It’s that time of year again when you start to think about spring cleaning and decluttering your home. But where do you start? And can you get rid of stuff and avoid landfill?
Consumerism perpetuates the idea that more is good but clutter is not good for your mind. Here are some ideas and tips for decluttering in an eco-friendly way.
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The Benefits of Decluttering
We all need to make room in our lives for other things from time to time. While keeping possessions allows you to hold on to good memories, clutter can also be a sign of mental distress. Decluttering helps with sensory overload and is way of re-organising your ‘things’ so you feel in control of your environment, your thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of things or buying new stuff to re-organise. Decluttering is more about being engaged with your environment, your senses and emotions.
How many of us have bought things we never use or regret buying? Or maybe you have bought toys for your children who have played with them a few times, then lost interest?
To many, decluttering seems counter-intuitive when you are becoming more eco-friendly. However, decluttering is essential if you want to achieve a more harmonious, connected lifestyle. It gives you a great starting point and a sense of purpose that is achievable by even the most ardent hoarders.
Decluttering is also a way of reviewing your lifestyle in its entirety and working out what you need, what has a positive impact on your well being and what will reduce your decision fatigue.
Why do we have such an emotional attachment to possessions?
When we buy ‘things’, one of our emotions are triggered but fundamentally we want to reduce our status anxiety – the saying “keeping up with the Joneses” is fundamental to understanding the psychology behind owning possessions. Consumerism creates ‘pain’ and we buy to alleviate that mental and emotional discomfort.
Decluttering can be a chore which is why many of us avoid it. So, where do you start? There are a number of ways to de-clutter your home:
The How-To’s of Decluttering
Gamify your decluttering:
There are a number of methods for de-cluttering your home but we particularly like gamifying decluttering – you break down tasks into small manageable actions and then reward yourself (or others at the end).
Get the kids involved:
If you have kids this is a great way to get them to tidy their rooms! For kids, you can get them organised through colour-coding: assign different colours to different categories like blue for clothing, red for books, yellow for toys, etc. This will help them to quickly and easily identify what is in each category.
Start at the top of the house:
We usually start in the loft (attic) as this tends to be the place where items are dumped to get them out of the way. You may be someone who hasn’t tidied your loft for many years so you’re not sure where to start. If you need help getting started, there are lots of decluttering experts who can help you work your way through the space.
If you don’t have a loft, then start in the biggest room and then tackle each room separately. We sort items into the following categories: keep, donate, sell, recycle or upcycle. You can tackle each room with the garden or outside area as the final area to tidy and declutter.
An easy way for sorting clothes is sorting them according to season, including jackets and shoes. Seasonal clothes that are not used are then tidied away.
Clothes in good condition (e.g. because they are too small) can be sold on the usual sites like eBay or given away via websites like freecycle. You can also give clothes to charities that will take the clothes and redistribute them. Within the UK, there are community foundations that have connections with different charities in your area. You can contact them to find out ways to distribute clothes e.g. to homeless charities, domestic violence charities or organisations helping refugees. There are also organisations that take school uniforms that your children have outgrown to give them to families who cannot afford to buy a new uniform. Any other clothes that you do not want to keep can be upcycled or reused.
Can you recycle old underwear and socks?
There are several ways to recycle or reuse old underwear and socks. If your old underwear or socks are made from 100% natural fibre, you can cut them up and then can compost them. If not, then you can take your bras, pants and socks to various retailers (H&M, M&S, Oxfam)
Alternatively, you can reuse items by upcycling them e.g. cutting up garments to use as stuffing for a cushion. You can even use socks in place of paint brushes for tricky jobs like painting staircase spindles.
Toys, games and books:
Children eventually grow out of toys as they get older. There are plenty of organisations that will take toys to be used or passed on. For example, we have a local charity who share out toys to local groups that run parent coffee morning sessions or community drop in sessions. You can also sell toys at nearly new events. For example, the National Childbirth Trust have nearly new sales events. This is a great way of recouping money back but also helping the charity too.
Equipment and tech:
The drip feed of tech development keeps us all hankering for the latest gadget and is one of the major causes of waste. There are lots of charities and businesses that refurbish devices and either pass them on to schoolchildren or re-sell them. You can also ask freecyclers or facebookers if they want old tech – sometimes teachers put out a request for old, broken or out of date tech that kids can play with. There are others who like to repair, refurbish or upcycle items in their spare time. So you may find that ‘one person’s trash is another person’s treasure’.
There are certain life events when you buy furniture: when you are moving into new accomodation for the first time, going to Uni, having a baby, a child outgrowing their bed and moving house. We also have to contend with the fast fashion trends – the sofa advertising at Christmas and the traditional DIY ads in Spring are testiment to British culture and our home being our castle.
There are lots of ways of getting rid of furniture you no longer need or want. You can donate it, give it away to friends, family or to someone on freecycle, you can repurpose it, or upcycle it. The key to de-cluttering is to remove items you don’t need without putting items in landfill. This is a major principle of the circular economy which we will need to embrace to help the planet.
The Process of Decluttering
Evaluate your needs and wants: – What do I need and want?
What to Get Rid of
Remove the unnecessary:
– Look at your belongings and ask yourself which of them you use and need on a day-to-day basis.
– When making decisions about whether to keep or remove an item, ask yourself whether you will actually use it or not.
– If an item is worn out, damaged or no longer functional, it should be disposed of.
– If you have a lot of electronic equipment, it is important to be environmentally aware and recycle or dispose of it in an eco-friendly way.
Sort the necessary:
– Once you have decided which items you need and want, it is time to start sorting them into different categories. This will help you to see which items are necessary and which can be stored or donated. – It is important to keep an organised and tidy home, so sorting your belongings will help to achieve this.
Store the necessary:
– Once you have sorted and stored the necessary items, you will be able to create a tidy and organised space in which to live.
-You can use baskets, storage boxes or even a specialised de-cluttering cabinet to organise your belongings.
How to Keep Your Home De-Cluttered
There are a few simple tips that will help you keep your home decluttered:
1. Set a decluttering schedule:
– Make a plan and stick to it.
– Establish specific days and times for decluttering.
– Be realistic and think about how long it will take to declutter each room.
2. Clear the clutter when you start de-cluttering:
– Remove all the clutter before starting to de-clutter a room.
– Get rid of all the items in the room, even if you don’t need them.
3. Keep an inventory of what you’ve decluttered:
– Write down what you’ve removed from each room.
– Keep this inventory in an easily accessible place, like a cabinet or drawer.
De-cluttering your home can be a great way to get organized and make your home more comfortable. It can also save you money and time in the long run. Decluttering your home can be good for you and for the planet if we can all make an effort to follow zero waste principles.
Consumerism relies on you wanting to follow the latest trends and that includes the idea of keeping things that bring you joy – Marie Kondo supports this view but it’s just not a practical solution. There will be items that bring you joy, because they bring happy memories. Why not think about the fantastic memories you can make in the future? Use unused items as a springboard for new experiences.