decluttering responsibly

It is the season of the declutter and most people I know are starting out their years going through their homes and finding items that no longer fit their life and that they don’t want cluttering up their spaces any more.

I am a huge proponent of this and I love going through my spaces (check out my “declutter with me” series for some examples from my own home), but as I have also started learning about the environment I have really started to understand that what we do with the things that we are removing from our homes matter.

Note: Responsible decluttering takes more time. It means that you are not just packing everything off to one place, or putting things in the trash, but this is something that is important for our planet.

Do Your Research

Not every thrift or second hand store takes all of the stuff you are wanting to give to them. So much of what we donate in North America ends up straight in the landfill because they get too much stuff and also items that are too destroyed to sell again, or can’t be tested such as electronics.

Look up in your area if there are specific places that take specialty items so that you know that they will be getting a second chance.

Check with Friends and Family

A great first place to check with before you donate is with friends and family. Do you have an extra crockpot you want to get rid of? Chances are you probably know someone who wants one. By giving items to people you know (provided it is something they actually need) you know that they will be actually used plus it is saving money for them.

Other ways to do this including hosting clothing swaps with friends to exchange clothes with each other (also great if you have kids and want to exchange kids clothes), passing on body products that aren’t your favourite which can’t be donated anywhere, and doing a book swap.

It is very important when giving things to friends and family to make sure they are things they actually want. No one wants to be given something they don’t want and now they have to deal with it, alongside the added guilt of feeling like they need to keep it because it was given by a close person in their life.

Get rid of trash responsibly

Decluttering usually involves some trash of some sort. Clothes scraps that are too far gone to donate, expired makeup and body products, car products and other chemicals, and other miscellaneous items that can’t be donated anywhere and aren’t accepted in your regular city recycling.

It can be really tempting to throw all of these items in the trash, but most of the time you don’t have to do that. There are so pretty common places that take donations of these items that you can take them to and they will work to recycle them more responsibly. Some examples of this include:

  • Clothing Scraps – H&M
  • Makeup/Skincare Empties – L’Occitaine / Deceim
  • Car Chemicals – Some Autobody shops

I have seen events through my city for donating chemicals as well as electronics and appliances.

The Future

In the future think about the lifecycle of an item before it comes into your home. Of course, this won’t eliminate getting rid of anything, but think before it even enters your door. Say no to the friend or family handing off something to you that you don’t even like, don’t buy the biggest package of something that you know you won’t use before it goes bad, etc.

Now all these things take time. You can’t just throw it all in a box for the same place or all into the trash, but where you get rid of things matters. Decluttering can be important, but where the stuff goes is important too.

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