Are you a spring-cleaner? The Spring season is as good a time as any to minimize the excess in our lives, freshen up our living spaces and get things organized; there’s something about that fresh spring air that tends to make us want to purge our homes of clutter. Some of you reading this post are likely “conscious consumers,” who think carefully about the impact of the food or other products that you buy before you make a purchase. But how often do we think through the entire life cycle of our stuff, and the impact that it has once it leaves our homes?
When disposing of no longer needed clothing or household goods, donating those items to a thrift store is usually our first instinct. The items will get passed along to someone that needs them, and be given new life in a new home, right? Actually, maybe not: As much as 35% of the stuff that gets donated to big thrift store chains might actually end up in the landfill (or, alternately, baled up and send overseas, where it can deeply damage already-struggling local textile and clothing industries).
Since I’ve been trying to avoid simply hauling bags of my no-longer-wanted stuff to a donation site at Goodwill or Salvation Army, I’ve had to get a bit more creative (and a lot slower-paced) as I downsize my belongings.
Here are some ways that I’ve been able to get rid of my old “junk” in a more sustainable way:
I try to sell my old stuff not because I need to get money from my old stuff, but because my philosophy is that people place more value on stuff when it’s not free, and think more carefully about whether they want something or not. For example, when I go to a clothing swap and am faced with piles of free clothes, I am far more likely to pick up something that I don’t really need/won’t end up wearing a lot! If I buy a $20 chair from craigslist, I’m more likely to go through all the listings, find something I really like, and put a bit of work into it to make it something I will use for a long time. Craigslist is great for selling household goods, Gazelle or Ebay for electronics, and Poshmark or Carousell for clothes! Of course selling locally is great whenever possible, so that you don’t have to ship goods.
How can you repurpose the items that you no longer use? Could that chipped mug become a planter for a succulent? Can you give a friend that knows how to sew that old ripped shirt or those curtains you no longer use and have them turned into something you can use, like hot pads for your kitchen or grocery tote bags? Would you learn to love that old end table again if you repainted it? Think carefully before you throw things out and extend their lives whenever you can!
Donate – carefully:
Something I’ve learned about donating used goods is that they are more likely to be useful if I donate with thought and intention rather than just putting everything I want to get rid of in one big bag and donating it all at one big chain thrift store. Sure, it takes a bit more time to donate things this way, but I feel better about taking on more responsibility for where my stuff is going after I’m through with it. Ripped or stained towels can be sent to the Humane Society and used as bedding for rescued animals. Old mascara wands can be cleaned off and used by your local wildlife rescue to clean mites off the fur of sick animals. Half-used art supplies are often accepted by your local after-school non profit arts program. Nice business attire that you’re getting rid of can be donated to a job readiness non profit where it will help someone feel confident for an upcoming interview. Most of your stuff can really be put to good use if you’re careful where you send it!
Do you have any tips on “conscious spring cleaning” or a favorite place to donate hard-to-get-rid-of items? Let us know in the comments below!