As simple as it is to throw all your clutter into the garbage, it might not be the most sustainable option. Think about it — Americans create anywhere between 250 and 400 million tons of trash every single year, and all of it goes somewhere. The more space that’s devoted to landfills and the less recyclable material you reuse, the worse off our environment is at the end of each year. So, take the following five steps to keep your home in order. These sustainable methods will help you declutter without causing any damage to the earth.
1. Donate Clothing
Shockingly, the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothes per year. But before you declutter your closet and toss it all into the trash can, examine your clothes. Stained, torn or otherwise damaged clothing might not be suitable to re-wear, but it doesn’t have to go in the trash — you can find a clothing recycling center that will put the fabric to good use. As for the items in better condition, make a point to donate or sell them rather than putting them in the garbage. In addition to thrift stores like Good Will, consider donating to the following organizations:
- American Red Cross (for victims of natural disasters)
- Dress for Success (helps unemployed, low-income women find suitable attire for interviews)
- Donate My Dress (provides low-income girls formal dresses for special events like proms and weddings)
- Local homeless shelters
2. Repurpose and Reuse
The Amish have lived simply for centuries. One of their methods for simplifying their possessions is to eliminate waste by repurposing the items they already have.
You can do the same. Even if you no longer want an item in its current state, can you turn it into something else? Can you use its materials for another project?
The broken chair in the back of your basement might have a bit of wood you can use to build a new piece of furniture. Transform old clothes into t-shirt quilts. Kitchen scraps make incredible compost. These are just a few examples of the magic you can make from your clutter — without sending it to the landfill.
3. Recycle Electronics
That tape player that’s collecting dust on your bookshelf might be outdated, but not necessarily broken. In that case, take the same steps you did with your excess clothing and try selling or donating your functional yet unused electronic devices. Computerswithcauses.org will take your old computer, as well as printers, gaming consoles and many other electronic equipment and find schools, libraries and other deserving organizations for you. Just fill out a form. Also, many recycling centers have a designated area for broken electronics, batteries, metal and more.
4. Download Books and DVDs
You can probably guess what to do with these items, considering the last two suggestions. Donate, sell or recycle your unwanted collections of books and DVDs. Your local library and schools are obvious places that will be grateful for your books. Betterworldbooks.com has drop off locations around the country. They’ll sell your books and give the proceeds to non-profit literary organizations.
You’ll want to maintain your positive strides toward sustainability by making smart choices in the future — namely, use your local library or start buying e-books and downloading films to watch rather than buying them and all the materials required to make physical copies.
5. Clear the Pantry
An array of food boxes and containers in different yet consistently bright colors can make your pantry hard to navigate — how are you supposed to find a small red can amongst a rainbow of other boxes, jars and tins? So, swap as many boxed and bagged items as you can for clear plastic or glass containers so you can see what’s in front of you.
You might also divide your pantry into areas for cereals, grains, snacks, canned goods, baking materials and more. Use shelf labels to remind yourself where everything goes after you’ve used them, so they’re returned to the right spot and forever organized. All these steps will ensure you aren’t throwing away outdated or unwanted food as you are now — you’ll maintain a much more sustainable storage system because it’s easy to see everything you have.
There are so many other ways to declutter your space without damaging the environment, but the above five give you great places to start. From there, you’ll be happier in a home no longer stuffed with stuff — you’ll be relieved that your organization doesn’t come at a cost to the world around you.
Emily is a eco-friendly living writer who’s always looking for ways to reduce her waste. You can read more of her work on Conservation Folks.