It’s interesting to me that week 2 of the Zero Waste Challenge begins with decluttering in an environmentally-friendly way. I’ve already blogged extensively about the concept of minimalism and adopting a “less is more” mindset. Consumerism is fatal to the environment. Everything we buy must be produced and transported which uses up a lot of resources. Getting rid of all the excess junk might seem counterproductive to environmentalism, but there’s a green way to do it. I try to put as little as possible in the garbage, so I follow my own step by step process for decluttering and discarding:
There are multiple methods for organizing and decluttering including one of my favorites, the KonMari method: as described by Marie Kondo. She emphasizes keeping items that “spark joy” as a more productive way to declutter as opposed to the traditional method of seeing what to get rid of. I’ve taken a course in the Kon Mari method and applied it to my own decluttering process, but there are other ways to organize and declutter. I like to follow a simple 3-step plan loosely based on Marie Kondo’s method: prepare, clean, and organize.
Step 1: Preparation
First, you’ll need to get prepared. Do you have proper cleaning supplies and plenty of boxes? You’ll need them for the sorting and organizing process. Try not to do everything at once or you could get overwhelmed. To get prepared make sure you’ve set aside enough time to work, choose one room to start with, gather some cleaning supplies, get several large cardboard boxes or storage bins, and crank up your favorite music.
Step 2: Clean
Next, you’ll want to clean your work space. I do this mostly for peace of mind. I start by setting aside all items either on shelves or in a designated corner of the room. Marie Kondo’s method encourages putting all items to sort in one place. For instance, if it’s a closet, you’ll remove all the clothing and put it on the bed to be sorted. Only then is one able to see just how much they have. Next I thoroughly clean the room or area I’m organizing by wiping down surfaces, dusting, and vacuuming if necessary.
Step 3: Organize
After you have sorted a tidy work space, set up your boxes and start placing items to get rid of according to the following categories:
- Items to sell
- Items to donate
- Items to repair
- Items to recycle
- Items to discard (free pile)
Sell – If your aim is green living, the goal is to throw away as little as possible. If you can make money on something like gently used clothing, old appliances, or other knick-knacks, try selling them. Have a yard sale or get on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and post some listings. You probably won’t become rich off a yard sale, but there’s no harm in trying.
Donate – If it’s not worth selling, but it’s in good condition, consider donating it. Most items can be donated, but refrain from dumping useless junk on charitable organizations. Get in touch with your local Goodwill or similar stores and see what items they’d be willing to take off your hands. You’re lightening your load while doing a good service for the community.
Repair – Set up a designated box for items that can be neither sold nor donated, including ripped/stained clothing, broken appliances, and other items in need of repair. Before you toss something in the dumpster ask yourself if it can be fixed. There are many items you can repair yourself, but some things require a professional. I like to use ifixit as a guide for repairing items.
Recycle – If it can’t be sold, donated, or repaired, it must be discarded. But before you fill up the dumpster, make sure you’ve separated anything that can be recycled. Some items can be recycled curbside including paper items, cardboard, rigid plastics, and metal containers made of steel, tin, and aluminum. Other items such as old appliances and electronics can be taken to a specific center. When in doubt, consult your local recycling center.
Discard – Finally, some items don’t meet any of the criteria above. These are the ones to discard. I have on occasion put useless junk in the front yard with a free sign and posted an ad on Craigslist. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Remember, just because it’s broken or useless or not recyclable doesn’t mean someone might not want it.
Currently, in my journey, I still have to throw away some items. Not everything can be given away for free. But I’m hoping I’ll be able to develop a system of upcycling and do away with my trash service altogether. Can it be done? I guess we’ll see!