The Surprisingly Simple Guide to Eco Friendly Moving
12 Minute Read
It f**king sucks.
It requires wayyyy too many decisions.
And it usually involves a whole lotta compromise… at least if you live with someone (ahem! like a husband).
And moving in an eco friendly way is even trickier. Why? Because it usually goes hand-in-hand with throwing away a lotta shit. Like – A LOT. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and my recent move over the summer proved just that.
Moving apartments, houses, or whatever version of van life you’re currently dipping your toes into doesn’t have to be a wasteful thing. And it can actually give the term “circular economy” a whole new dimension since it gives you an opportunity to pass along your unneeded items to people who can give them a new lease on life. Here’s how I pulled off the most eco friendly moving experience I could’ve imagined…
Eco friendly Moving Tip #1: Channel Your Inner Minimalist
Let’s be honest. You’ve got a lotta shit. We all do.
But do you really need it all? Do you use it all? And do you even really want it? The answer to at least of a few of these is: “No, I actually don’t.” You see, having a lot of stuff occupies mental space that you’re usually not aware of.
Since moving to a smaller apartment, my husband has actually embraced having less stuff. Something I’ve been trying to get him to do for ages. BTW, he might very well be a hoarder, but if not, he definitely falls into “pack rat” status. Seriously though, the stories I could tell you… like that time he brought in a nasty foam mattress off the street, just a few months after we’d had a bed bug scare… Seriously dude? That’s what you wanna bring into this apartment? Helllll noooooo!
[Get back on track Shannon!! Where were you going with this?]
OK. I’m back.
Since moving to a MUCH smaller apartment and being forced to downsize, my husband Wilson now appreciates the fact that he doesn’t have a million nooks and crannies stuffed with crap he doesn’t actually need. Don’t get me wrong… he still has way more sh*t than I’d like, but we’re going for progress not perfection… right? One of the things he’s made major improvements on is his closet. Now that he’s pared down to a capsule wardrobe, he loves having less stuff in his closet, which also makes getting dressed so much easier in the morning. You see, “too many choices exhaust us, make us unhappy, and lead us to sometimes abscond from making a decision all together” (Fast Company).
[ less stuff = less mental & physical clutter [which] = more mental clarity + better decision-making ]
Eco friendly Moving Tip #2: Be Proactive
If you know you’re gonna be moving, start sifting through your stuff as early as possible to get organized and see what you can get rid of. And by get rid of, I don’t mean “throw that sh*t in the trash.” What I mean is: responsibly get rid of those items without putting them on the curb. There are so many ways to do this, with trashing it being the very last option.
Remember, eco friendly moving means keeping items out of the bin! And the more you prepare ahead of time, the less shot-gun decisions you’ll make the week before your move.
Moving is always overwhelming. But starting early was the best decision I made during [and before] my move. It gave me the mental space and clarity I needed to make good decisions.
I went into the move organized with just “the essentials” (which can mean something different for everyone). Giving yourself the time to go through your stuff is not only better for the planet (since you’ll end up tossing a lot less). But it also helps you to move more intentionally, without creating more of a disorganized mess when you arrive at your new place.
Eco friendly Moving Tip #3: Make the Garbage Your Last Resort
As I mentioned above, there are so many ways to get rid of the stuff you no longer need, without putting them in the trash. Here they are… in order of best to worst (at least from an environmental and financial perspective):
Remember that song from the 80’s: She works hard for the money? Yea, that’s you. You worked hard for all the things you own. And if you no longer need them, why not get some of that money back by selling off your stuff? Craigslist is my #1 go-to for this. It’s FREE, super easy to post a listing, and 99.999% of the people you sell things to are (surprise!) normal human beings… not serial killers like my mother likes to think. I can’t tell you how many things my husband and I sold through Craigslist over the past few months. But just know that it was A LOT.
Other helpful websites are Kaiyo.com, which sells secondhand furniture with an ethos of sustainability supporting it, and AptDeco.com, which also sells secondhand furniture but takes a whopping 33% commission. Ummm…no thanks. Remember, you worked hard for your money!
Side note: both of these sites are good resources for buying furniture if you’re also looking for secondhand buys.
Donate & Trade
This one took me by surprise. I had no idea how big a part this idea would play in my move.
At the beginning of the year, I joined my local Buy Nothing Group, which is a free Facebook group based on your location. Members of the group post items they’re giving away and other members can pick them up. And since it’s based on your local neighborhood, everyone is relatively close to you. So arranging pickup is usually pretty convenient. These groups are all over the world. And if there isn’t one in your area, you can start your own. I used Buy Nothing the most during my move, not only for getting rid of stuff but also for getting things that I needed… for FREEEEEE!
The members of my Buy Nothing Group were literally coming in and out of my apartment like a rotating wheel. For weeks, I was posting things to give away; and somehow, everything I didn’t need, someone else did. And just like that, all of that excess stuff just went away. But not in the normal “away” we’re used to, like putting things in the trash where they magically go somewhere we’ll never see them (a.k.a., the landfill). No, no, these items got a whole other life. Maybe even a better life than what they had in my old cave of an apartment. We’re talking half-empty buckets of paint, Big Bird costumes, crusty screwdrivers, vintage candle holders, picture frames, coffee mugs, ladders, art supplies, and even old paintings from grad school. It all went! And without having to go to the trash.
The Buy Nothing Group is literally a zero waster’s wet dream for eco friendly moving. And its f**king freee!!!!
