Making a Move – The Dirty Truth

So we moved. And moving tends, well, to generate garbage.

It’s not just the boxes and packing tape, it’s the years worth of “stuff” you’ve been storing in the basement, thinking you’ll get to later. Stuff that you don’t really want at your shiny new place.  . . . I figured I owed it to myself (and you) to be open about the garbage that came from our move, so here’s the good and the bad on the waste front.

The Bad We had to wade through 7 years of “stuff” in the basement, and came out with: a grocery bag of odds and ends destined for he landfill (scraps of cloth, broken things, dried up paint and epoxy from art projects, 2 broken ski poles -someone help me with these), a few bags of recyclables (paper, soft plastics, scrap metal), and a woven rope rug which looks moderate on top and is disintegrating underneath (I’m considering using it to line a raised garden bed). I also (guiltily) used way too much of a roll of plastic packing tape that we had laying around.

The Good I borrowed a bunch of Rubbermaid containers from a friend which dramatically cut down on the number of cardboard boxes we used (if you don’t have a friend who moves so often that they actually bought a set of containers, try a service like frogbox). The cardboard boxes we did use were salvaged from the local beer store (saving both resources and our pocketbook). I used sheets, towels, and reused cardboard to protect dishes and such, eliminating the need for packing paper or bubble wrap. We also avoided the dreaded transfer station by getting rid of lots of stuff on craigslist and the local thrift stores.

I calculated we saved about 7 pounds of carbon by forgoing a huge moving truck and relying on people power, but we probably more than made up for it running “extra items” to a temporary storage locker.

In the end, our single bag of moving waste contributed to our 2010 garbage total being well above our Clean Bin Project year. I didn’t measure it, but I’m thinking it was at least 4 or 5 grocery bags for the year. Kind of sad, but also much better than we ever were before the project started.

Any green moving thoughts?



Filed under Around the house, DIY

11 responses to “Making a Move – The Dirty Truth

  1. Rebecca

    Hmmm… I think you’re being awfully hard on yourself. I don’t really think that throwing out old garbage that you created years ago should really count… likewise for the packing tape. I mean if you’ve already bought the thing, then it seems like it would be an even bigger waste to throw it out without using it. Sort of like a vegetarian allowing meat to go bad because they don’t want to eat it. I mean, what’s the bigger sin, using something that’s wasteful, or allowing it to go completely to waste by being thrown out without ever being used?

    I think it’s vastly more important to concentrate on not bringing new garbage into our lives, and on buying things that won’t become garbage at the end of their useful lives. You can’t beat yourself up because something wore out for heaven’s sake! Speaking of which, I’d probablyhang on to the broke ski poles and maybe some day I’d find a use for them… perhaps they could be used in the garden to make a pea trellis or something like that. And depending on how big the scraps of cloth are, you might try freecycling them… quilters and rag rug makers can make use of awfully small pieces.

    OK… so the only thing I can think of to reduce the moving waste in general would be to close the boxes by tucking the edges instead of taping them, and perhaps use some (reusable) string or twine to further secure them if necessary. BTW – we’ve been having a very interesting discussion on packing tape over at My Plastic-Free LIfe (formerly Fake Plastic Fish)

  2. Wow Jen, that’s a brilliant achievement, seriously. I echo what Rebecca said – you’re being too hard on yourself. Between you and me, if we moved we would need to hire a skip; there is a LOT of junk around here 🙂

  3. em

    That’s an admirable move. I don’t look forward to emptying our festering basement pile of stuff when we sell our place eventually. I’m with Rebecca on focusing on not bringing new junk in. That seems to be the take-home message every time we move. I think we’re finding less and less crap to get rid of every time we re-locate, and still telling ourselves we have too much stuff. You’ll notice that even though we bought our own moving boxes, we still used ridiculous plasticized tags that were totally un-necessary because someone is a bit anal about these things… another lesson learned, and “one more thing” for next time.

