How to Declutter Responsibly with a Zero Waste Mindset

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in paid partnership with Bunz.

Overwhelmed by stuff? You’re not alone. Nearly half of Americans consider their homes to have some clutter that they no longer use, and self-storage in Canada is booming in part because of having too much stuff. From furniture to clothing, home décor and holiday decorations to sports equipment and memorabilia, we just have too many things. If you’re reading this article, then you may be ready for change!

Minimalism and zero waste living often go hand-in-hand. When people discover that they can reduce their waste and transform their consumption habits to consume less overall, they tend to realize that their lives have become cluttered with stuff that has collected over time. It’s easy not to notice how much we have accumulated when we’re so busy working to get more stuff. It’s the hedonic treadmill where we get used to what we have, and we then feel the need to accumulate more. Instead, consume less and become more sustainable with your choices moving forward.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the current economic system is set up for mass consumption. More, more, more is the goal of marketing in order to drive sales at an ever-increasing rate. Much of what we buy includes things that are produced quickly and cheaply, making stuff easy to buy and replace. We like to add to our collections, we want to stockpile things that are on sale, and it’s super easy to shop from our computers and phones. Big box stores also make it easy to buy in large quantities even if we don’t need 20 of the same thing.

Reducing the number of things you own can help to simplify your home. You’ll be able to more easily find what you need and also enjoy what you already have. It can be a major stress-relief to have a less cluttered home.

Say goodbye to hyper-consumerism, remove your unwanted items in a responsible way, and say hello to a decluttered and zero waste home!

Here’s a step-by-step process that may help you on your decluttering journey:

It’s time to go against the grain. We don’t need to follow the messaging that more is better. Having more stuff just means we have to look after and maintain more things, which takes our time away from what really matters, like spending time with family and friends, and enjoying our lives. You’ll also be likely to end up with more money (by spending less), and more time (by not having to organize and maintain so much stuff).

How you go about removing items from your home will be completely personal. You can take the KonMari method and touch each item you own and determine if it sparks joy. Whatever your preferred approach, here are some ideas to get you going:

1. Set Goals:

It may be important to for you to understand why you’re decluttering in the first place and what your goals are. Ask yourself: What is my reason for decluttering? What is the end goal(s)? Knowing why you want to reduce your clutter will help you maintain momentum if (and more likely when) it gets tiring. If relevant, share your intentions with your family members or roommates. This way they’ll understand why you’re moving through the house like a whirlwind placing stuff in boxes and bags.

2. Determine Your Approach:

You can work through your home room-by-room, or you can declutter by category (e.g. paperwork or clothing). Decide what approach works best for you, keeping in mind your family or friends/roommates if you don’t live alone. The people you live with may or may not be on board with decluttering, so be sure to respect their space and their stuff. If you live solo, go to town! Also keep this in mind: how much you choose to keep and let go of is completely up to you. Don’t try to live up to anyone else’s standards, or what you see on Instagram or Pinterest. This is about you.

3. Start with the easy stuff:

What’s easy for you to declutter could be difficult for someone else; decide which room or category may be easiest for you to start with. For some people, it may be a big challenge to tackle clothing, but for others, it may make sense to start with the closet. Sentimental items, however, tend to be the toughest category to declutter. You can save sentimental items for last, as it can be more emotionally draining and could take longer to decide on each item.

4. Sort your items into categories with a Zero Waste Mindset (trash is last):

  • Keep: If you’ve decided to keep something, it’s probably quite useful or special to you. Find the right home for it, and make sure it’s either easily visible or easy to find for when you need it. And if it’s more visual (like décor or sentimental like a photo) put it on display!

  • Sell: You may want to host a garage sale if you have A LOT of unwanted things. If you have fewer things, and especially items of higher value, you can try selling your items online in Facebook groups, Craigslist/Kijiji, eBay, VarageSale, etc. Consignment shops and auction houses are other great options.

  • Give away: Put your items outside with a ‘free sign’ at the curb (be sure not to leave stuff out in the rain, because it’ll get damaged). Or send photos to friends and family to find out if they want any of the items your giving away. You can also find out if you can attend a local stuff swap to give away your unwanted things. There are so many options to give your things away!

  • Donate: Anything that’s still useful and beautiful that you don’t want to sell (or perhaps can’t find a buyer), donate each item at the best possible location (more below on donating responsibly).

  • Trade: Use the Bunz app to trade for something else in your community. If you don’t want anything in return, you can also list your item(s) for free! It’s the perfect way to make new friends in your community.

  • Recycle: If you have a municipal recycling system, find out if some of your unwanted items that can’t be sold or donated can be recycled.

  • Trash: Everything that you don’t want, can’t sell, shouldn’t be donated and can’t be recycled, will be trash. It’s the last resort option but be sure to let go of any guilt you may have associated with throwing things away. Keeping it in your home won’t be helpful.

Donate Responsibly

What does it mean to donate responsibly? It’s really about being mindful of where you’re taking your unwanted things. Donation centres are often overwhelmed with too much stuff, so try to donate each of your items to the best possible place for them to find a new home other than the landfill. Here are some ideas, and you may find more!

  • Tools: If you have tools, you could find out if you can take them to a local tool library.

  • Construction materials: Consider donating to Habitat for Humanity or a similar organization.

  • Clothing: Find out if there are any shelters, Food Banks or other non-profit organizations that will take clothing in good condition.

  • Books and Magazines: Find out if your local library will accept your donations.

  • Art supplies and crafts: Call your local schools or childcare centres to find out if they will accept these types of donations where you live.

  • Toiletries and miscellaneous: From shelters to churches to mosques, and related non-profit organizations, there are a number of organizations that help people in need. Find out if anything you have can be donated there.

  • Food: Food banks, shelters and other non-profit organizations may take your unwanted food items (ensure that your items meet their requirements

Trade Unwanted Stuff on Bunz

The most sustainable stuff is the stuff that already exists, so trade away! The Bunz app can be used ANYWHERE in the world. If you download the Bunz app and the Bunz community hasn’t started there yet, get your friends on board! By adding your friends, family, and neighbourhood on Bunz, you’ll be able to organically grow the number of people you can trade with locally. Share your Bunz profile on all your socials to reach more of your network and encourage others to live more sustainably through trade. It’s that easy! Follow Bunz on Instagram and Facebook, too!

Life After Decluttering

Figure out where your excess items are coming from and nip it in the bud. Was clutter coming into your life from mindless shopping? Unwanted gifts? Saying yes to freebies? Practice mindful consumption (be sure to sleep on it before making a purchase, and ensure you need said item), and politely decline unwanted things. Gifts can be more difficult to decline, so it’s best to mention to friends and family in advance that you prefer not to receive material gifts for special occasions. Decluttering will likely be an ongoing process through different chapters and phases of life. However, mindful consumption will ensure that you don’t become overwhelmed with unnecessary stuff again.

Enjoy your new found freedom! You won’t have to spend as much time organizing and maintaining ALL THE THINGS. Enjoy, use and maintain what you’ve chosen to keep, and breathe in your new spacious surroundings. Pursue your hobbies, relish in more time with family and friends, and take time for self-care. Celebrate your success!

About the Founder

Hi! I'm Tara McKenna, Founder of The Zero Waste Collective. Based in Canada, I have created this community as a hub for all things zero waste! Take a look around, and join this global conversation. You can also follow my zero waste journey on Instagram at @mindfully.tara. Thanks for stopping by!


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