Declutter and Clear Your Home the Eco-Friendly Way
Here’s how to clear your home for a fresh start in 2019
Unless you’re Marie Kondo, chances are you need to do a big clean-out of your house every now and again. But once you’ve decided what to keep and what has to go, how do you get rid of all of it? Putting it in the trash isn’t the solution, as Americans generate 254 million tons of trash each year that ends up in landfills. Landfill sites leak toxic substances into the soil, water and air while producing large amounts of methane as the organic matter decomposes. Excess greenhouse gases such as methane are major contributors to global climate disruption. By recycling and properly disposing of your things, you can reduce the environmental impact of your decluttering and feel good about your deep clean.
There are over 13 million tons of clothing taking up space in landfills. There’s really no need to add any more. When cleaning out your closets, make multiple piles to help organize where each garment is going to go, but do not make a “maybe” pile. If you’re on the fence about keeping an item of clothing, it’s probably best to just get rid of it. You can always buy something similar in the future if you end up needing it.
You can take clothes that are too worn down, stained or torn and recycle them at retailers such as H&M and Madewell. Not only will you be keeping textiles out of landfills, but these stores also give you a coupon in exchange for your donation. Anything that is still wearable can be donated or sold. Also consider keeping things like old T-shirts and reusing them at home as dust rags.
What to Do with the Big Stuff
If you’re getting rid of bigger items around the house, it can be daunting when trying to decide what to do with them. Use the following advice when getting rid of big things:
- Donate bedding and old pillows to animal shelters.
- Instead of taking your mattress out to the curb, get rid of it properly by having a local mattress recycling company haul yours away and break it down into recyclable materials.
- When you dump electronics into landfills, they leak toxins directly into the water, soil and air. Donate functioning electronics to a thrift shop and recycle the ones that don’t.
- Contact your city about recycling old appliances. Most local governments have a cash-back deal or tax-break for things like refrigerators.
What to Do with Documents and Papers
Everybody has stacks of old bills, documents, magazines and photos in their office. If you’re afraid of losing the information on these papers, digitally upload them so you have a copy for your records that doesn’t clutter your desktop. Make sure you make a backup in “the cloud” so you don’t have to worry about losing them if your computer ends up going on the fritz. You can then recycle all these old papers in your usual recycling.
What to Do with Toxic Chemicals
Many bodies of water in the US are polluted because people pour harmful substances down the drain. Substances such as medication, personal care products, flammables and paint contain harmful chemicals that pollute water supplies if simply poured down the drain.
Choose green cleaning products made with vinegar and lemon juice. A good rule of thumb is if you can drink it, it can be poured down the sink without harming anything (the exceptions being oils and medications, of course).
Every home needs a good cleaning out now and then, but our landfills don’t need more garbage. Instead of trashing the things you don’t want, be sure to donate usable items to organizations that can use them. For household items such as mattresses, electronics and cleaning products, contact local businesses that specialize in recycling.
Kris Louis is mom to two rambunctious boys aged 7 and 10. A former advertising copywriter, she recently created parentingwithkris.com, where she puts her skills to work writing about the trials and tribulations of parenting. Kris, her husband, and two boys live in Durham, NC.