You know the declutter queen, Marie Kondo, or have at least heard of her in passing when a friend mentioned her in conversation or your local news station aired a feature segment on her organization method.
However, when I see these piles and piles of things earmarked for “declutter” I can’t help wondering where is it all going? Are we just shifting our clutter from our living space to a landfill or a garment district in the third world? How can we declutter our lives ethically?
How can we purge from our own space without the guilt of contributing to the global waste epidemic?
First things first accept and forgive yourself for contributing to the problem initially. You can not change the past and like it or not we did at one time decide to bring material possessions into our home. It is just an unfortunate reality that now they are no longer serving our lives. Making more intentional purchases in the future will help to limit the amount of “junk” that you accumulate to learn more about how I am doing this see the post here. Once you have accepted that you can’t reverse this decision then we can start talking about the next best steps.
Is there another use for this item even if it has outlived its first life? Say you have an old towel that you are thinking of purging, you could cut this up and use its pieces as cleaning rags. Old tee shirts can be repurposed as DIY Turbie Twists, old candles can become storage containers, and packaging from your amazon habit can be used to send off your unwanted items to new homes. The take away here is learning to see objects acts as multi-use and no longer throw away items.
Find a New Home
If the item you are looking to declutter has intrinsic value then I would recommend selling it. This can make sure it gets to a home that is excited to bring it into their life, extends the lifetime of the piece keeping it out of the landfill, and it can lower the cost per wear for your wallet. Examples of some of the things I sell online are technology, kitchen gadgets, and appliances, furniture, handbags, jackets, scarfs, hats, designer clothes in good condition and beauty/personal care products that are unused. A lot of things can be really hard to sell online and not worth your time. I suggest looking for similar items that you are interested in selling online to see how much you can get for them. If you would only get $10 for the piece it may be best to donate it as the value to you is negligible and the carbon footprint from the shipping will erase the positive impact you are making by trying to find it a new home. The platforms I usually use to sell items are Poshmark, eBay, Facebook Market, Vestiaire Collective, the Real Real, Craig’s List. It is also worth stopping by your local consignment shop to see if they can sell it for you. You can also try having an estate sale or yard sale if you have so many items to list it starts feeling like a job instead of a liberating exercise. Be sure to advertise your estate or yard sale on your social media or even create an ad on Craig’s List to help bring more buyers to your event.
If you have listed it online and are having trouble selling it or it is something that you could not get much for if you listed it I now suggest that you try to donate. There is a chance that your local salvation army or goodwill does not take your clothes, however, there is still a chance that someone else will enjoy your item if you donate it. Another option you have for donating is to give them to an online consignment store like ThredUp they will pay you for items that they are currently buying and if they can not use something they will donate it for you. I believe this is the easiest option to try and find a second life for your old clothes and for those of us who don’t have time to list a closet full of individual items, it can be a great option. Simply order a Clean Out Kit place your unwanted items inside, send it in the mail and wait for your refund. The only caveat is that they won’t give you the same payout as other resale sites.
Finally, if what you are trying to declutter can not find a new home or is broken and can’t be repaired it is time to throw it away. This does not mean that it has to go directly into a landfill, you still have options. One that you might want to try is a textile recycling program. My city includes this in our scheduled trash service but you can also find designated trash recycling receptacles through your area typically located in the same location where you find your local donation bin.
Some great organizations you can donate your unwanted items to include: