There are markers that remind us of the places we have been, the things we have done, all that we have seen and the people we have met along the journey. They tell the tales of our good and bad memories, of our good and bad days. We have held onto these markers for fear that if we rid ourselves of them, we shall one day face regret of that which we have lost. These markers are not albums or pictures, nor are they our wrinkled post cards and letters; but rather the collection of belongings piling up around us- clutter.

Is it not better if we be charitable, if we pass on that which we do not use to those who will? Our landfill Kilimanjaros’  show that we are just not dealing with enough of our waste. There is a finite amount of space that is available to us. What a shame it would be to have it dedicated to waste storage.

For me, I am as neat as the next freak, and not ashamed of it. But my office space tells a different story- one of which is a complete lie about me, let it be known! Papers stacked, scattered stationery, boxes of ???, have somehow managed to invade my space. It is not a major mess by any means; it is just my organized clutter. So if you have ever had to step over piles of paper, electronics and those old unidentifiable items, I am here to tell you that you are not alone. Lots of people are drowning in clutter.

Here at UHN, there are a lot of items in our departments, on our office desks and floors. This was the observation made by one of the housekeeping supervisors at TWH during our monthly waste meeting. We discussed ways to deal with clutter and a spectacular idea was born- the TWH Summer Clean Up Campaign.

For the event, staff across TWH were asked to look around their department or office for unwanted, non-medical items that were no longer being used. Many departments had already upgraded many things so they donated the old ones to the event. Many staff brought items down themselves from their department for the event, sometimes making multiple trips. After all unwanted items across TWH were collected, all TWH staff were invited to attend the TWH Summer Clean Up Campaign on July 20. Staff showed up in great numbers, coworkers side by side browsing through the variety of items to choose from. There were furniture items (storage cabinet, coat rack, stool, ceramic lamps, water cooler, etc.), electronics (music systems, microwaves, television, colour printers, fax machines, etc.) and stationary (ink and toner cartridges, binders and folders, medical dictionaries, etc.) available for staff to choose from. And here was the best part, staff were allowed to take items not only for their department, but for their home…and all for FREE (priority was given to UHN departments).

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  • An estimated 4511 pounds (2046 kg) of items that once cluttered departments across TWH were contributed by staff for the TWH Summer Clean Up Campaign.
  • Of that, about 3973 pounds (1802 kg) of items were swapped by staff for their departments, offices or home.
  • The remaining estimated 538 pounds (244 kg) of items will be recycled.

Sigh…what does this mean! Let’s discuss this weight in terms of the Canadian beaver…the equivalent weight of about 102 beaver were cluttering dams departments at TWH; the campaign allowed for 90 beavers to be swapped among departments, and the equivalent weight of about 12 beavers (left over after the event) was sorted for recycling. Sigh again…lets think of dollars instead of beavers. TWH staff decluttered approximately $16,000 of unwanted furniture,  electronics and stationery from their departments. This would have ended up being trashed, but the TWH Summer Clean Up Campaign allowed staff to swap for what they needed, saving close to $9,000 approximately. About $7000 worth of unwanted items were sorted for recycling.  

The TWH Summer Clean Up Campaign is a practical example of the 3Rs of waste management reduce, reuse and recycle.  This ‘swap’ event allowed for items that would have been discarded to be reused by departments that need them, thereby extending the life of that item. Items that were not swapped (left over after the event) were sorted and will be recycled accordingly. Besides these, the TWH Summer Clean Up Campaign was more of a revelation for many staff- the realization that reducing the number of items frivolously ordered would later reduce the build-up and clutter in our departments.

If missed the Summer Clean Up then visit the Energy and Environment Virtual Swap Room available  on the intranet where you can post your unwanted items and browse for items that are needed for your department.  If you want to swap your old stuff outside of UHN there are many tools online to help…Freecycle is just one of many.

For the TWH Summer Clean Up Campaign, TWH staff came out in droves to show their support of this green initiative. Thank you! I would also like to thank the Volunteer Resources department at TWH for providing me with great volunteers for this event. The campaign was a success due to the support, willingness and assistance provided by these volunteers. Thank you!