Marie Kondo has been accused by many all over the world to increase the landfill problem by encouraging people to dump their stuff. And understandably so as each episode of her Netflix series features a large number of garbage bags being thrown away as a measure of success of her KonMari method.
But decluttering, if done the eco-friendly way, is a wonderful opportunity not only to save space, money and time but also to reduce our carbon footprint. This is how.
DECLUTTERING THE ECO-FRIENDLY WAY ONE: REDUCE AND PUT SYSTEMS IN PLACE
Decluttering and organising your stuff is a good way to give you visibility on what you have in your cupboards and cabinets so you are less likely to buy duplicates, or even multiples of the same item, because you had forgotten you had it, or couldn’t find it when you needed it.
Think about the kitchen.
Food waste is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Declutter your pantry, fridge and freezer. Dispose of what has expired. Give away what you don’t eat. Then start afresh. Plan your meals. Write a shopping list based on your meal plan and the contents of your pantry, fridge and freezer – and stick to it. Make the effort to finish the leftovers.
And declutter your cabinets in the process too. Let go of all the gadgets and keep only what you really need and use to cook. With uncluttered countertops and easily accessible utensils, you’re most likely to cook the food you had bought than letting it go to waste.
DECLUTTERING THE ECO-FRIENDLY WAY TWO: RETHINK WHAT YOU BRING INTO YOUR LIFE
The “does it spark joy” criteria is not enough to prevent you from acquiring more stuff. It’s only when you ask yourself the hard questions about how an item came into your possession and why you are holding onto it that you can change your relationship to stuff and your buying habits. That’s the approach I put at the core of my philosophy when working with my clients and that makes all the difference in their lives.
Next time, before buying something new, I encourage you to pause and ask yourself whether you really need the item. Value quality over quantity and invest in items that are made to last a long time – why buying 3 of the same dress in different colours or patterns that are very likely to lose their shape or colour after just one wash? Stop buying crap. Resist fast fashion. Stay away from bargains. Refuse the free goodies you know you have no use for. Rent or borrow stuff you just have an occasional use for. Buy multi-purpose items.
DECLUTTERING THE ECO-FRIENDLY WAY THREE: RECYCLE
Instead of throwing away items that are no longer in good condition, investigate recycling options. Although the recycling industry is still relatively small in Singapore, there are more and more avenues where you can responsibly dispose of your stuff so that it doesn’t end up in the landfill. Consider:
The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation for electrical appliances and clothing (in addition to paper, plastics, metals and glass),
Save That Pen for pens.
DECLUTTERING THE ECO-FRIENDLY WAY FOUR: REUSE
There are different ways you can contribute to the circular economy:
GIVE AWAY / DONATE
Make sure the person you’re planning to give the item to really needs it. Otherwise you’re turning your clutter into somebody’s else clutter, and it might end up in the landfill.
Similarly with charities. Charities all over the word are being inundated with stuff in poor condition (and they have no time nor resources to fix them) or stuff they have no use for. Again, that stuff is likely to end in the landfill. So make sure the items you are donating are in good condition. And call the charity before dropping off your items to make sure they are really interested in what you have to donate.
You can always try to make some money out of pre-loved stuff. Make sure the item you’re planning to sell is worth the time you’re going to spend selling it though.
A garage sale is hard work but makes sense if you have a lot of small items to sell. Selling online can also be a long and tedious process – taking pictures, writing the post with the item specifications, answering potential buyers’ questions, scheduling a meeting with the buyer with the risk of no-show etc.
Swapping is a great way to renew your possessions without costing planet Earth. Books and clothes swapping are becoming increasingly popular in Singapore. Check in particular:
Also ask around as there are many individual initiatives, including for toys swapping, happening.
DECLUTTERING THE ECO-FRIENDLY WAY FIVE: REPURPOSE
Let your creative self shine! Something that was purely decorative can be turned into something useful. A silverware bowl or jar can be turned into a keys holder or pencil holder for example.
Or the other way around. Something useful can be turned into something decorative. Your late mother’s national costume, that is taking space in your wardrobe and you know you won’t be wearing but that you struggle to let go of, can be turned into a pillow cover to be displayed on your bed or couch.
If like myself you’re not manually gifted, turn to the pros: Agatha Lee from Agy Textile Artist and Anita Varma from Fabricate will help you upcycle your old textile into new beautiful pieces of clothing or home décor.
And, instead of investing into brand new storage aids or containers, make use of whatever you have in your home. A shoe box or a food container can be used to organise your scarves or your desk drawers for example.
DECLUTTERING THE ECO-FRIENDLY WAY SIX: REPAIR
With less stuff to take care of and less time being spent shopping, you may find time to get things fixed.
The year I went on a clothes and accessories shopping diet, I felt inclined to get all those clothes that were not fitting me perfectly altered so I had no more excuses not to wear them.
And, who knows, you may develop an interest to fix your damaged items yourself?
When there’s a will, there’s a way of making sure your decluttering won’t impact our planet. So what are you waiting for to start?
Check my free guide listing more than 50 avenues in Singapore to responsibly dispose of your unwanted items. Whether you want to make money out of an expensive dress you’ve never worn, bless your children’s toys to a less privileged family, or make sure old cables won’t end up in the landfill, this guide will provide you with a variety of options to donate, recycle, sell or even swap your pre-loved stuff so you can free yourself from the stuff that no longer supports your current life!
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