that you already have that bike pump, glue gun, or phone charger stuffed into a cabinet. Getting your home a little more organized helps to ensure that you don’t accidentally acquire more than you need. For Reuse, the old maxim of one person’s trash is another person’s treasure remains as relevant as ever. That neon lime sweater that never makes it out of your dresser might become someone’s favorite. Finally, the fourth R, or Recycle, applies to a growing number of everyday items that can be recycled, ranging from appliances to food scraps to newspapers.

Typically, professional organizers recommend that as you start to declutter, sort your items into three piles: keep, give away, and toss. You can think creatively and thoughtfully about your “giveaway” and “toss” heaps. Did you know that the average person throws away 68 pounds of clothing each year? Mind-boggling! The goal is to keep things out of landfills, a major source of greenhouse gasses, to the extent that we can.

Below are some handy local resources, for reaching your goals of decluttering as you apply the 4 R’s to the task, whether it’s as simple as clearing out the catch-all drawer or the more ambitious overhaul of a top to bottom decluttering of your home.

Let us know if you have any great sources for where you donate your stuff or if you have questions about where you might donate something, and The Green Maven crew will try to do some research and get back to you. Please email Chris Wynn.

In general, a handy go-to resource for questions on recycling and where to donate your items is the SWANCC (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County) website, and then click on the FAQ page.

Arts and Crafts Supplies:

  • The Wasteshed in Evanston takes donations of all types of arts and crafts supplies, including yarn and material.


  • Bernie’s Book Bank (5255 Main St, Skokie)
  • Books4Cause– Along with books, accepts any CD’s and DVD’s in good condition. (3415 Madison St. Skokie)
  • Local Libraries
    • Evanston Public Library– 24-hour donation bin for Better World Books is located outside the east side of the library. (1703 Orrington Ave. Evanston)
    • Wilmette Public Library– accepts gently used books, CDs, and other media in good condition (1242 Wilmette Ave. Wilmette)
    • Skokie Public Library- please note, this library is no longer taking donations.

Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories:

Besides some of the major thrift stores that you can call for pick-up or make a drop off to, such as Amvets, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army, consider some of the following outlets:

  • Connections for the Homeless: They need a wide variety of items so check their website. In-Kind Donations. Currently, Connections is in need of adult winter clothing, pants, gym shoes, toiletries, rolling suitcases, and backpacks. Donations may be delivered to:
    • Hilda’s Place (1458 Chicago Avenue, Evanston): Monday-Friday between 2:00 – 4:00 pm
    • Main Office (2121 Dewey Avenue, Evanston): Monday-Friday between 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Simple Recycling: This service partners with the City of Evanston and the Village of Skokie as a measure to reduce the waste stream headed for the landfill. It accepts clothing (can be torn or a missing sock), shoes, lines, and fashion accessories. You just need to contact them to request a scheduled pick-up through their website or call 866-835-5068.
    • FYI the Green Maven has requested a pick-up one time and found it extremely easy. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of detail on their website to get much of a sense of where the items they collect end up.
  • YWCA Shop for Good: A social enterprise for YWCA Evanston/North Shore located at 1107 Central Avenue in Wilmette, Illinois. You can drop off women’s gently used clothing, shoes, accessories, and jewelry Tuesday through Saturday (12:00 – 5:00 pm)
  • Also, consider having a clothing swap with a group of friends. So much fun!


Furniture and Building Materials

Amvets, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army all take furniture in good condition. Contact them on their website for pick-up information.

  • World Relief Chicagoland: Currently, World Relief, which is focused on refugee settlement, is only accepting furniture donations at their Carol Stream offices (191 S. Gary Avenue, Carol Stream)
  • Rebuilding Exchange Warehouse: Accepts donations of building materials, wooden cabinets, light fixtures, and appliances

Scrap Metal

Also, in this month’s blog as a special bonus at the start of the New Year, we are including Dayenu’s Climate Action Resource Guide. Thanks to Dayenu Circle Member Michael Orenstein for compiling this list of organizations at the local, state, and national levels that are focused on climate change. The list also features some related titles of books and documentaries as well as websites, recommended by our members. We hope this resource list offers some inspiration to learn more about climate change and what actions, large or small, you might take now.