Decluttering is necessary to live our lives with more spaciousness. The act of clearing out our space allows us to honor the objects we love and decide to keep, creating a more intentional home. But what do we do with all of our excess stuff?
Recently when my partner and I moved we had a plethora of stuff that was perfectly usable, but that we no longer had a purpose for. A dish rack, excess clothes, shoes that no longer fit, old computer chargers. A lot of the reading I’ve done on decluttering tends to skip the crucial step of what to do with our stuff once we’ve decided we no longer need it. It is important to consider where our stuff ends up in addition to the benefits of having less stuff in our home.
Landfills in the United States are rapidly filling up and overflowing. Trashing something should be the last option to consider. It may seem convenient to hike something to our curb, rather than post it to craigslist or bring it to a second-hand store, but I invite you to reconsider what the word convenience means. Landfills are filled with billions of dollars of usable materials*, many of which are off gassing or leeching chemicals. There are other options besides landfill which offer long-term satisfaction over immediate gratification.
To determine if something is worth selling, giving, or donating, ask yourself if it might still bring someone value. Still working IPod’s or phone’s, glasses, plates and art are all great to be reused. Some things are trickier like old towels or clothes. I usually cut mine up to make hankies or cleaning rags. Often old towels can be taken to animal shelters, call around and get creative!
If you have an item that has value, a few options are to sell it online or at a sale or give it to someone who needs it. If you have an object that is usable, but may not be worth any money (take our dish rack for example!) that is a great item to give to someone or donate to a thrift store.
Items like dead batteries, old chargers, or electronics, should get properly recycled when possible. This can be hard depending on your location, but you might be surprised at what's in your area. Do a little research, and ask around, one great website I love is freecycle, where community members can post something they are giving away. I scored a ton of vintage canning jars through freecycle that I now use for food storage!
Be creative and resourceful, but also honest, don’t feel the need to hang onto things because you should. Keep an eye out for duplicates, and items you feel obligated to keep.
The overwhelm of decluttering may scare you, take a breath, you don’t have to donate or get rid of everything perfectly. Consider what your values are when you do declutter. What would a values-based approach to decluttering be for you? Make piles to prevent overwhelm, as soon as one pile is full, say the donate pile, go drop it off immediately, get it out of the way and out of the space. The results are sure to be satisfying knowing that a perfectly useable product will find a new home, or be properly recycled.
Instead of immediate gratification, I hope you’ll feel more truly satisfied in the long term change.
Once we’ve decluttered responsibly we are left with a space with objects full of utility, joy, and appreciation. A space that can be lived in fully.
*This statistic was found through my work with Eco-Cycle, for more information about trash and climate impact you can watch their video here. I also recommend reading Waste & Want by Susan Strasser, and Garbology by Edward Humes.
*A great resource with an A-Z index of how to properly dispose of stuff it is Bea Johnson’s book The Zero Waste Home.