How to declutter without being wasteful
Have you thought about decluttering your home and life? But you don’t want to throw things away and add more rubbish to landfill? Here are some ways to declutter in a lower waste way.
The popularity of the ‘declutter’
Over the last few years, programmes like ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo‘ have shown how people can declutter their homes and have more peace in their lives. There is a lot to be said for the benefits of living in an orderly and tidy house. Living with piles of stuff can be overwhelming, and even bad for your health or dangerous (in extreme hoarding cases).
There are companies you can hire to come to your home and help you get rid of the clutter. However I suspect that this can mean throwing away items, which just adds to the growing landfills. Often there can be ways to declutter but not create more waste.
Important note – some items really are only fit for the rubbish bin
Note: some items are sadly beyond use or repair. Composting, recycling or throwing them away are the best options. This is better than donating unsellable items to charity shops. They don’t need more donations of rubbish, many are already inundated with things that are actually trash.
Eco friendly ways to declutter your home
1. Sell items
Selling unwanted items can be a win win, as you can declutter and make some money at the same time. There are a few ways to sell, depending on how much time and effort you have to put into it. These include:
- Selling online through an auction website,
- Holding a garage sale or selling at a market,
- Selling through an auction house, consignment store or person who sells on your behalf. They take a percentage of the sold price as a fee, however. it may be worth it for high end items.
2. Donate to charity
It can feel good to donate to a charity, as it helps them raise funds for their particular cause. Plus many people love to buy from charity shops, to find an unusual or collectible item, often at a great price.
Read my article on What charity shops really want you to donate if you need a little guidance.
3. Give to family and friends
Your friends or family may be able to use an item that you no longer want. Check in with them first, though, rather than dumping stuff on them, as they may also want to declutter their homes!
4. Give to shelters for people or pet rescues
Items that are usually welcome at homeless shelters or refuges include unopened toilettes, clothing and toys, and treat food.
Pet rescues or veterinary services can often make use of old blankets and towels for the animals in their care.
For any of these services, please check with them first to make sure they accept donations.
5. Give away items for free when you declutter
When you declutter, there are other ways that you can give away items. These include:
- Holding or attending a clothing swap
- Donating good quality books to little lending libraries that are available in some communities
- Listing on a free stuff website or online group
- Leaving items on your kerb with a ‘Free’ sign (although don’t leave it there if no one picks it up, as it can end up polluting the environment)
6. Recycling schemes outside the usual
There are a number of schemes run by Terracycle, to collect things that are typically non-recyclable. They collect items such as coffee pod capsules, toothbrushes and toothpaste packaging, and some beauty products packaging. See their website for more details, and a drop off point near you.
7. Resource recovery centres (they love it when people declutter!)
If you have some items that you are not sure can be reused or recycled, it is worth asking at your local municipal tip shop or resource recovery centre. They can assess your unwanted items, and hopefully sell them through their stores. If not, they can send them to landfill, but at least you have tried before committing them to the dump.
8. Repurpose items
Many items that seem worn out can be reused or repurposed. Ideas include:
- Cut up old cotton clothes for cleaning cloths or rags
- Use chipped or cracked crockery for pot plants or water bowls for pets
- Upcycle tin cans into kitchen storage or organisers
- Repaint tired furniture for a fresh new look.
There are many ideas online for ways to upcycle and repurpose things around the home. They are usually cheap and fun craft projects, and result in a new look item.
Ideas for the future – so you don’t have to declutter again
It’s useful to figure out why we keep buying all this extra stuff, so that we can avoid filling up our homes with clutter again. Thinking about why you buy so many things can help you to figure out ways to reduce spending.
This could be about changing the habits of a lifetime, so you may need time to reflect on this, or seek some extra help.
Some of the clutter in our homes can come from buying items that need replacing often, but then not dealing with the old and worn out item. In my experience, this is definitely the case with clothes and shoes for my children.
One way to avoid this could be to buy fewer items, but buy higher quality items. These could last longer and result in less items purchased overall.
However, I completely understand that this depends on the available money you have to spend – if you are on a low budget, it’s just not feasible to buy the more expensive items.
As an aside, I often think about the ‘Boots Theory’ of socio-economic unfairness from my favourite author Terry Prattchet. This article sums up why it is harder for people on lower income to save money, compared to the more wealthy people.
What are your tips for decluttering in an environmentally friendly way?
As always, I love to hear your comments. Thank you.