I follow many people (on social media & YouTube, not real life, that would be creepy.) who create Minimalism content, which I love. There is one problem though that sticks out to me and is never fully addressed: What they do with the stuff they declutter. Most of them say they donate it, but is that a sustainable option?
Let’s look up the facts:
- Donated Clothing: “While you may donate your old clothing to charity, the truth is, even then, a whopping 84 percent of our clothing ends up in landfills and incinerators, according to the EPA.”
- “Goodwill does recycle lots of what it can’t sell. The nonprofit reuses textiles and refurbishes some broken electronics. But last year, it threw away more than 13 million pounds of waste — technically other people’s garbage — across its locations in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.” 13 million pounds for just 3 small states… I can’t imagine what the waste is like from states like California or Texas.
Clearly, donating isn’t as sustainable as we think it is.. It seems like the source of the problem is over a billion people buying stuff they don’t need or won’t want long-term, particularly in North America & Europe.
The next problem seems to be people donating stuff that should really just be thrown away. Examples: Anything that’s broken, clothes with holes or stains, etc. I went on to a subreddit and someone who worked at a Thrift Store also said if you don’t wash things before donating them, they will be thrown away. The item is going to end up in the landfill either way, so don’t waste gas & your time driving to the thrift store, and the worker’s time.
The best place to start is to stop buying things you won’t want to keep until they totally wear out/break. You can also refuse free gifts, like a goody bag at a work conference.
When first decluttering, just throw out (or recycle/compost) obvious trash first like expired food, items that are broken beyond repair, or paper clutter.
Then you can reuse, repair, repurpose, & refurbish.
And finally, Recycle the items properly instead of donating them. No one is going to want the TV that’s been in your basement since 2000.
Now, what if you have items that you just want out of your house, but don’t want them going to the landfill?
- The first & best option is to sell it! Even if you have to give it away for free on Facebook. This way you know exactly where the item is going. Also, if someone is willing to come meet you somewhere to get the item at least, it shows they really want it. Keep in mind that the majority of your donations are probably going to be thrown away.
- Have a good, old fashioned garage sale. 🙂 -Most towns have an annual one, or you can just do one.
- See if any family members or friends want the item(s)!
- Host a clothing swap with your friends/family.
- Then if no one wants to buy your item, or take it for free, then I say donate it. Give it some time before you jump right into the donating, maybe 30 days, but also don’t let it stay in your house forever, hoping someone will buy it. Put a time limit on how long you will keep it.
- Think outside of the box for donating. Most people just default to Goodwill because it’s the only one they know of in their town, but even in my small town we have multiple thrift shops, I think the younger generations just don’t know about them. So do some googling for in your area! You may be surprised. The different thrift stores in our town even specialize in selling different items! This will give your item more of a chance to be properly used.
- Think about WHEN you’re donating certain items. I would not recommend donating all of your unused Christmas décor AFTER Christmas. The Thrift Shops won’t be able to put it out for another year and will most likely not want to take up a lot of their storage space with it. The best time to donate seasonal items (again, after you’ve exhausted your other options first) is right at the start of that season. For example, now would be a great time to donate Christmas décor! (Mid-Late November when I’m writing this)
That’s everything I can think of on how to declutter as sustainably as you can! Of course, no method is perfect, but it’s about all of us doing better. I hope this helps!
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