Did you watch the Netflix Marie Kondo series at the beginning of the year? Did it make you have a sudden crazy urge to clean out your house? Did you wrench yourself from the comfort of your couch to actually apply the KonMari method to contents of your home? If you made it all the way to action, did you end up with bags upon bags of material to dispose of? It seems like in the rush to make a fresh start at the beginning of the year, lots of people clean their houses and end up with a pile of goods to get rid of. The question then becomes what is the most environmentally friendly way to get rid of all that stuff?
While our goal today is to learn more about ways to recycle or repurpose old things, it’s important to start off at the outset by saying that a lot of household goods that you might want to get rid of just don’t have a good way to be recycled. So, the absolute best way you can be more environmentally friendly about getting rid of your stuff is truly to just have less stuff in the first place. And a common theme in many of my recommendations for getting rid of things is to sell, donate or find other ways to reuse items before throwing them away.
Additionally, if you are in the market for new items, think about whether you can help support someone else’s desire to have their things be re-used by buying used items from Goodwill, Ebay or other sources. I did this earlier this year when we were in need of new tupperwares for packing lunch; instead of going on Amazon and buying new ones, I was able to find new glass tupperware at Goodwill (I had to buy new lids, sadly, but figured buying the glass part used was better than nothing). As much as possible, I’m trying to source new things that I might want through Craigslist or Goodwill, even if it requires a bit more patience. (I’ve been waiting for a pair of women’s backcountry skis to show up on Craigslist or OfferUp for months now… But I’m going to just keep waiting!)
Let’s march through the five categories of household items that Marie Kondo suggests people work through when tidying up:
- If your clothes are pretty high quality, the best option is to donate them to any cause that will take them and use them. If you have nice designer clothes, or just high-quality clothes in general, you could try selling to consignment stores in your area or ThredUp, a website that makes it super easy to sell used clothing. If you have professional clothes, consider donating to organizations like Dress for Success; lightly used items like socks, pajamas, jackets and other winter clothes could find good homes at a local homeless shelter or youth shelter. And of course Goodwill and the Salvation Army are always good options.
- If you have poorer quality clothes, like ratty old t-shirts, stained clothes, etc. (we all do!), look into fabric recycling programs. One of the best places to start is your municipal solid waste disposal site.
- The North Face will accept clothes of any quality and any brand in their stores via their Clothes The Loop program, as will H&M. Patagonia also will take back any clothes from their brand.
- If you have shoes to get rid of, many shoe stores, including Brooks and Nike, will accept donations of any old shoes (including shoes that are not their brand).
- Books are good candidates for donating or selling. Consider donating to your public library, a local school library or sell your old books at a used bookstore.
- This one is easy! Recycle your piles of papers! Shred them up first if you need to!
- Komono (a.k.a. Miscellaneous Items)
- Because it can encompass such a wide variety of items, this is a trickier category to prescribe recycling solutions for. But in general the same principles apply here as for other items.
- If you have collectibles or decorations that you think others might want, consider having a yard sale, selling items on Ebay, Craigslist or other online marketplaces, or donate items to Goodwill.
- Electronics should never, ever go into the trash!!! Nearly every city has an e-waste collection program; in addition, stores like Apple will take back any used electronics from their brand and see to it that it gets recycled.
- Your city solid waste collection department is a great resource for the best ways to recycle or dispose of miscellaneous items.
- Sentimental Items
- This is the toughest category because these items are personal, and thus hard to give away or re-use by nature, and like komono, encompasses a wide range of items. My best advice is to use the principles described above to find the best possible solution for as many items as possible, and resign yourself to the fact that you many end up trashing some items…
Last, but not least, I was really excited to find out about TerraCycle’s recycling programs. TerraCycle will recycle nearly anything; you need to pay for some of their recycling programs, but I think it’s worth thinking about doing (one of their offerings is a no-sort Zero Waste box, where they will take lots of different kinds of items and figure out how to recycle them for you). I also signed up to participate in some of their free recycling programs, including one that will recycle snack bags and one that recycles dental products (for example, used toothpaste tubes). I’m on a waitlist to participate, so I’ll report back when I’m off the list on how it works for me!
P.S. Here are a few other blogs and website where I found good ideas for getting rid of clutter: