Unless you live under a massive rock, you're probably well aware of Japanese organizer Marie Kondo's decluttering revolution that has swept the globe.
But did you know that the “tidying up" method that promises to improve your life by ditching the things that don't bring you joy can also help you make the world a better, greener place?
According to Caitlin Roberts, a Master KonMari Consultant and founder of Los Angeles-based Minimize with Purpose, home organization can contribute to sustainability by exposing our subconscious shopping habits and introducing more purposeful decision making.
“By confronting all of the items within our homes utilizing the KonMari method, we are given the unique opportunity to learn about how and why we have consumed in the past," she explains. “Learning to identify exactly what items support your lifestyle (and how many of them you actually need) encourages you to shop more consciously moving forward."
Roberts also says that gratitude is another big part of the KonMari method of home organization and sustainability. “When we show gratitude to the items we have selected to discard, we spend time locating the best possible way to recycle, reuse or repurpose," she adds. “When we respect the items that have supported us, we are more committed to finding them a new home and a new purpose."
With that in mind, there are some items you should NEVER throw in the trash, as they can be super harmful to the environment.
These include lights, batteries and electronics, mercury-containing items, household and garden chemicals. Instead, go online and look for local resources that will help you dispose of or donate them safely and properly.
For other less toxic items, however, there are a variety of eco-friendly, sustainable options for donating or reusing — which could, in turn, bring you a lot more joy.
Reusing household items
While there are national organizations like Goodwill that have locations where you can take items like clothes, furniture, electronic and even toiletries to rehome and repurpose them, starting with local groups in your community can be easier. See if groups like Buy Nothing, Freecycle and Facebook groups like Moms Helping Moms cater to your area. There will usually be takers for pretty much anything — opened bags of flour, mismatched dishes, old socks even half-used face creams.
Building scraps and materials
Did you do some renovating recently? Don't toss your scraps in the trash! They can actually be transformed into works of art. “You can turn your scraps, overstock and other materials into art and education by donating to a tinkering school such as Los Angeles based reDiscover," says Roberts. These schools help children cultivate their creativity by upycling sustainable materials — aka your junk.
Most of these types of schools have their own donation policies, but some of the items they often look for include large lumber, full or ½ sheets of plywood, (no paint or varnish), bamboo, pipe, rope, casters, pulleys, hooks, wood screws, corks, bottle caps, lids, large or appliance cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes, berry baskets, reusable shopping bags, pipe cleaners, wire, buttons, wooden toys of any kind, balls of any size or material, tape, glue, hot glue sticks, paper clips, rubber bands, crayons, markers and pens that work.
Costumes, Prom Dresses and Gowns
Do you have any old costumes hanging in your closet, perhaps from an ambitious Halloween party long since past? Don't worry, we all do. If you donate them to your local community or school theater group, they'll get a second (and hopefully third, fourth and fifth) showing. There are also groups like Ween Dream that take costume donations so they can give free Halloween costumes to children in need. You can donate from anywhere in America by shipping them to the Ween Dream headquarters in New Orleans.
The same goes for old wedding gowns, bridesmaid and prom dresses. There are a number of resources that will recycle those glam gowns you are never going to wear again by donating them to people in need. A few of these include the Angel Gown Program, which will turn your beautiful wedding gown into a burial gown for infants that pass away in the NICU, and Becca's Closet, a program that provides prom gowns for girls who can't afford them.
Arts & Crafts Supplies
If you envisioned yourself a painter on weekend, bought a bunch of supplies, then let them sit and collect dust in the closet, don't just toss them. “So many schools and community centers are desperate for art supplies, and the teachers can use all the support they can get!" notes Roberts.
You can even donate used markers thanks to Crayola. The color-friendly company has banded together with schools across North America as part of the Crayola ColorCycle program. Through this initiative, students in K-12 schools across the continental United States and parts of Canada collect and repurpose used Crayola markers, and are taught about sustainable practices in the process.
Every one of us has a pair of jeans they've held onto for way too long that is far too holey to wear out in public. That's where Cotton Incorporated comes in. They recently launched their Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling program, an innovative way to give your jeans a new life. This program transforms your donated denim into housing insulation. And as an added bonus, when you make a donation at your favorite retailers — including Bloomingdales Madewell, American Eagle Outfitters and Rag & Bone — you can get a discount on your next pair!
However you decide to handle your spring cleaning, we hope that you consider doing it with the planet in mind.
The environment is in a precarious position no matter how you slice it — it is more important than ever to practice mindfulness when it comes to getting rid of things. So, instead of tossing those items that no longer bring you joy into the trash, take a little bit of time to find them a better home. It will help you feel better, bring joy to others, and help keep this planet we call home a more habitable place.