Practically Ethical Decluttering

For me decluttering is the key to having a vaguely organised and tidy home. It’s an ongoing process much like laundry or cleaning the bathroom. It’s easy to buy, buy, buy. Not so easy to manage lots and lots of stuff. Decluttering makes you face your possessions. If you do this mindfully, you can really challenge yourself and your attitude towards shopping and amassing things. Did I really need that? Is this a waste? How could I get by differently? How will I make sure I’m better in the future?

If you need some motivation to get started then I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s amazing books The Life Changing Magic of Tidying and the follow up Spark Joy.

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Read either of these with a cuppa and then put a time in your calendar to Kondo your life. Once you’re done, you will need to keep this up. But it’s much easier to do once done properly. And yep, it’s boring but like exercise it’s good for the mind and deeply satisfying. 

The problem with decluttering from an ethical lifestyle standpoint is that it creates “stuff” to get rid of. But there are ways to do it without needing to just chuck things away. I try to do a really thorough declutter about 3 times a year: spring, early autumn and just before Christmas. But this is only a rough schedule and we tend to re-home, re-use, repair and recycle as we go along in between too. Like I said, it’s constant but so much easier when it’s just a couple of bits here and there. So where do I send all the stuff? And how do I make sure that it stays, as much as possible, out of landfill? And how do I keep it simple so that it doesn’t take over our lives? Here are my top tips:

  1. Buy less, buy better. I can’t say this enough. (Sorry, not sorry for sounding like a broken record!)
  2. Recycle. And properly. I didn’t know until quite recently that all plastic food containers can now be recycled where I live. I’ve cut out the Guide to Recycling for my area and have this above the bin. We’ve radically reduced our black waste by being informed. 
  3. Hand-me-down. I usually try and keep a pile of stuff that the girls have grown out of in a corner somewhere (this method needs refining!). When the pile is getting big, I dedicate some time to turning the girls’ wardrobes around. I keep clothes sorted by age and season. Sorting out is then really easy. The Little One gets her “new” clothes, the Big One’s clothes are packed away for next time, and we pass on the Little One’s outgrown clothes to friends or charity. We do the same with toys but at less frequent intervals. 
  4. Make use of charity collections. The British Heart Foundation have teamed up with our local council and now operate a collection scheme for unwanted clothes and household goods on recycling day a few times a year. You can also book a collection service online. As well as clothes and goods, they will take working electrical items up to the size of a microwave. This is brilliant because you can’t always donate electrical items to charity shops. Furniture collections can be arranged too. I recently donated 6 bin bags: good quality but grown out of and unloved clothes, 3 pairs of curtains and lampshades from the previous owner. A collection may be much easier for you than taking bags to a charity store, I know that it is for me, especially if you are new to decluttering and have a lot to get rid of (or have moved house and have accumulated unwanted things like us).
  5. Freecycle. Another quick and easy way to rehome good quality unwanted items or to advertise for wanted items. This spring, I have re-homed 4 stair-gates, an old X-Box, a plastic garden storage box and the girls’ old cot beds and bedding.
  6. Gumtree, Facebook selling sites or local second hand furniture shops. I’ve recently advertised our old sofas on Gumtree and I’ve had about 3 or 4 enquiries. We think they’re being taken this weekend, which would be great. You may not make a lot of money but it’s often a simple way of arranging for larger items you don’t need to be removed from your house with little effort and you’ll often find people are very grateful for a bargain. And best of all your old stuff gets a new lease of life.
  7. Swapping events. I recently took some clothes I no-longer wanted to a swapping event organised for Fashion Revolution week. In return, I landed a fab mustard coloured jumper, which I’ve already worn a handful of times and a baggy tee, perfect for summer.
  8. The dump. It’s so much better to use your local rubbish dump where they’re recycling components of electrical goods, textiles or scrap metal rather than just putting things in the bin at home. Our dump recycles most rubbish – about 85%. It’s nice to see that the staff there and people using the dump are really diligent about putting the right things in the right places. And while I know this isn’t brilliant, the reality for most of us is that we consume and throw out much more often than we care to admit. Using the dump will at least salvage some of your trash.

There are loads of ways to re-home your unwanted things without putting them in the bin. These are just a few. Others include car boot sales, donation points at supermarkets and garden centres (you can donate your old phones, hearing aids and glasses at ours), table top sales, school collections for raising PTA funds, donating to local Children Centre’s, refuges or food banks. The only items I haven’t found a solution for is make-up and toiletries. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear from you!

Although it takes time and can feel like a lot of effort to keep on top of your stuff, the rewards of decluttering are huge. You won’t regret it.

How do you re-home your old, unloved and unwanted things? Do you regularly declutter? Is it a spring time thing for you? How do you reward yourself when your decluttered? Are you too a fan of Marie Kondo? 


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