Decluttering your house, the green way

I’ve been on a spring cleaning kick around here lately and it’s a good thing since my house is sorely in need of it. Not only will decluttering hopefully help my mood (who can stay positive looking at clutter day in and day out?), but getting rid of our superfluous stuff will be helpful when it comes time to pack it all up one day (I hope in a year or two) and move to another house.

When ridding my home of stuff we no longer want or use, I try to be as green and eco-friendly as possible. How do I do it?

  • Listing my items on Freecycle is often my first choice because it can be the fastest way to move stuff out and get it into the hands of someone else who can use it. The only rule to listing on Freecycle is that you have to give the item(s) away for free. Personally, I love it.
  • If I have a more expensive item that I don’t want to give away for free, I turn to Craigslist – it’s like a huge classified system where you can list items free of charge. As opposed to something like Ebay, Craigslist is organized by city so there’s a good chance you can find someone in your area that can come get it directly from you and pay you cash, and you avoid having to spend money on shipping and making a trip to the Post Office.
  • Our curbside recycling bin is also my best friend when cleaning house. If something isn’t accepted in the curbside bin, sometimes it can go to the local recycling center which is just a few miles away. Check with your local recycling center for more information on recycling in your area.
  • If it isn’t wanted on Freecycle, can’t be sold or can’t be recycled, and provided it’s something others can use, then it usually goes into a donation pile to be given to a local charity.
  • If all of these fail, then as a last resort it goes into the trash. I try to use the garbage can as sparingly as possible, but even I must admit that sometimes the trash is the only place for it.

Even if I know the garbage can is my last option for stuff, I still feel bad about throwing it out. I hate to think about it ending up in a landfill and staying there forever, but then I also have to be realistic and not completely beat myself up over it. It’s a good reminder to make wise choices when buying things and think:

  • Do I really need this?
  • Is it good enough quality that it will last for years or will it break after a year and have to be replaced?
  • Should I save my money for a little while longer and buy a better quality item that will last me longer?
  • What will I do with it when I no longer need it (or when it breaks)?

Of course this is a bit harder when you have kids (and toys) and it’s not always practical to go through this list every time you buy something, but it’s a good practice to get into and will help to avoid unnecessary purchases in the future. It can also help you avoid buying cheap, plastic toys that might as well go directly from the assembly line to the landfill for as long as they are usable. But don’t get me started about those. ;oP

As for my decluttering today, I cleaned out and reorganized the pantry/laundry room. I should’ve taken before and after pictures, if not to post on my blog, then for my own satisfaction. 😉 I still have a bit more work to do in there and Jody is going to put up another shelf, but already it feels so. much. better.

I also worked a bit in my kitchen today to clear off one of my countertops. My countertops end up being a breeding ground for kid artwork and my/Jody’s paperwork. Does this happen to anyone else?? I’m trying to get a system in place so that we can avoid future paper explosions on the counter, but some more reorganizing and implementing a filing system (as well as having a desk to use) is definitely in order first. Anyone have a cute rolltop desk they want to sell me or give me? C’mon, Freecycle, baby. 😉

19 thoughts on “Decluttering your house, the green way”

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  2. Good for you for decluttering! I always find it hard to get started, but once I get going I always feel better. I can just feel the energy flowing more freely through my decluttered home!

  3. Been in major decluttering mode myself. Have rid our place (via the means you suggest) of over 700 things since the first of the year. And I still have the two worst spots to go. I’m pretty grossed out by how much excess we live with!

  4. I like your green spin on decluttering. I used to do from time to time, but the ideas you’ve shared here add an eco-ethic.

    For a fun discussion about paper piling systems and the wonderfully positive concept of “optimal mess” you might read “A Perfect Mess” by David H. Freedman.

  5. Even though we finally found our dream home, we are constantly decluttering. Even the kid’s stuff! A lot of the time they do not even notice it is missing!

    Freecycle is awesome!

  6. You know a rolltop/one of those fold up desks are definitely the way to go. I have one and so does my husband and they are right next to each other in the living room. They were both given to us and really just blend in with the furniture, but they are a great place to stash paperwork. I put it there, close it up, and then it is a decluttering situation all on its own because when you can’t close it, it is time to break out the paper shredder:)


  7. You know, I just scored a hanging file-folder box at Kohl’s on clearance and it really helped me cut down the paper clutter. We have a big filing cabinet for the “business” stuff like taxes and other documents, but now I have a folder for each of my projects that I can get to really quickly in a fairly attractive box that I don’t mind sitting out in our sunroom (where my desk is).

    Now I have an inbox and when it gets full (or hopefully more often than that–I’ve been trying to do this once a week), I go through it, deal with anything that takes 2 minutes or less, then file the rest so that it doesn’t expand beyond the confines of the inbox. I’ve been at this for a little over a month and it seems to be working!

  8. When I cleaned out the basement of our rental I felt that a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. A weight that I didn’t know that I had because all of the clutter was neatly put on shelves along the walls of the basement. The only bad thing about the big clean out was that I didn’t have a lot hiding placing for Christmas gifts I purchased early. 🙂

    If you donate items to charity you might be able to take it off of your taxes if you make an itemized list of the items and get a recipt from the place you donate them. My husband poo-pooed the idea but I did it anyway (I made the list as I cleaned and boxed up the items to save time.) Turns out that we got a lot of money back on our taxes beause of it. He was impressed.

  9. WOW! we must be on the same wavelength! I just cleaned off my counter as well- now sits a nice strawberry bowl filled with culinary (and some medicinal) herbs- the kitchen looks great and even though there is snow on the ground outside, I got to dig my hands in some dirt and do some planting. I am also giving away my stuff on my blog (right now it is books) every day I give away something new (now through march 21)
    Those other resources you mention are great!

  10. I have a passionate love affair with craigslist. I get rid of most things on there and buy so much through CL also. In fact, my older son’s wardrobe comes almost exclusively from CL – I just fill in the gaps where I need to. When my younger son (our last) outgrows his clothes, they get listed on CL.

    I’m excited to get the spring cleaning bug here. Hasn’t hit yet, but it will. Have fun cleaning!

  11. This is such a great post. Great reminder for everyone on where to go.

    (Now, is there a 12 step program for people like me who obsessively check in with Craigs and Freecycle many times daily )

  12. My recent resolution in this regards occurred when I sold some DVDs on Amazon at the same time that I donated to a charity. I was like, why didn’t I just donate the DVDs to a charity and save myself the hassle of having to list and send them, and then giving that money to a charity anyway? Being able to just dump my old stuff lifted a HUGE weight off my shoulders.

  13. Love this post! So much timely information. I am so ready for a spring cleaning/de-cluttering day (or two or three).

    I hope you’re feeling better… sending lots of good energyyour way!

  14. Good post! I just discovered your blog today and really like it! I’ve been struggling with the whole “getting rid of things when they could possibly just end up in the dump” idea, and this was helpful. Thanks!

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