Have you jumped on the decluttering bandwagon that’s been so trendy this year? Let’s talk about how to declutter your home without creating more waste.
There’s been a lot of talk in the last year about decluttering. Even the most firmly “maximalist” people I know have been getting rid of things left and right lately, and I know it’s all stemming from one thing: Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.
The whole country seems motivated to live with less these days, thanks to the not-so-new concept of getting rid of clutter that the show sparked in millions.
But, here’s the problem. Even though Marie Kondo advocates for disposing of things mindfully, this mass-exodus of unwanted items has to go somewhere. Most, will, unfortunately, end up in a landfill.
Of course, creating some waste as you declutter is inevitable. Some things really are just trash. But, let’s talk about how to declutter your home without throwing everything away.
The problem with decluttering
The problem with decluttering is that those items have to go somewhere. I think most of us have the best intentions when we get rid of items, and we donate them. Is that you?
I know it used to make me feel all warm and fuzzy because those items were going to someone who needed them more than I did. But, that’s not always the case.
In fact, after Tropical Storm Imelda flooded our area recently, I volunteered at our church, where we acted as a distribution center. I can’t even describe the mountains of clothing and shoes that we received. We had far, far more people coming to donate trucks full of clothing than we did actual people coming in in need.
Seeing how much space and personnel it took just to handle that for a week really opened my eyes to what donation centers deal with on a daily basis.
The sad truth is, a lot of the clothing we’re donating still ends up in the landfill, and not in the homes of those in need.
Clearly, donation isn’t always the answer. Read on to find out how to declutter your home without adding to the landfills. (note: I didn’t say donation was never the answer, which will be addressed further down in this post).
How to Declutter Your Home without Throwing Things Away
I know that when I get into a decluttering frenzy, it’s hard to slow down and think about what’s going to happen to the items I’m getting rid of. But, I’ve also been on a low-waste mission for several years. It can be harder to balance the two, but not impossible. Let’s talk about what you can do with those items you no longer want in your own home.
Gift or give away what you can
- ask your friends and family members if they want the item in question
- Post on local “buy nothing” sites
- host a swap or buy-nothing event in your community, like a clothing swap among friends
- sell your items on second-hand sites
I think the art of repurposing has been lost in the recent years. It’s so cheap to buy new, so why go through the effort? But, it’s time to bring it back. There are lots of ways you can repurpose items in your home.
- Use old coffee mugs and small mixing bowls as pots for plants
- up-cycle old clothing to give it new life
- turn ratty t-shirts and other clothing into rags for cleaning (bonus! This can reduce the amount of paper towels you buy)
- Make bird feeders or bird baths from old dishes with broken pieces
- create new jewelry out of broken pieces
Want more ideas? This post has tons of ideas on ways to repurpose what most would classify as “junk.”
Like I said earlier in this post, sometimes donations are warranted. However, we should try to be more mindful of where we donate our items so less of it ends up in the landfills. This post from The Mindful Momblographer has a great breakdown on where to bring different household items like electronics, old clothes, toys, and more.
Recycle the Rest
Once you’ve gifted, swapped, repurposed, and donated what you can, there’s bound to be some items left over that just aren’t worth saving.
Before tossing them in a garbage bag and adding to our growing landfills, look for programs that recycle those items! I know companies like H&M, Levi’s, and Northface have a program for clothes and shoes.
Best Buy recycles electronics and appliances.
Most cell phone companies have a recycling program for old cell phones as well.
There are loads of options available, you just have to dig for programs for your specific needs. I know our area has done away with generic recycling centers, and when I first heard, I felt like I’d lost all hope! But, by doing some digging and talking with others, I’ve learned that there are still recycling options available for some of these bigger items..
Be Careful with New Purchases
Finally, the cornerstone of a minimalist or intentional lifestyle: we have to be more mindful of what we purchase from here on out.
If you purge everything in your home just to buy new things and start over, you’ve completely missed the point. Of course, that doesn’t mean to never buy things again. But, it does mean that each purchase should be considered more thoughtfully and carefully as we move forward.
Address why you want to buy new things. Does this item truly spark joy and serve a purpose in your home? Or does the act of buying something new excite you? All too often, we shop as an outlet when we feel bad, but that just leads to a viscous cycle of guilt, clutter, and debt that we don’t need.
My trick for combatting this is window shopping online. You should see my Amazon cart. I add things to it when I’m in the mood to shop, and then I close out the tab before hitting “purchase.” Almost always, the next day I realize I really don’t need that item.
Maybe you’re not a “retail therapy” kind of person, and your reason for buying unneeded items is different than mine. Whatever it is, by addressing that reason and combatting those habits, we can start being more mindful of what we bring into our homes. That’s the only way to maintain all of the hard work that’s been done!
How to Declutter Your Home: Final Thoughts
Decluttering your home (and keeping it decluttered) is a mindset shift. We have to remember that clutter takes up so many resources. It takes up our time, our money, our space, and our mental energy.
But, we also need to remember to go through this process mindfully. It’s so easy to throw things in the garbage and forget about them, or to toss them into a generic donation pile and assume they’re getting a second life. But, if we want to do this in a sustainable way, we need to take the time to ensure that all of our contents don’t end up in a landfill.
I hope that by reading through this post, you learned some valuable tips on how to declutter your home without creating more waste.