There’s something about living in a clean, calm space, that is so satisfying. However, getting to that space often involves a lot of waste. Some clothes deemed “unwearable” may end up in the trash, while piles of unused but “in good condition” items will likely head to your nearest donation center (more on why this may not be as charitable as you think later). So is it possible to declutter and organize your home in a way that doesn’t harm the planet?
Yes. You can breathe a sigh of relief if you thought you were going to have to adopt a hoarder mentality. Like I said, cleaning out your space is good for your mind, and there are plenty of sustainable approaches you can take. That’s why I’ve compiled a room-by-room guide on how to declutter and organize your home the eco-friendly way. Which room are you going to tackle first?
An organized kitchen is the heart of a happy house. It’s where we refuel, where we cook and bake the meals that bring our households together. And it’s why keeping it clutter-free is so important. So how do you tackle it? Divide it into four main areas:
1) The Pantry: Pantries house a smorgasbord of goods. Snacks, dog food, canned goods, spices, paper towels, the iconic “bag of bags”—all have the potential to be found in a pantry. Which is exactly why it can quickly become a mess. To avoid a disaster start by removing everything from your pantry and discarding spoiled items (compost and recycle appropriately). Combine any duplicate items (why have 2 half-used boxes of pasta when you could have one full box)? And then return items to the pantry in a way that prioritizes visibility. When you can see the products you have you’re more likely to use them up and less likely to accidentally purchase duplicates.
2) Refrigerator: Start by pitching or composting any food that appears to be spoiled. Next, move nearly expired items to the front of your refrigerator. You can even designate a certain drawer or box for “eat me first” foods. To improve the sustainability of your kitchen even more, take a few minutes to learn how to store foods properly. This will help prevent food waste by extending the lifespan of your groceries.
3) Under the sink: I’m guessing this is where you keep most of your cleaning supplies. And ironically, at least in my home, it’s one of the areas that is the most messy. Start by pulling everything out and evaluating what you have. Do you need a multi-purpose cleaner and a wood cleaner? Maybe not. Identify what you use the most and get rid of anything superfluous. If you find yourself with a pile of not necessary, but perfectly good products, pass them on to new owners through a Buy Nothing Group.
My bedroom is where I usually do all my self-care, which means there’s no room for nonsense. A made bed, a clean floor, and a clutter-free night stand does wonders for my soul and my sleep.
To start the clean out process, head to your night stand. I find this becomes the most cluttered because it’s a bit of a catch all for anything we “don’t know what to do with.” Clean out the shelves or drawers and make a pile of things that need to be thrown away or recycled (more on how to recycle common loose items later). Make a second pile for donation items, and a third for items that just need to put away. You’ll know you’re done when all that’s left on top of your night stand is a candle, a book, and perhaps a reading lamp.
Next, move on to your dresser. Repeat the process above, and if your drawers are a tad snug (read: won’t close), get creative with your storage. Could you thrift some cute baskets to store bulky sweaters in? Could you stow away clothes in sliding bins under your bed? (*Eco tip: upcycled boxes also work great for this). Explore all the nooks and crannies of your room, there’s bound to be an untapped storage space somewhere.
And finally, your bed. If it’s not made, make it. I know it seems unnecessary because you’re just going to unmake it 15 hours later, but it totally changes the energy in a room. If you’re someone who loves a good throw pillow, or two, or ten, make sure you have a good storage space for those pillows (and no, the floor doesn’t count). Again, thrifted baskets are great for this and it’ll help prevent pillow clutter.
If you thought I forgot about the closet in your bedroom, I didn’t. I just think it deserves to be considered it’s own room. Regardless of size, a curated and intentional closet can bring you peace. It can make the simple act of getting dressed for the day an enjoyable, rather than anxiety-ridden, activity.
You’ll want to start by selecting a category of clothes to focus on. Maybe start with jeans—pull all of them out of your closet and create three piles:
1) Unusable: These are the items that no one, including yourself, would want to wear. Maybe they’re stained, stretched out, or have irreparable holes. Whatever it is, if you cringe at the thought of putting it on your own body, it’s unusable. These types of clothes can be upcycled or downcycled in a variety of ways or potentially donated to a clothing recycling program (although, make sure to do your research to ensure it’s a legitimate program).
