For most of us, our lifestyle isn't what we could call fully sustainable — we still rely on things like paper towels and plastic packaging that we can't (or don't) recycle.
But if you're interested in committing to creating a more sustainable lifestyle, one of the best places to start is with all the clutter that seems to inevitably accumulate in one’s home. Clutter isn't just bad for the environment — it can also be detrimental to your mental health. We've all got it, so here are our top six ways to declutter your life sustainably.
1. Donate, Reuse, Recycle
When it comes to sustainable decluttering, the adage that we've known since grade school still applies — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In this case, since the goal of decluttering is to reduce the number of items in your home, we're going to replace it with another sustainable alternative: Donate. Donating your old clothes, towels, appliances, and toys can give them a second life rather than sending them to the landfill.
Make sure you choose donation recipients well, and that you sort your donations beforehand to prevent Goodwill or your local thrift store from sending your bags of baby clothes to the landfill for you.
2. Make It A Habit
Decluttering is only useful if you can continue the trend instead of filling up your house with clutter as soon as you've finished. There are five stages involved in turning something into a habit:
Precontemplation: You know there's a problem but aren't inclined to fix it.
Contemplation: You don't have a plan to fix the problem, but now you've recognized you need to make a change.
Preparation: You start researching decluttering methods. You've got a plan of action and have begun to make small changes toward your ultimate goal that will play out over the next 30 days.
Action: You've gone through every room in your house and removed as much clutter as possible. You've stuck to your plan and made a change.
Maintenance: You want to make sure your house doesn't become cluttered again. This is often the hardest stage, but one that is necessary to turn this decluttering trend from a one-time thing into a positive habit.
By turning your decluttering project into a habit, you save yourself the stress of having to do it again six months or a year down the line. Keeping your house free of clutter in the first place is the most sustainable way to declutter.
3. Sort And Compost
If your city has a recycling program, you may already sort your home's waste into separate piles — plastics, paper, organics, glass, etc. To be more sustainable, take that a step further and don't throw away any organic waste. Instead, save it up and add it to a compost pile or barrel. Not only does this prevent organic waste like egg shells, coffee grounds, and vegetable peelings from filling up landfills, but it gives you a natural fertilizer for your garden in the spring.
4. Upcycle Where Possible
They say that one person's trash is another's treasure, but in today's upcycling economy, that statement has evolved from cliché to fact. Bows, wrapping paper, and ribbons can be reused to wrap new presents or to create something sparkly. Even old electronics can become clocks, knick-knacks, and other fun things. Get inspired by other crafty folks, and show off what you make to encourage others in return!
5. Prevent Clutter In The First Place
As a society, we bring home a lot of clutter every day. We get bills and junk in the mail. Many of us still somehow end up with plastic grocery bags in our pantry. Even when we try to avoid it, many things we buy are wrapped in plastic or stuffed in a box filled with foam to make sure it arrives safely.
The most sustainable way to declutter is to avoid clutter in the first place.
Opt-in for electronic billing, so you don't receive paper bills in the mail. Take your reusable bags to the grocery store. If you're shopping online, many sites offer “frustration-free packaging,” which has no plastic and is made from recyclable or compostable materials.
6. Befriend A Junk Collector
You probably see them regularly — people with pickup trucks or trailers making the rounds, looking for discarded appliances or other items that really shouldn't end up in the landfill. These people aren't just looking to fill their already cluttered homes — they make their living stripping these appliances down and selling the metal and electronic components back to recycling companies.
Eco-friendly junk removal isn't just helpful for getting rid of that dead washer that's been sitting in your garage for who knows how long. It also prevents items from ending up in the landfill, allowing them to be recycled into new products.
Sustainability and decluttering often go hand in hand. If the clutter in your home is starting to get to you, start implementing some of these tips to help make the massive job of decluttering your home a little bit easier.