Sustainable Decluttering

Minimalism is such a buzzword these days. I think simplifying one's belongings is an essential thing; it helps put more emphasis on living and less on having, and goodness knows we could do with more of that. That said, a lot of articles on minimalism I read tout getting one's excess belongings out the door as quickly as possible - decluttering guru Marie Kondo measures her clients' success by how many trash bags they fill and get rid of. There's so much wastefulness inherent in that kind of strategy, but there doesn't have to be. Over the past few years, I've reduced my possessions slowly and thoughtfully. A few of the ways to take care while decluttering, minimizing both your objects and your environmental footprint:

1. Commit to using what you have. Though you may not need that fifth bottle of shampoo right now, sometime you will - so, resist the urge to call it superfluous and toss it. Holding on to multiples may clutter your cabinets in the short term, but eventually you'll use them up, conserving resources in the process..

2. Take it slowly. Extra stuff accumulated over a lifetime doesn't need to be disposed of within a week. If you're moving that quickly while decluttering, consider whether you're taking enough time to make sure everything you're getting rid of makes it to the best home. For example, it's faster to throw an old, holey shirt into the trash than it is to research a nearby textile recycler who might be able to repurpose it. Take the time - it's worth it.

3. Sort your donations by category. This, too, takes time, but it can help your objects go where they're most needed. Hauling a big load to Goodwill is a classic decluttering strategy, but many large thrift stores like Goodwill tend to have such a glut of products that they throw away things that are unlikely to sell. However, by sorting your donations in advance, you can ensure they'll go to a home where they're actually needed. A few ideas: taking your clothes to a local secondhand charity shop, your old towels to an animal shelter, your books to a library book sale, unopened candles and body care products to a nursing home, blankets to a women's shelter, and textbooks or test preparation materials to a nearby high school. Not only will you be supporting local nonprofits in your community, but you'll also be giving your items the best chance of being used, loved, and helpful.

4. Look at objects with a creative eye. While decluttering, you'll probably stumble upon forgotten objects that seem too useless to donate, but with an inventive twist can be upcycled into something you've wanted or needed. For example, traditional minimalism might advocate just getting rid of the kraft paper packing from an online purchase, but maybe you can use it to wrap a birthday gift, jot a grocery list, or mail a package of your own. I'm not advocating hoarding - just smart reusing whenever possible. For more easy upcycling ideas, click here.

5. Emphasize composting and recycling. Take care to sort castoff objects rather then throwing them indiscriminately into the trash. Plastics should be recycled - if your local curbside pickup doesn't take a certain kind, find out where you can bring them instead (for example, perhaps you can pile up all of the stretchy plastic bags you find and take them to your local grocery store or drugstore). Natural materials like wood and fabric can be added to your compost heap. In this way, you'll help ensure that what you're getting rid of helps make new materials, instead of sitting unused in a landfill forever.

Have you caught the decluttering bug these past few years, too? If so, any tips to share? I'd love to hear. Hope you're having a lovely week!