2) Donate or Sell: You may unearth some items that are in perfectly good condition, but simply don’t inspire you anymore. If that’s the case, consciously discard them. You may be able to resell them through Poshmark, Depop, or a local consignment store. You could also offer them to friends or family. Of course donation is another option. Remember though, many donated garments still end up the landfill. So do some research to ensure donated items are put to good use. Local shelters are a great option or national organizations like Dress for Success will make sure your unwanted items get some extra mileage.
3) Repair: Maybe you discover a pair of jeans you don’t wear because your size has fluctuated. Perhaps there’s another pair you consistently ignore because the zipper is broken. Consider taking these items to a tailor to help extend their life.
Repeat this process with each category of clothing. Pro-tip: tackle one category each week to keep the process manageable and prevent overwhelm.
Like closets, our bathrooms tend to overflow with products that are rarely (if ever) used. To help identify the waste divide your bathroom into sections.
1) Medication: Medication is necessary, but often comes in hard-to-recycle packaging, making it a difficult area to sustainably declutter. That said, there are several ways you can repurpose pill bottles, and various take back programs that can help you consciously dispose of medication packaging.
2) Makeup / Skincare Products: Identify your core items—the products you use nearly every day. Store those in an easily accessible area. Maybe eye level in your medicine cabinet, or at the front of your drawer / cabinet. Then pivot to your non-core items and determine what you need to keep. Maybe you have some special occasion products. No need to get rid of them, but maybe store them in a less trafficked area, so you can access your daily items more easily. Discard anything else. Unused samples / beauty products can be donated, while empty packaging can be dropped off at Nordstrom for recycling.
3) Shower: If you have an empty shampoo bottle sitting in your shower that you “don’t know what to do with” the time has come to get rid of it. Sustainably. When disposing of shampoo and conditioner bottles, check the bottom of the packaging. You should see a number between one and seven. This tells you what type of plastic the bottle is made of. Look up if your city recycles that number. If it does, wash it out and recycle it. If it doesn’t, either throw it away or creatively repurpose it.
If you’re a member of team WFH, you likely have some sort of office space going on in your house. Whether it’s four dedicated walls or the corner of your bedroom, learning how to declutter and organize this part of your home can seem like a job of its own.
So let’s make it easier for you. Begin by removing everything from your desk. Assess what is needed, what needs to be discarded, and what can be stored differently.
For example if you find yourself drowning under loose papers, is there a way you can store them digitally? If you find office supplies like pens, paper clips, and cords strewn across your desk, consider how you could organize them better. Old candle or pasta sauce jars work great for organizing loose supplies and toilet paper rolls can easily be upcycled to help you tame your out of control cord drawer.
When it comes to things you need to discard, do so with intention. Here’s a mini-guide on how to dispose of common office items:
1) Alkaline batteries: These types of batteries should be thrown away, however if you have rechargeable batteries those can be recycled through a drop off program called Call2Recycle. Find a drop off point near you.
2) Printer paper with ink: As long as the paper doesn’t have a plastic coating it can be recycled.
3) Post-it Notes: According to 3M, Post-it Notes are curbside recyclable.
4) Pens: These shouldn’t be tossed in your curbside recycling bin, but can be sent to TerraCycle to be recycled in a properly equipped facility.
5) Receipts: Receipts are printed on thermal paper and contain BPA, a chemical which should not be introduced to a compost pile and is difficult to remove during the recycling process. As a result receipts should be thrown away.
6) Shredded paper: Avoid recycling shredded paper, it’s too small for most recycling facilities to process. Instead, try composting it.
The Living Room
The living room is an interesting room to clean out. Typically it’s used by everyone in the household and often, for very different things. For children it may be the play room, for some it’s WFH central, for others it may be the movie theater.
If you’re left wondering how to declutter and organize this multi-use room, start by determining the main clutter culprit. Is it toys? Blankets? Books? Video Games? If they’re all items you want to keep, determine a more efficient storage system.
Baskets or storage ottomans can be great for blankets or toys, while side tables or TV consoles with drawers can help consolidate electronics. Of course if you’d like to get more creative, there are dozens of innovative and DIY storage hacks to choose from. Plus it’s easy to keep it all sustainable by purchasing secondhand.
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