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How To Declutter Responsibly

How To Declutter Responsibly

IMAGE: Jeff Sheldon

IMAGE: Jeff Sheldon

Stuff can make a house a home, tell the world who we are, and simplify our lives. And yet increasingly our stuff is replaced instead of fixed, upgraded instead of used up, and accumulated, even if unnecessary. Products are being designed to fail, meaning we have to keep buying more. We’re told that having the latest and the greatest will make us happy and feel more fulfilled, but research shows this isn’t true. Instead, we’re spending more money, have less spare time, and are generating waste at a staggering rate. 

Here are some positive changes you can make throughout the lifecycle of your stuff—without sacrificing or giving up your style. 

Take Care of Your Stuff
Taking care of what you already have is a great way to reduce how much you buy, saving you money and using fewer resources. A little bit of time up front (to read instruction manuals, for example) will help avoid costly repairs or replacement, not to mention the frustration of being without an item if it suddenly breaks down. Here’s a tip sheet for taking care of common household items.

Buy Better
It’s easy to get caught up in shopping sprees and overbuying, especially with the advent of online shopping and same day delivery! The good news is, it’s also getting easier to be a conscious consumer.

Borrow: Share infrequently used items with friends, neighbours, and family. You can also sign up with organizations to borrow stuff like bikes, cars, and tools.

Buy Used: Craigslist, Kijiji, and Facebook buy and sell groups brought garage sales to the online shopper. Consignment and thrift clothing shops are also becoming increasingly common, and many feature carefully curated styles.

Choose Quality: “You pay for what you get” rings true for most things. While quality items may cost more, you won’t have to replace them as frequently so you’ll save more in the long run.

Choose Local: Buying locally made goods is not only better for the planet (the stuff didn’t have to fly halfway across the world), but also supports the local economy.

Read Labels: Look for third party certifications on products. Start by choosing one or two causes you’re passionate about (i.e. fair trade, organic, recycled content, compostable, etc.). You can build on your awareness as you go–before you know it, label reading becomes second nature.

Avoid the Landfill
Landfills should be the very last resort to dispose of stuff that no longer fits/works/meets your needs. Here are other ways to get rid of your stuff:

Swap: Hosting a clothing or stuff swap is a great way to get together with friends and neighbours. Make it a fun evening with food, drink, etc.

Donate or Sell: Consider taking gently used items to a local shelter, Value Village, Good Will, or used clothing charity boxes. If you’d rather sell your wares, check out your local Buy Nothing Project group (or start one!), local consignment stores, eBay, Craigslist, Kijiji, and buy and sell groups on Facebook.

Upcycle or Repurpose: There is no shortage of ideas on Pinterest and Etsy for those with a DIY flare. It doesn’t have to be fancy – start with turning ripped clothes, stained towels, old baby blankets, etc. into rags (and ditch your paper towel roll while you’re at it). 

Recycle: Recycling is better than landfill, but not as high on the alternatives you might think. If the other strategies don’t work for you, check with your municipality to make sure you’re recycling materials properly. 

The next time you go to throw something out, think about what you can do (or could have done) to make it last longer. For more inspiration and background on the impact of our disposable culture, check out The Story of Stuff YouTube videos. 

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