I believe minimalism is the key to living a greener life. The accumulation of junk makes it harder to scale back and focus on what’s really important. Decluttering and purging one’s home might seem like a daunting task in the beginning, but once you start, it’s hard to stop. So then where do you start? Here’s a guide I follow for purging my home and getting rid of items I no longer need without contributing to the landfill:
1. Easy Rooms First
I start with the easiest rooms first because it makes the rest go by much quicker and it helps me get into a groove. Rooms like the kitchen or the bedroom which require a lot of sorting and organizing and cleaning out pantries and closets can seem incredibly daunting. Start out with a small, rarely used room or closet and work your way up. Have a box handy for things to get rid of or sorted later. You don’t have to worry about what’s getting sold, donated, or given away just yet. For now, you can just focus on cleaning out items that won’t be staying with you.
2. The Kon Mari Method
I’m a big fan of Marie Kondo’s Kon Mari method of deciding which items “spark joy” and which ones don’t. This way you’re focusing on the things you want to keep and not so much on the ones you want to get rid of. This makes the purging process more positive and gives you an opportunity to thank the items you’ll be discarding instead of treating them like trash. As you clear out a space, ask yourself if the item “sparks joy.” Does it make you feel good or is it time to let it go?
3. Have Fun
Decluttering shouldn’t be a chore or a burden. If the task isn’t fun, find a way to make it fun. Invite friends over to help you sort and organize. Put on your favorite music while you’re cleaning and decluttering. Think of the memories with the items you had. Think about what kind of money you can make if you were to have a yard sale. Or think about the people you will help by donating these items. After you purge and clean out, you’ll have the opportunity to admire how much more organized your space is, and that’s a pretty good feeling.
A bathroom is a good room to start because it’s small and an important room to keep clean. Remove everything from the room, go through each toiletry item, and ask yourself if it’s something you’re going to use. Do we really need five different types of lotion? Are there items you’re never going to use that could be donated? If something can’t be donated, there are lots of people happy to take away toiletry items for free. Keeping your bathroom clean and free of clutter will make the space much more peaceful.
Similarly, the kitchen is another room that functions much better when it is free of clutter. I like to start in the pantry and go through each food item and decide if it’s something I’m going to eat. If it’s unopened and not expired, and I know I’m not going to eat it, I put it in the donation box. If it’s something that must be discarded, I compost it (if possible)? After that, I go through each cabinet, remove all the items, clean off the spaces, and decide what needs to be kept. It’s easy to accumulate an excess of dishes, Tupperware, and other kitchen items, but very little of it ever gets used. Don’t get hung up on the value of items while purging. Valuable items can be sold. Having less dishes means doing less washing. Rarely used items that you plan on keeping can be put in higher places out of the way while those used frequently should be easily accessible. Remember, if an item is no longer useful like a missing Tupperware lid or broken appliance, put it in the pile to discard.
It’s easy to hold onto clothes, but how much of our clothing actually gets worn and how much just sits in the closet for years? When going through your clothes consider the following: Does it fit? Are you comfortable wearing it? Have you worn it in the last year? If you said no to these questions, get rid of it. Clothes in good condition can be sold or donated. Clothing items that need repairs can go in a free box. People love getting things for free even if they’re broken, ripped, or stained. Items completely beyond repair can be used as cleaning supplies or rags.
Stuff is a pretty broad category and encompasses all the rest of the items in one’s home: toys, decor, supplies, electrical cords, and other junk. If it’s something you haven’t touched or used in over a year, consider selling, donating, or giving it away for free. Again, what might seem like trash to you, could be treasure to somebody else, so don’t put it in the trashcan. Instead, put out an ad for free items and see who might come take it. Check to see if electronics work. These might be of value and worth selling. You can check the estimated value of items by seeing what they sell for on sites like eBay or Amazon.
To reduce the amount of paper waste coming into your home, make sure you sign up for no junk mail. As for the rest of your paperwork, go through and decide what needs to be kept and what can be burned. Burning is not the most eco-friendly way to get rid of things, but you don’t want sensitive documents ending up in the trash for others to find. Personally, I love occasionally having a bonfire and clearing out junk papers I don’t need anymore. Tax records should be kept for about 3 years, and keep in mind that anything can be digitized.
9. Sentimental Items
Sentimental items can be hard to get rid of because we’ve attached emotion to them, but we can’t keep every single greeting card and knickknack we’ve received as a gift so what do we do? If it’s something you want to keep, make sure it’s stored safely or put on display. If it’s something that you don’t particularly want to keep in your possession, but you feel guilty about getting rid of it, consider taking a picture of it to save in an album of sentimental items. This way you still have a record of it but it’s no longer taking up space.
10. Divide and Conquer
Once you’ve gone through everything, it’s time to organize it into categories and decide what to do from there. I always start by seeing what I can sell. Items can be sold online through platforms like eBay, Amazon, and others. You can also have a yard sale to see what all you can get rid of. Another option is to donate items that are gently used. Again, avoid dumping junk on charitable organizations. If it’s not appropriate for donation, consider sticking a free sign on it and letting people haul it off. You’d be surprised what all people will take, if it’s free. Now, it might not be possible to completely avoid throwing some items away, but I’m working on clever ways to recycle, repurpose, and reuse items that would normally get tossed.
I can’t wait to start brainstorming some clever ways to upcycle old stuff! I hope to see you there!