It feels good to clear out the house

This week, our columnist Claudette Sandecki tackles her recycling

The number of seniors living in Terrace makes this town a perfect site for an enterprising person to set up a service helping elderly cull their residence of ‘junk’ when they’re ready to downsize to smaller living quarters, move to a retirement home, or relocate to another city to be nearer grandchildren.

For more than a year I’ve been stacking up recycling beginning with daily additions of plastic bags,  empty cans and berry cartons. I went so far as to remove hard covers from weighty volumes to make the pages acceptable for recycling. Next I tackled a 20-year stash of glossy magazines: Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Readers’ Digests, National Geographic… all bought before I invested in a computer and began reading periodicals on-line.

Bags of recycling grew in four rooms, until the last week when I consolidated them in the room handiest to the front door, formerly my upholstery shop.

That’s when I phoned Kasey at Do Your Part Recycling and asked her  to bring their cube van.

Other years, I’ve loaded recycling into my pickup and taken it to the depot by myself, but this year in addition to being four months late I had cleared many years’ worth of outdated reading material. Paper products like books and magazines are especially heavy. In addition, the bulk would never have fitted into my pickup nor would I have had the stamina to load it by myself.

Teaming up, I delivered the bundles two at a time to the doorstep, where Kasey dropped several bundles  into each of 16 big garbage bags before stowing them neatly in her van. In 40 minutes we had cleared 80 square feet of floor space I hadn’t seen in months.

All of it went except for the items Do Your Part doesn’t accept – dog food bags; glass jars; hardcovers that took muscle to cut off bound books (the covers are not cardboard, but rather some composite material); and big plastic spools from industrial thread. The spools have no recycling code on them. The spools, when screwed to a wall,  make excellent tool holders , particularly  for electric drills, staple guns, or anything with an electrical cord. The one inch diameter spools protect the cords from injury. Cans needn’t have their ends removed, as I did previous Aprils.

Sorting what to keep, what to toss out, and what to pass on to someone who might be able to use it is never easy, quick, or without pangs. By comparison, sorting potatoes is a lark. What looks like just old magazines may hide a gem, perhaps a file folder or note enlivening family history.

In my case a heap of Enquirers turned out to be hiding a $10 owner’s manual for a General Electric VCR I had ordered from Thomson Consumer Electronics in Louisville, Kentucky and not seen since its arrival December 22, 2005. The VCR awaits delivery to an electronics recycling depot.

But delivering castoffs to a recycling depot, landfill, Goodwill, or secondhand store isn’t all seniors may want help with. There’s reaching to fetch things down from high shelves, and equally difficult for some of us, kneeling on the floor to access lowest storage areas; packing small items in boxes or bags for efficient removal; carrying everything to the front door; dusting empty shelves; and tidying up the room afterwards.

Not everyone has ample space to safely collect boxes or bundles. Leaving something where it can snag a passing toe can lead to an emergency room visit, or worse, surgery to stabilize a compound fracture.

Having extra free space in the house is as exhilarating as I imagine an Oprah spa day to be. I’ll bet my kids are equally relieved so much junk has left the building.