The Best Eco-Friendly Decluttering Method

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The Best Eco-Friendly Decluttering Method

Maybe you’ve seen pictures of overflowing landfills and oceans filled with plastic and wondered if decluttering your home is bad for the environment.

Should you declutter your home if it will only add to the landfills and trash problems in our country?

This thought crosses my mind quite regularly, as I am a big advocate for decluttering, but also incredibly environmentally conscious.

So I’ll share my short answer first, and then go into more detail and give you some ways you can declutter your home in a way that is truly friendly to the environment.

Is decluttering bad for the environment?

I do not believe decluttering is bad for the environment when done right. 

If you’re overwhelmed by clutter, there is nothing wrong with getting rid of some things so that you can be at peace in your home.

You see, when you’re overwhelmed by clutter and then you start to declutter your home, you undergo a significant mental change.

The act of decluttering makes you acutely aware of the amount of stuff in your home.

When you put in the work to declutter your home, you become very mindful of the things you bring into your home. You start to question your spending habits and realize how much of the stuff you buy is really unnecessary.

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Because decluttering also makes you aware of how much money you’ve spent on stuff you don’t even need and use. The average person who has decluttered their home spends LESS money and brings LESS things into their home.

So by decluttering your home, you’re not just getting rid of clutter. You’re changing your habits as a consumer.  And that is an incredibly powerful transformation. (And a very good thing for the environment!)

You’re buying less stuff and bringing less stuff into your home because you know the true cost of those things. (Hint: it’s a lot more than just the price tag on the sticker.)

So as long as you get rid of the items in a way that is environmentally friendly (and this is KEY), decluttering is NOT bad for the environment.

The Best Eco-Friendly Decluttering Method

While it might seem easier to just put everything in trash bags and throw them all in a dumpster, this is incredibly wasteful and not good for the environment.

It is completely possible to declutter your entire home AND do it in a way that’s friendly to the environment. It might take a little more work on your part, but the benefits are far worth it.

Donate thoughtfully, sell carefully, recycle next, trash last!

Here’s how to declutter your home in an environmentally friendly way:

  1. Donate thoughtfully. A lot of donation centers are overwhelmed by donations. They simply don’t have the space to store it all and the manpower to sort through it all. So even if you drop your stuff off at a donation center, there’s a good chance it can still end up at a landfill. (Keep reading for ways to donate thoughtfully.) 
  2. Sell carefully. You know if someone is paying money for something, they really want the item and it won’t end up in a landfill. I do recommend using caution when deciding to sell, however. Because selling can be very time consuming, and it can sometimes backfire if you end up with boxes and bags of unsold stuff sitting around your home. Only sell the items that are truly worth your time and energy to sell.
  3. Recycle next. Try to recycle before putting something in the trash. There’s a surprising amount of items that can be recycled these days. Of course there’s the usual glass, plastic, cardboard, metal, etc. But you can also recycle electronics, clothing, linens, and a variety of household items.
  4. Trash last. Use the trash as a last resort. It’s inevitable that as you declutter your home, you’ll have some things that you simply won’t be able to salvage, and they’ll have to go in the trash. But use this as a last resort.
CLEAR THE CLUTTER

90+ Places to Get Rid of Your Stuff

This comprehensive list will help you decide exactly what to do with all that stuff you’re decluttering. It features 90+ places to sell, donate, recycle, & toss your clutter (with links) to help you get it out of your home in the best way possible.

The Harsh Truth About Donation Centers

While it might seem better for the environment to drop all your stuff off at a donation center, the truth is a lot of donation centers are overwhelmed by stuff.

So by dumping all your stuff at a donation center, you’re just transferring the clutter from your house to them. And a lot of the stuff they get is stuff they can’t really use.

And here’s another problem with these large donation centers like Good Will and Salvation Army: they make their money by selling the items you donate to them.

Yes, they keep only the best quality stuff to sell in their thrift shops. In fact, it’s estimated that these donation centers keep less than 10% of the items that are donated to them.

And if it’s not something that can be easily used and sold, guess where it ends up? 

It’s either sent to a recycling center or it ends up in the trash.

So all that stuff you thought you were saving from the landfill just ended up there anyways. So how do you donate thoughtfully so that doesn’t happen?

Stuffed bunny rabbit and clothes in paper bag labeled "donation."

The KEY to Donating Thoughtfully

  • STICK TO THE LIST: First, most places have a list of items they will accept. Stick to the list. And ask yourself if the item is something that someone would buy if they were browsing a thrift shop. Obviously, people aren’t expecting things in mint condition at a thrift shop, but they should be in decent condition and have some life left.
  • DONATE SPECIFIC ITEMS TO SPECIFIC PLACES: This takes a bit more work on your part, but you know your donations will be actually used. Instead of donating trash bags full of random things to a drop off center, see what types of specific items you have, and find an organization that needs them. 
    1. For example, if you have extra coats, One Warm Coat will accept them and give them to people in need.
    2. If you have old towels, a large donation center will probably send those to a recycling center or trash them. But did you know that local animal shelters actually want these items?
    3. If you have an overwhelming amount of stuffed animals in your home, an organization like SAFE (Stuffed Animals for Emergencies) will take them and give them to children in need.

There are a lot of organizations looking for very specific things, like wedding dresses, toys, books, cell phones, etc. Find an organization that needs the item you’re getting rid of, and you know it won’t just add to their clutter piles or end up in a landfill.

  • OFFER ITEMS FOR FREE IN A BUY NOTHING/FREECYCLE GROUP: Even if something has a little damage or is something that you wouldn’t be able to typically resell, there is usually someone who will want it. There are a ton of local buy nothing/freecycle groups on Facebook and other social platforms.

Real Life Decluttering Examples

I’m gonna give you a few ideas from my personal decluttering experience to help give you some ideas of what to do with your own things.

I had a coffee table that was damaged in a move. It was a nice coffee table and was still usable (and possibly fixable), but this wasn’t something I could personally fix or wanted to keep. 

I didn’t want to trash it, and I wasn’t going to be able to drop at a donation center. So I listed it for free in a local buy nothing Facebook group (people usually don’t mind if something is damaged if it’s free). And sure enough, someone wanted it and took it that day.

So it didn’t end up in a landfill or an overcrowded donation center. It ended up being reused by someone who actually wanted it.

✔️Clutter out of my home?

✔️In an environmentally friendly way?

Here’s another example: I had a bunch of kids paints that my kids weren’t using anymore. They were partially used, so this isn’t something a donation center would be able to use or resell. 

A church in my neighborhood runs a preschool, so I asked if it was something they would like to take. They were more than happy to accept the free paint, as they are always in need of craft supplies, so it was a win for both of us.

✔️Clutter out of my home?

✔️In an environmentally friendly way?

One more example: My daughter outgrew her 2T clothes and I had a big box full taking up space in my home. I have a friend whose daughter was just growing into 2T clothes and she didn’t have any 2T clothes for her to wear.

I offered her the box of clothes, and she was so grateful to have some clothes that could fit her daughter. She was happy to have free clothes for her daughter, and I was glad to have the box gone from my home.

✔️Clutter out of my home?

✔️In an environmentally friendly way?

I hope this gives you some ideas for ways you can declutter your home in as eco-friendly way as possible.

We want to get the clutter OUT in the greenest way possible, which usually means donating those items in the most mindful way possible. We only have one Earth. Let’s do our best to leave it better than we found it!

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