We couldn’t be happier about this new downsized lifestyle trend where people decide to live in smaller homes, sell off valuables and generally make small adjustments to simplify their lives. Living with less is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint and overall environmental impact, but it’s also a great way to live a happier and more meaningful life.
One obvious contributor to this trend is lifestyle expert Marie Kondo. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has sold over two million copies worldwide. Kondo’s mission to help people clear and declutter their lives is admirable, but if you read her book, there’s one glaring detail that stands out to environmentalists: She tells her clients to throw away their items in the trash.
All the stuff you throw into the trash goes into a landfill. Landfills pollute the air, displace wildlife, poison groundwater, sterilize soil and cause illness. If you’re cleaning and decluttering your home and you simply throw it in the trash, you are making a huge contribution to all of those environmental problems. That’s why it’s so important to be eco-friendly when downsizing your belongings.
Donate the Good Stuff
Chances are you have tons of great garments, kids’ toys, home accessories, and other items that someone else will want. Give these items a second chance by donating them to the people and places that can really use them. You can also donate things like old sheets, blankets, and towels to your local animal shelter. Extra cans of food and other non-perishables can be sent to a food bank to help local efforts to end hunger.
It’s important to be respectful to the people who work and volunteer at charity shops. Avoid donating things that are unwanted and unneeded. These items include soiled clothing, broken toys, faulty battery-operated goods or electronics and shoes damaged beyond wear.
Tips for Recycling
When you’re cleaning out your home, you can’t exactly put everything in the recycling bin and set it by the curb. Your recycling process is going to be more involved than that. It may help to start with one material that you can focus on before moving on to the next. For instance, you can start with something you can recycle at home like paper. Digitize photos, documents, and other papers that you can then save to the cloud for ease of access.
You may be surprised at how many paper products you can just throw in the recycling: wrapping paper, envelopes, birthday cards, phone books, catalogs and any and all cardboard can be tossed in the bin and sent to your city’s recycling plant.
Anything you can’t recycle yourself can be picked up, sorted, and disposed of properly by a professional recycling business in your area. These companies can properly dispose of items including mattresses, old VHS tapes, broken electronics, busted furniture and more for you at a nominal cost. They can also help with things such as appliances, but contact your city first and find out if you can get a tax rebate if you donate with them directly.
A Greener Clean
Once you’re living with less, you’ll want to control the mess. Invest in quality cleaning appliances that will last for years so you don’t have to keep rebuying and recycling busted ones. Beyond investing in long-lasting appliances, it’s also important to keep your home clean with green products. Green cleaning products avoid harmful chemicals and VOCs that pollute your indoor air quality and water. You can even use common household items like vinegar (a large bottle can be purchased on Amazon for under $5) to replace several toxic cleaners. If you don’t have time in your schedule for regular cleaning, you can always hire maid services (which average $174 a cleaning in Seattle). Just make sure that the cleaners you hire, use eco-friendly products.
When downsizing and simplifying, you don’t want to dump all your old stuff in a landfill. Donate what you can and recycle the rest. Once you’re organized, make a commitment to live a greener lifestyle by investing in quality products and avoiding ones with toxic chemicals.