5 Ways to Declutter Responsibly
Written by Ana Olteanu | @savour.the.detour
You might have recently watched Less is Now by the Minimalists and are taking out your boxes, ready to do an epic closet/room/or even full-space declutter. Many of us are indoors wondering what our next project will be, and with spring here, it’s doubly that time when we are eager to rid ourselves of what no longer serves us.
Before you go for it, take just a minute to think about where your stuff might go! It could be years of things you are looking at – and while it won’t take as long to get rid of, it can be done mindfully so it doesn’t all end up in a landfill.
Whether decluttering by boxing up your entire apartment to see what you DON’T use in the next 3 weeks like The Minimalists – or KonMari style, decluttering by category – the most important is to do it responsibly.
A lot of stuff that usually ends up in landfills can actually be recycled, reused, repurposed, donated. As they say,
“one [wo]man’s trash is another [wo]man’s treasure”. English proverb
Let’s put this proverb into practice!
First thing’s first – can you repurpose your clutter? This can look like:
The possibilities are endless! Instead of using donation bins, try one of the tips below to make sure your items land in the right hands:
Basic necessities & clothing. Organizations that help the homeless are always looking for donations. BUT before you head over to your local shelter, call. I’ve worked with multiple organizations who sometimes just don’t need what we have to offer, or simply don’t have the space. Look for one that will benefit.
Gently used bras can be donated to isupportthegirls.org, where they will be distributed to women experiencing homelessness
Books can be donated to schools, libraries, or betterworldbooks.com – a certified B-Corporation that has re-used/recycled millions of books! If you are in the US or UK, you might have a drop-box near you. In a different country? No problem, you can ship books to any of their global facilities.
Business attire & handbags for women – this is a big one. Most of our closets are filled with WAY too much clothing, and is often the first place we start our decluttering journey. [dressforsuccess.org – insert link] wants to bring your unused or gently worn business-wear to a woman looking for work. This is more important than ever: COVID-19 has further stressed women’s job security, with an even bigger impact on women of colour.
New or gently worn shoes can be donated to soles4souls are sent to those who need them around the world. Have your shoes shipped for free if you’re in the US! Check out their site and enter how many pairs you want to donate: you’ll see your impact in numbers.
Jewelry is accepted by many charities. It can be melted down and reused, or to someone else might be perfect as is. You can also try your local thrift store who will likely be glad to accept it!
Turns out you are likely not the only one decluttering! So many have taken to online sources to sell their used goods, and you can too. Here are just a few options:
Curbside – you never know what your neighbors might need. It’s amazing how quickly these things go!
Online trading groups like Bunz (available in Canada & US)
This might seem odd since we are trying to get rid of things, but our “clutter” can be used for stuff we need to purchase anyway. Here are a couple of examples:
Sheets & towels can be cut up into rags. Depending on their condition, they can replace car cloths or even paper towels
Jars can be saved for bulk shopping instead of buying new-and-packaged
If your items can’t be saved and need to be thrown away, try:
More and more we are realizing how important proper recycling is. Luckily there are a lot of programs and businesses out there trying to make this easier:
TerraCycle makes sure we recycle properly! They then partner up with businesses to turn our trash into a product that can be used again
Not sure where your item goes? Find out if your city has a local waste app, like this one based in the city of Toronto
Lightbulbs, batteries, oils, paint, nail polish, appliances and other electronics can be hazardous. Find a household hazardous waste depot near you to make sure harmful substances don’t end up in our rivers and lakes
Last but not least, don’t forget about:
5. DIGITAL DECLUTTERING
“Did you know that if the internet was a country, it would be the 6th most polluting nation in the world?” – Eco-Age
Not only does digital clutter have an effect on our environment, but so much incoming information can also affect our mental health. Here are some simple ways to start your digital declutter:
Unsubscribe! – it is amazing how many things we’ve signed up for. Try unsubscribing from 5 sources each day
Get rid of e-mail addresses you no longer use
Go through your documents and delete what you don’t need
Organize and delete pictures
Now, what to do with ALL that free space?
A couple of years ago the World Bank estimated our waste production would increase by 70% by 2050. It would be great to prove that future stat wrong! We can bring the momentum from responsible decluttering to responsible consumerism.
One way is to treat every new purchase as a “forever” one: a piece that you won’t see as disposable in just a couple of years. Another? Simply buy less, and there will be no clutter to declutter.
Good luck! :)
“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” Marie Kondo
For more tips on going zero waste, read the book and head to zero waste 101!