Contributed by Alice Robertson
- Has your home become a den for clutter?
- Are your closets overflowing with clothes that don’t fit or are out-of-style?
- Are you holding on to appliances that no longer work properly?
- Have piles of paper taken over your home?
Don’t despair — there’s a way to enrich your living environment by getting clutter under control. What’s even better, you can do it in an environmentally friendly way. Yes, you can create a living space that you love while showing love to the planet.
The benefits of a decluttered home
Recently, people have jumped on the KonMari bandwagon in droves. Many have emphasized embracing the minimalist way of life. The basis of the KonMari principle is the belief that eliminating clutter from your environment will create a more joyful life. To take this principle even further, you can gain many health benefits from having a clean, uncluttered home. These include reduced stress, lower anxiety, better quality of sleep, and less exposure to allergens. Your energy, creativity, and productivity can also be boosted. Wouldn’t you be more creative and productive if you could easily find the materials or tools needed to complete your projects?
Now that you’re aware of the benefits of decluttering, let’s talk about how to accomplish this oft-dreaded task. To create and maintain your newly tidied space, you’ll need to implement a method that will work for you now and in the future.
Divide and conquer
When it comes to getting clutter under control, one recommended method involves going into the unorganized/messy rooms in your home and sorting the contents into manageable piles.
You sort the contents into piles or categories based on their intended destination. As Angie’s List explains, these piles can be named as follows: recycle, sell/donate, and keep.
Notice that none of the piles suggest throwing anything away. Green decluttering means to handle your belongings in an environmentally sound manner. Discarded items would end up in landfills and leak pollutants into our soil, air, and water.
Items such as electronics, major appliances, and mattresses can’t be placed into piles, but you can still ensure that they don’t end up in landfills. If you’re replacing your appliances or mattresses, most major retailers will be happy to haul them away when delivering your new purchase. Some utility companies will recycle appliances and electronics. Charities like St. Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army will accept these items if they’re still in useful condition.
To get your closet in shape, apply the divide-and-conquer method to sort your closet’s contents as follows: toss, keep, and sell/donate. Of course, you’ll keep clothing and accessories that are still in style and that you’re wearing regularly. Sell or donate clothing that no longer fits or is out-of-style.
Meanwhile, don’t toss clothing that is in poor condition with the regular trash. Why not? Millions of tons of textiles end up in landfills each year.
How, then, can you dispose of old clothing in an environmentally conscientious way?
- Find a nearby facility that will accept your old clothes for recycling—Good Will, for example.
- Some retailers will accept your unwanted clothing and shoes, recycle them, and give you a credit for new merchandise. Win-win.
- Mail them to a recycler like TerraCycle. You simply purchase a box on their website, fill it up, send it to them, and they’ll recycle everything in the box.
Taming the paper beast
When it comes to the major sources of clutter in many people’s homes, paper has to top the list. In this digital world, there’s no excuse for letting paper clutter up your living environment. If you’re receiving more junk mail than you care to, opt out of the mailing lists. Whenever possible, sign up for online bill pay to avoid receiving paper bills from service providers.
However, what about the paper-related items that you want to keep, such as photos and important documents? If you don’t have room for them, scan and saved them on your computer’s hard drive (just be sure to back it up regularly or pay a service to do this for you). You can also consider cloud storage for these important items. Cloud storage saves data (in this case, your photos and important documents) on numerous servers distributed over the network. You can then access and enjoy your photos or review your documents whenever you want.
So fresh, so clean
Once you’ve edited your home’s contents and everything is in its rightful place, you’ll want to give those now-exposed surfaces a thorough cleaning. You carefully followed environmentally friendly practices when decluttering, so you’ll want to be just as conscientious when cleaning.
It’s common knowledge that many commercially prepared household cleaning products contain harmful chemicals. To clean your home the green way, look for products that are non-toxic or make your own cleaning products using natural ingredients. Vinegar is a superb cleaner for windows, mirrors, and stainless-steel appliances. Baking soda provides enough abrasion to clean counters and bathtubs.
It’s not always easy to give up things in your life that you’ve grown accustomed to having around. However, if those things create an environment that doesn’t help you to live your healthiest and best life, it’s time to make a change. As you’re creating a healthier personal living space, consider the health of the global environment and make choices that are kind to it.
Alice Robertson began her career in the home organization industry as a professional house cleaner, which involved a LOT of decluttering. Over the years, she has helped clients get rid of everything from old mattresses to outdated electronics to entire closets worth of clothes.