As I have noted in a previous post, it is impossible to recycle or reuse every bit of packaging that comes into my home. We live in a throw-away, one-use-only society, so almost everything we purchase comes in a container that is destined for the landfill. If you live in an area that has a recycling program, you can send some of it there, but many people do not have access to a good recycling center. Trying to reuse a portion of what comes into my house is both frugal and green, but since I have no desire to live like a hoarder, there must be limits placed on my stash of materials. So how do I decide what to keep and how many of any certain item?
The answer to this question will vary greatly from household to household. It depends on several factors, but one of the biggest is the matter of storage space. When I began looking at packaging for its recycling potential, I quickly discovered that I needed to have a designated area for my “crafting supplies” or they would take over the house! This grey cabinet in my garage has been given over to holding all my odds and ends. I use the interesting or sturdy containers that I want to save as storage units for smaller items I want to hold onto. As long as I contain the bulk of my items in this cabinet, I can keep my house uncluttered. When the cabinet becomes too full, I know that it is time to go through and re-evaluate what is being stored. The only things that I do not store here are my fabrics (these are stored with my sewing supplies), my plastic bags, and a few very large pieces of cardboard.
A second factor that plays a part in what I keep and what quantity is determined by my skills or genuine interest in reusing the materials stored. For instance, I know that plastics labeled with a recycle code of 1 can be used like Shrinky Dink, but since I am a little leery of the fumes and really don’t have much need for the kind of things that you can make with that medium, I may only hold onto a single piece of #1 plastic, or if I am short on space, I may part with it altogether. Additionally, though I have worked with cutting glass, I would have to really practice it a great deal to be good at it, so I have to have a project in mind before I start saving the glass.
This brings me to a third factor that I have to weigh when I am sorting things, and that is an honest evaluation of both my time and the final purpose of the thing I want to create. 🙂 Sometimes, I have a wonderful plan in my head for some bit of packaging that I have come across, but I either don’t have the time to produce it, or the end product is not really something I need. Therefore, it’s not worth my limited time and energy. This is often a harder decision to make. If the item I am interested in is small enough to fit in my cabinet, I will often keep it for a time to see if my situation or needs change, but if the item is really bulky and takes up too much space, I generally let it go.
The final decision I make while sorting through my cabinet is how many of an item to keep on hand. Often this decision is dependent on how versatile the item has proved to be in the past, how much space it takes up in my cabinet, and whether or not I already have a project in mind that requires a specific number of that item. Plastic lids in various sizes, shapes, and colors have prove useful for numerous tasks, so I keep several containers of them on hand. But the plastic sleeves in a photo album for the old 3 1/2″ x 5″ photo size is not required as frequently, so I only keep one tucked away on the shelf. I also have occasions where someone gives me some plastic piece that is an intriguing shape (I may not even know what it is or where it came from!). On those occasions, I may keep it for a time and see if the memory of it suggests something to me later on.
So what are some the package materials that I tend to save? Plastic lids (both hard and soft); cardboard in various shapes, weights and sizes; aluminum tabs and sheets; old greeting cards; bread clips; long plastic-coated twist ties; interesting containers; protective foam pieces; produce netting; plastic feed sacks; and last but never least, the ubiquitous plastic shopping bags!
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1Co 14:40
“For God is not the author of confusion” 1Co 14:33a