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The Ultimate Zero Waste Guide to Decluttering Your Home

During these winter months at home, we begin to take note of things we no longer need or clothing our children have grown out of. Maybe we start to acknowledge all the things put into storage or the garage that we know we'll need to deal with come spring.

The first thought that comes to mind when it comes to clutter or reducing is usually to just throw it out, but that has major impact on the environment. So, we're challenging our readers to donate, recycle or reuse the most items possible to reduce unnecessary landfill waste, or at least delay it. We challenge you to declutter with as much zero waste as possible.

Did you know that...

  • The average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothing every year. (source)

  • 80-90% of clothing donations to charities are sold to recyclers. From there, 45% is exported for reuse and about 50% is recycled.

  • 80% of the items people keep are never used. (source)

  • 54% of Americans are overwhelmed by the amount of clutter they have, but 78% have no idea what to do with it. (source)

  • Women’s’ stress levels are directly proportional to the amount of stuff in their homes. (source)

  • Getting rid of clutter eliminates 40% of housework in the average home. (source)

  • People are more productive, less irritable and distracted in a clutter-free space. (source)

People May Want What You Have

You know that saying that one person's trash is another person's treasure, well it's true and it can be one of the best feeling ways to disengage from things you know longer need, but someone else does.

The first tip we have for everyone is that if you have gently used or still usable products that you join your local Buy Nothing Facebook Group where you simply give it away. The Buy Nothing Project was created specifically to help people "Buy less and share more.

It makes us all richer and the planet cleaner." Making it the perfect avenue to help declutter your home.

It's amazing how many people are looking for what you have. We've posted things to give and have them spoken for within seconds. And there was a woman who was in real need following a personal situation. Our group rallied and got her everything she needed to start over life again. Amazing.

If you have things of value and in good condition, look to sell them. Here are two easy ideas:

  • Consignment stores - art, jewelry, designer clothing, shoes and handbags

  • Marketplace, Craigslist, Ebay, Poshmark and other similar online buy/sell sites and phone apps.

Even though it might take some time to sell via consignment or online, pack and ship the items, it can be worth it to have some extra dough for savings, retirement, a new electronic vehicle, vacation or for your rainy day fund.

Give to Those in Need

There really is no better feeling than helping those in need or giving to someone who simply really needs what you have.

We encourage you to support local nonprofits especially those helping the homeless, low-income, babies and children, domestic abuse thrivers, immigrants and senior citizens. In particular, any decent or gently used household items can help others start or experience a better life.

Salvation Army and Goodwill are great alternatives, however you're donating so that someone else has to buy it. If they're not really in need, we understand that's how the organization and stores are supported, but it's best to find those in need to give for free first. Shelters in every community have seen an increase this past year. They no doubt will welcome the donations.

Some times all of these organizations become overwhelmed with donations and they tend to share with a community of nonprofits that they've built. But many organizations are not part of a "coalition" of partners and are still in need.

It takes some foot work but you can easily research organizations that accept donations that will then be given at no cost to someone in need. We suggest looking for organizations located in your community - schools, senior living, shelters, those serving immigrants and domestic abuse survivors and many more.

More Zero Waste Giving and Reusing Ideas

  1. Metal/Appliances - In large cities, junk metal is big business. These entrepreneurs have trucks, drive around neighborhoods and alleys looking for metal they can sell or even appliances they can fix and resell. In most other cities, you more than likely have a metal junk yard, if you will, where you drop off, they'll melt down, sell or repurpose into an entirely new product or part. Talk about zero waste!

  2. Electronics - e-waste is one of the biggest problems facing our environment. Most municipalities now have recycling-type programs or waste programs. If your electronics are in good condition or missing a small part, it's worth it to clean it up, fix it and give it away

  3. Old shirts and socks - What to do with stained t-shirts and holey socks? Well, they are really good for cleaning and polishing, make a great dog toy or a bed for fido. It's true. Here are instructions.

  4. Clothing - Most people, especially women, have more clothing than they really know what to do with or have intention to wear. The fast fashion trend, while helping hundreds of millions of people live better lives, is also a big industry problem as it faces its impact on the environment. With clothing, it's best to refashion/repurpose, sell, donate or give especially when others can use it - especially parents of fast growing kids. There are so many ways to reuse old clothes like sweater pillows and jean quilts that can then be donated. And if you haven't considered it, shoes are also in demand especially among parents along with boots, coats and snow pants. Here are 6 additional tips via Bustle.

  5. Towels & Bedding - These are pretty easy. Because most human services nonprofits cannot take used bedding and towels, you can easily convert them into cleaning rags or donate them to a local pet shelter where these items are always in demand.

  6. Toys - As children age, so does the demand to move out the toys they've grown out of. Since most toys are made of plastic, throwing them away just adds to landfill waste and even air pollution. Let's be honest, their are children at your church, in your neighborhood or across town who would just love to have these toys. Donate them to charities that take products for babies and children's toys to be given to those in need like Toys for Tots or Cradles to Crayons. Even ask your local hospital and other organizations that help homeless families and low income students.

  7. Sports Equipment - From little league to powder puff and every sport, bicycles, skates and home work out gear, many a garage is filled to the brim with used sports equipment ready for a new home. You can make a few bucks by selling them to a second hand store like Play-it-Again Sports (also a great place to find things you need and help continue the cycle of recycling) or on Marketplace or Craigslist. Some people even reinvent specific items, such as a painting a glove gold as a trophy for a game well played.

  8. Furniture - More and more furniture is found in alleys or on the side of the curb awaiting pickup from waste management companies. There are better ways: 1) donate to second hand stores that are fundraisers for local hospitals. 2) donate to an organization like Chicago Furniture Bank, which picks up furniture, cleans it up and then gives it to people at no charge. (We love this model and think that it should be in every city and town.) 3. Pay to have it brought back to life. Amazing what some sanding and new stain can do. 4) Give it away or sell for a small price to a carpenter who restores or uses parts to build something new.

  9. Glass Jars - For some reason we thought we would do so much canning during the pandemic, but no. So now we're stuck with tons of glass jars which I am turning into candles and gifts for friends.

  10. Old Silverware - This could be one of the most fun and overlooked items on this list. Fun because you turn it into artwork. These are cool.

What have you recycled or upcycled? What creative ways have you reused items? Have tips to share on zero waste decluttering? Share them on our Facebook page. We want to hear how you rise to the challenge this spring.

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