It’s time to start tidying up.
Here’s how to do it without trashing the planet.
If you’ve been totally obsessing over Marie Kondo and Tidying Up like we have, you’ve probably also been going through every drawer and cabinet looking for things that don’t “spark joy.” And while minimizing and tidying your space really can transform your life, it can also impact the planet if it’s not done mindfully. Tidying, in essence, has a lot of the same intentions & steps as living a low-waste lifestyle…so be sure to make tidying up less trashy with some of our favorite tips below!
While you’re decluttering, you may find old towels, unused bedding and blankets, pillows, and other textiles. Instead of throwing them away, check with your local animal shelter first! They can use them as bedding and blankets for the pets. Cozy shelter animals? Now that really sparks joy.
If these textiles are in pretty bad condition and cannot be donated… it’s a little trickier. There currently isn’t one hub for textile recycling, but inspiring organizations are opening up to tackle this issue. In New York, GrowNYC accepts fabric scraps (36 square inches or larger), and works with other groups to have them turned into clothes again, made into rags, or even used for insulation! You can also check with local schools and art centers to see if they could use what you have for a project, or even cut them into cleaning towels depending on the fabric!<
Tidying up in the closet can be…difficult to say the least. But when you’re done–don’t just toss it! You can try to sell pieces in good condition at local consignment shops, or use platforms like Poshmark that allow you to connect with an online community to sell your clothes and accessories.
Or, you can donate! The American Red Cross uses donated clothes, accessories, linens, and small toys to benefit victims of natural disasters. The Salvation Army also accepts clothing for men, women, and children, with proceeds going towards their adult rehabilitation centers–and will pick up your stuff for free. Dress for Success has a number of drop off locations nationally, and works to provide unemployed, low-income women the professional clothing they need for job interviews. Career Gear, Planet Aid, Becca’s Closet–there are tons of options for sending your gently used clothes to a great place!
Clothing breaks down very slowly in landfills–and some studies estimate that there are nearly 13 million tons in our landfills already. So while you’re mastering your Kondo fold technique, hop online or go to a local clothing drive to make sure your clothes don’t end up as trash!
Electronics (think old DVD players, iPods, cords and cables) are almost always made with valuable resources–so if it’s time to tidy up your tech, be sure to donate or recycle them so that those resources can be conserved!
For Apple products, there’s now a recycling program where you can give them damaged cables & tech products for them to recycle into newer versions. While they won’t give you a replacement, it’s totally free to recycle any Apple product at their stores. And in a world where computers, on average, are used for less than 3 years, this can make a huge impact on our tech waste. Other companies like LG and Samsung offer mail-in recycling programs for their phones & TVs, while Best Buy accepts phones, TVs, PCs/laptops, and other electronics!
For other “E-Cycling”, check out databases like this one that list reuse, donation, and recycling programs across the US specifically for tech products. Or, you can simply consider selling it locally, or donating it to a school or library in your area.
Need to declutter the book shelf? We get it. So head on down to the library! I know that sounds counterintuitive, but most have a Friends of the Library Society where they accept gently used books to stock the library, or sell them at fundraisers to support the library. Of course there are also local thrift stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army, and even new “mini bookstores” called the Reading Tree that are popping up nationally!
If you don’t mind paying for the cost of shipping your books, there are tons of charities finding truly amazing ways to give new life to older books. Books for Soldiers allows you to create a care package of books & DVDs and send it to deployed soldiers overseas. Additionally, Books 2 Africa looks for educational textbooks and reference books to send to students in Africa. There’s also Books Through Bars, Book to Prisoners, Better World Books…Do a quick search online, and you’re sure to find the perfect place to send your books!
We all have them…that unmatched foundation you used once, or a body wash that’s almost empty but you can’t let go of. Thanks to the magic of tidying up, you can reclaim your space! Warning: this may leave you with a box of tubes and other toiletries that you don’t know what to do with.
For products that are primarily empty or have expired, be sure to empty them in the trash, then use a resource like TerraCycle to learn how you can recycle the product container, since most cosmetics and personal care products come in non-recyclable plastic! TerraCycle’s free take back programs let you recycle those tricky mascara wands and shampoo bottles so your bathroom space can be truly tidy.
For products that can still be used (gently used, mostly full), there’s a ton of awesome places that will accept donations for great causes. Women’s shelters use donated toiletries to empower the women in their shelters to start fresh, while groups like Amenity Aid accepts unused hotel size toiletries for use in housing programs, community centers, and other charitable programs. Depending on what you find in your bathroom, there is no shortage of ways to turn toiletries you don’t want into a meaningful experience for others.
Once you’ve completed the 5-step KonMari Method, and found joy in your home again, you’re definitely gonna want to keep it that way–even if your only motivation is to never have to tidy up again. Keeping your new space tidy happens in two major ways: not buying new junk to fill the empty space, and organizing the items that you decide to keep.
With all the new space you’ll create in your home tidying up, whether it be in your closet, garage, or kitchen, you may be tempted to re-fill that space with new items. The most important thing you can do with that new space is honor it–which means filling it only with things you need, that bring value to the space. For you, this could mean not supporting fast fashion, being a more conscious consumer, or shopping within certain sustainability values–like plastic-free!
If you’ve seen the show or read the book, you’ll notice one of Kondo’s power-moves is a box of boxes that she uses to transform drawers, cabinets… you name it. And while we absolutely love her idea of upcycling old shoe boxes and jewelry boxes into organization tools, there’s no shortage of other ways to maintain your tidy home–while also keeping it sustainable. For storage, we love Ziptuck bags and Stasher bags because they can be used in the kitchen, bathroom, and everything in between.
By turning to reusables, you can minimize the amount of “new” waste you have to tidy up. Single-use items like plastic-bottles, plastic bags, dryer sheets–these all can be replaced by reusable items (reusable bottles, bags, and even dryer balls!) that bring more joy and less waste. Tidying up is all about loving what you have, and making what you have last!
The KonMari method is simple: you, your things, and your space can all feel and look better–if you prioritize what brings you joy, and leave the junk behind. But, be sure to let your tidying up bring joy to others by donating, recycling, and repurposing where you can. And while we can’t help you figure out if that old lamp sparks joy, we can give you the resources you need to make tidying less trashy. Checkout a full list of resources below, and share some of your sustainable KonMari hacks in the comments!
“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” – Marie Kondo
TerraCycle Free Recycling Programs
TerraCycle Zero Waste Recycling Boxes
Eco-Cycle’s Recycle, Compost, & Reuse Guide
Apple Recycling Program
LG Recycling Program
Samsung Recycling Program
Best Buy Recycling Program
American Red Cross Donations – clothing, shoes, and accessories for men, women, and children across the USA
The Salvation Army Donation Pickup – clothing, shoes, and accessories for men, women, and children across the USA
Dress for Success – professional clothing, shoes, and accessories for low-income unemployed women
Career Gear – professional clothing, shoes, and accessories for low-income unemployed men
Planet Aid – clothing, shoes, and accessories for men, women, and children living in developing nations
Becca’s Closet – prom dresses and accessories for low-income students
Pick-Up Please – accepts clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, house and glassware, books, toys, bikes, stereos, radios, TVs, tools, and small electronics
Books for Soldiers – books for deployed soldiers overseas
Books 2 Africa – textbooks and educational materials for students in Africa
Books Through Bars – books for the incarcerated to help them learn & grow
Books to Prisoners – books for the incarcerated to help them learn & grow
Better World Books – affordable books and donation centers
Amenity Aid – takes unused hotel products to give to those in shelters or without access