  4. Lori

    Dear Jen,
    Thank you for sharing your truth, and way to go. I’m with Rebecca on this one. I have only recently been introduced to your project and I found it inspiring…so much so I have decided to test myself and commit. I do have a question though, do material items that are currently in use i.e., not new, count as waste or does only new waste count? After reading Rebecca’s comments, I would lean towards letting the old be the old and monitoring the new. How did you handle “old waste” at the onset of your project?

    • Lori – During the project, old waste and new waste were both waste. We did find that it took at least 3 or 4 months to purge the plastic bags that kept popping up (although we recycled them, so they didn’t end up in our bins). These days, I’m not concerned with ‘new’ waste.

  5. You did great! You didn’t create garbage in the move… you just unearthed garbage that was there already.

    We are planning a move, too, so going through EVERYTHING in the house in an attempt to get rid of 50% of our stuff. Although I am aghast at the stuff going to the landfill, the majority isn’t. Life goes in cycles. We went from no kids, to little kids, to older kids, to teenagers and now we see the empty nest drawing closer.

    You will find the same thing — as your needs change, so do the contents of your home. You are lucky in that you are early in the journey and can actually plan the transitions. My generation never thought beyond wanting and getting the stuff.

    I think differently now, but have to deal with the past. Whether the garbage is in my basement or the landfill, it is still garbage. In my basement, it detracts from my new lifestyle by making me need a bigger place to heat and light; it neither helps me or the environment.

    So, pat yourself on the back! You did amazingly well!

    • Thanks for the kind words Pamela. We still have lots of stuff, but you’re so right about how your needs change throughout your life. I also marvel how different people have different ideas of necessities. For example, I wouldn’t dream of a kitchen without cookie sheets and baking pans, but some people just don’t think they’re necessary!

  6. Amanda

    There have been times where I moved three times in less than 12 months. Each time I move (I, obviously, live in apartments and there just happened to be issues with water damage and other uncontrollable issuess in many of them) I used boxes from Walmart, Shoppers Drug Mart or fruit boxes from Superstore. I have never bought anything to help me move except packing tape (which we did use a fair amount of unfortunately). A lot of stores are happy to have someone take their boxes.

    Coincidentally, I have also been going through everything. I am a recent ex-hoarder and thus have mountains of stuff to go through. I have probably gotten rid of at least 50% of everything I owned. I found it was easier to do this since I was donated everything to a local family center since they take things to redistribute for free (they don’t charge the people who take it) and will take household items and other things beyond clothes.

    By the way, for cleaning up a big pile in a storage area like you have and came out with such little garbage, you are doing pretty good 🙂

  7. Nathalie

    I can relate to this one in a big way – I moved countries recently and packed up my life into a few large boxes to be shipped across the seas. I had about 8 years worth of house-share accumulation to sort through so not all the house ‘flotsam’ was mine – some had been left by former housemates. On the plus side, I gave myself about 6 months of pre-planning to go though my possessions and prune everything down that I really was just not using (which was way more than I first realised). I sold a crazy amount of stuff online and resold nearly all of my (already second-hand) furniture that I wasn’t planning on taking with me. What I didn’t sell went to charity or friends and neighbours. I packed everything in either towels, sheets or other fabric, but also used bubble wrap I had collected along the way (I never buy it but always keep any that ends up in my household for re-use) as well as old newspapers from neighbours that bought the paper daily. I collected all the boxes from my work over the course of several weeks, and though I had to buy palletised cardboard crates for sea transport, I resold them once the move was done.
    On the minus side, when dealing with an overseas move in particular, you invariably run out of time and your last few days are spent in an overtired and panicked frenzy trying to dispose of random junk that doesn’t seem to fit into any category that isn’t ‘landfill’ or ‘getting rid of this because I can’t cram it in’. Though I have always been pretty frugal and buy most of my possessions second hand, this move did still highlight a need for me to be more vigilant in keeping a tight rein on what I own so I don’t end up with any unnecessary clutter!

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