Skip to content

Sustainable Decluttering While Practicing Self-Isolation

Social Distancing

Now that we’re practicing self-isolation and social distancing, it’s the perfect time to start cleaning out cupboards, closets and drawers. Not to mention those boxes you still have sitting around from when you moved in three years ago (here’s your first tip – if you haven’t unpacked it in that long you probably don’t need whatever is inside it).

Decluttering can be overwhelming, especially when you haven’t done a good clean out in a while. Starting with a plan is always best. Go through each room with a pen and notebook and write down where and what you think needs an overhaul.

What’s Next?

Gather your supplies! Cardboard boxes are best because they can be reused or recycled. A three-box system is a good start. Grab a black sharpie and label each of the boxes individually:

  • Donate
  • Reuse/Repurpose
  • Recycle
  • Have a garbage bin or bag for the items that are garbage

Here’s The Fun Part!

Now, start filling those boxes! It’s recommended that once you have finished with a room, to dispose of those items to their designated location before moving onto the next room. And if you’re wondering where you can take all those items, here’s our list of the top ways to declutter in a sustainable way:

  1. Donate. Gently used clothes, toys and household items can be donated to a variety of places. If you are tired of donating to the bigger value stores, try and think more locally. Is there a women’s shelter that could use those clothes or toys? Is there a school program that could use some kitchen items? Preschools and daycares love educational toys, books or crafty materials. If you have linens and stuffed animals that have seen a better day, see if your local humane society can use them for the animals at the shelter. But please wait until COVID-19 is over before taking anything anywhere!
  2. Reuse and Repurpose. Just because something is broken, doesn’t mean it’s no longer useful. Make a new piece of furniture out of a broken chair or make some retro couch cushions with those old t-shirts from your Pearl Jam phase in the 90s. There are also some great crafts out there involving concrete. A pair of old rubber gloves can make a really cool planter for some succulents.
  3. Recycle Electronics. Electronics aren’t made like they use to be made. When a stereo from the 60s finally broke, it was big enough to turn into a vintage-looking sidebar for your dining room. These days, everything fits in your pocket. So, when it breaks, there’s no new purpose for it. Many municipalities offer an E-Waste recycling program for free where you can take your broken electronics to be taken apart and the parts are recycled into new electronic parts. However, household items like coffee makers and vacuums don’t fit into the recyclable electronics. A great recommendation for these and the recyclable electronics – hand them over to a kid (or even a senior’s home) along with a screwdriver and let them take them apart. For kids, it’s an excellent learning tool for them to see the mechanics of an electronic item. For seniors, it’s fun for them and gives them a ‘useful’ activity. Once you’re done with the recyclable electronics, take them to your local E-Waste program. If they’re the non-recyclable kind, they’re just garbage.
  4. Garbage. If there really is no way to reuse, recycle or repurpose, it’s just plain garbage. As much as we try to get as much out of an item or material as we can, it will eventually end up in a landfill.

When you’re ready to get rid of the items in your boxes, make some calls. See who will accept what and where. This will save you from taking it somewhere that won’t accept it. Not sure who to call? Check out our ReThink Waste Tool. It’s simple to use – just type in the material you want to dispose of and it will tell you what to do with it.

Prevent More Clutter

Now that you’ve officially decluttered your home, let’s start to look at ways that you can avoid that unnecessary clutter.

  1. Download. You can basically download any book, movie or song rather than purchasing a physical copy. Save the physical copy for something that is collectable to you.
  2. Refuse. This is a hard one and takes practice and lots of willpower. Refusing to buy something we want can be hard – especially when it’s on sale! My personal tactic – Make a note of it and leave the store. If I’m still thinking about it a few days later, I go buy it. If I forget about it, even better! That means I never really wanted it in the first place.
  3. Minimal Purchasing. When grocery shopping, only buy the food you will eat. According to an article from Huffingtonpost.ca, Canadians are throwing out $18 worth of food a week. That’s almost $80 a month that could go into an RRSP. Plus, organics in the landfill release methane gases that are 25% more toxic than carbon dioxide. Meal planning is a great way to limit your shopping. As well, many grocery stores offer online shopping with an in-store pick-up. The fee is minimal ($3-$5) and saves you from those distracting ‘BUY ME NOW’ displays. If you do have extra food, put it in the compost or your green bin program.
  4. Avoid the Dollar Store. Nothing good ever really comes from a dollar store. And it’s so easy to load up your cart on the ‘hey I might need this one day’ type of products. Trust me, you won’t need it one day. And if you do, buy it then. Otherwise, it’ll get put into a closet and forgotten. Then when you declutter a./gain next time, it’ll end up in your donate box.
  5. WHEN SOCIAL DISTANCING IS OVER – Have a Swap Party. Listen, we all know you’ve been dying to break out that charcuterie board that you didn’t want to declutter, so now’s your chance. Invite some friends over, drink some wine (take the bottles back and don’t put them in your blue box), eat some cheese and crackers and swap purses, clothes, books, craft supplies – whatever it is – and have some fun. It’s a great way to encourage other people to swap items. And at the end of the night, have a ‘donate’ box for anyone who wants to donate what wasn’t swapped. And make the event low waste – paper plates, napkins and straws can be put in the green bin. Or even better – use real dishes. Don’t wait for a special occasion. Bring out those fancy plates! Buy food in bulk so there’s less wrappers and avoid using plastic cutlery. Some party supply stores such as Party City have wooden cutlery that can be composted or burned. Another great resource for sustainable kitchen items – GreenMunch. They are an online retailer and wholesaler specializing in sustainable & compostable food service & event supplies

Are you still feeling overwhelmed with the idea of decluttering? Start small. You can’t change the world in one day, so don’t expect to conquer your decluttering goals all in one day. Do one room, one closet or one box at a time. And don’t forget about Pinterest. There are so many decluttering lists out there to help you get started.

Stay safe, have fun and take the time to breathe.