Here’s one of my posts from the Buy Nothing Group so you can get an idea of how it works
I not only used the BN group to get rid of items, but it also became a great eco friendly moving resource for me in more ways than one. First of all, remember the Big Bird costume I mentioned above? The person who took it, a woman by the name of Lucy, came back a few times during our apartment’s mass purge (95% of which all belonged to my husband, but you already know alllll about him).
During one of Lucy’s visits, she mentioned that she and her husband were trying to keep her 3 teenage boys occupied over the summer by fixing up old furniture. As she was leaving our apartment, she kindly asked if there was anything she could do to return the favor for all the stuff she’d gotten from us. I jokingly said, “well, if you’re trying to keep your boys busy, they can help us move outta here!”
Let me be clear, I was 100% joking when I said this. And to drive that point further, I have a very hard time asking people for help. So I was in no way actually asking for this.
Lucy left my apartment and returned an hour later with her 3 sons. She said they had something to tell me. So they trekked back up our 3-floor walk-up to tell me that they were, in fact, going to help us move.
Thank You, Karma!
I told her we’d happily pay them, but she said it wasn’t necessary. On moving day, not only did her 3 sons help us move, but so did her and her husband. 5 people! All willing to carry boxes and furniture down 3 flights of a lofted building in Brooklyn. Those stairs are no joke!
But the story of “Lucy the Saint” doesn’t end there. It gets even better.
After moving to our new place, we needed an air conditioner. And even though I knew it was a long shot, I posted that I was looking for an a/c on the Buy Nothing Group. Two days went by without a peep from anyone. Then, by the grace of God, someone posted about an a/c unit they were giving away. It was posted at midnight, and because I was fast asleep, I didn’t see it until the following morning. But my karma check had come into cash.
Lucy saw the post and not only commented that I was looking for an a/c, but she also messaged the person and offered to pick it up for me. I had no idea people like this still existed.
That a/c unit is sitting in the window next to me as I type this – all from a silly Facebook group. Who knew?
My good deeds of giving things away, diverting items from the dump, and offering other people the chance to give them a second life, had all come back to me. This was such a good reminder that doing the right thing when it comes to the planet doesn’t always have to be a chore. Sometimes it’s warm and fuzzy. Sometimes it gives as much to you as you put into it. And sometimes it allows you to connect with people IRL.
At this point, I’ve literally given away hundreds of items, many of great value, to people through Craigslist and my Buy Nothing Group. That’s hundreds of items that could’ve ended up in the trash. But by mindfully sorting through them and finding alternative homes for them, I got them out of my life in the most sustainable way possible.
Sometimes, the things you own have lived out an honest, good life. They’re not something anyone can use, but their raw materials may still have value… like my old drawings from art school. I had so many old drawings that, let’s be honest, weren’t worth keeping around. So I sifted through them, and put the ones I no longer needed in the paper recycling bin. I also had a much-too-expansive collection of jars that I couldn’t have used if I tried, so I paired down my collection to those I used, and recycled the rest.
Something I also do on a regular basis that was useful during our move was e-waste recycling: recycling items such as old chargers, cords, and printers that either didn’t work or were broken or obsolete.
Best Buy is my go-to for this. They have e-waste recycling bins for electronics and batteries at all of their stores. So right before the move, I took all of my e-waste to Best Buy instead of just tossing it in the trash. I also recycled any fabric scraps or old clothes that didn’t find a home through my Buy Nothing Group. I did this at a local textile drop-off at my farmer’s market. We were even able to take giant pieces of scrap metal my husband used to use for his sculptures to a scrap metal shop.
And bit by bit, the “waste” was gone.
There’s a reason this section is so small.
This. Is. Your. Last. Resort.
If there’s absolutely nothing you can do with an item. And no one wants to buy it. And there’s no one you can give it to. Then, and only then, can you trash it.
Now, if you’re wondering why the heck I wanted to divert all of this from going to the landfill, here’s some more info on zero waste and why it’s so important.
Eco friendly Moving Tip #4: Use What You Got
Would you believe me if I told you we moved from a 1200 sq. ft. apartment (with tons of lofted storage) to a 900 sq. ft. apartment (with practically no closet space) without buying a single box?
I probably wouldn’t either, but its true.
After downsizing so much of our stuff (a.k.a. Wilson’s stuff), we had all of these empty storage containers to use instead of moving boxes. And even though I’m not the biggest fan of plastic, we were able to use a combination of plastic milk crates and plastic storage containers to transport all of our stuff to the new place.
At this point, I probably sound like a broken record. But just in case you ever forget this very important principle of sustainable living: the most sustainable thing you can do is use what you got. If using a bunch of reusable plastic containers helps me avoid buying and tossing a crap-ton of cardboard boxes, you’d better believe I’m gonna do it.
All in all, what did I learn?
Yes, moving sucks. But it can also be really cathartic. I have so much less stuff, and lord knows, so does my husband. We’re in a MUCH smaller apartment that, like Goldie Locks says, is juuust right. Did we need the bigger apartment? No. Did we need the extra storage? No. Are we wayyyy happier now with less decisions to make on a daily basis, less clothes to sift through, and less crap to parse through when trying to find something? You better f**king believe it!
For me, physical clutter creates mental clutter. And so, living with less possessions, and knowing that I have less stuff hiding in the nooks and crannies of my apartment, gives me the mental clarity I need and want to focus on what’s really important.
In a sense, I’m grateful for my move and all of the clarity and space it gave me. Which is funny, since I’ve got a whole lot less space to live in.
Got any eco friendly moving tips to share with our sustainable community?
Share them in the comments below.