Is Decluttering Bad for the Environment?

When I first decided to become a professional organizer, my mind immediately flashed to the nine bags of trash that I generated during my first big decluttering bender (and that's with donating and recycling.) This made me want to take an environmentally conscious approach when guiding others in this work.

In my research, I came across staggering statistics about our society's major trash problem and felt inspired not just to support others in their decluttering process, but change my entire lifestyle around to take a big chunk out of my household's waste.

While environmental concerns can sometimes hold people back from decluttering, because they don't want to add to the trash problem, I argue that it can actually be good for the environment.

DECLUTTERING presents the opportunity to reset your consumer consciousness and develop awareness around our shared resources.

The process of evaluating everything that you own - and realizing it's your responsibility to figure out what will happen to it - often motivates people to do things differently.

It makes us think twice about buying chintzy appliances, gag gifts, excessive multiples, and other items that will get shoved to the back of some closet before getting thrown out. We start seeing clutter potential from a mile away, and from there we have the choice to go there or not, knowing that our choices matter. And they do.

It's easy to feel powerless over the fate of our planet with so-called leaders still denying climate change just plowing right ahead with practices proven to destroy when we could be investing in alternatives that already exist.

As consumers we have significant power RIGHT NOW to turn things around.

We can change things by consuming mindfully and respecting our resources. The decluttering journey presents the crucial opportunity to claim that power. Do you accept this challenge? Read on for my advice.

Find info on reuse and recycling resources in your local area

We're a little spoiled here in Northampton because our DPW and our local community provide a lot of options. Do the best you can to maximize what is available to you - even if it's just brushing up on what your curbside recycling accepts. I was surprised to find out that in our community, black plastic (like certain takeout containers) is not recyclable - and yet, DVD cases are. Click here to read an earlier post that includes more information about what kinds of options may be available to you.

Don't try to do it all at once

If you're interested in consuming less, you'll need to get used to being surrounded by less. It's normal for this to be challenging for people. The amount of stuff in my space has decreased dramatically since I first began this work in my own life almost five years ago. If I saw then how I lived now, I would have thought I was nuts.

The truth is that you need to ease into this lifestyle or you'll be met with an urge to fill that space right back up. It's very unlikely that you'll be ready to let everything go all at once. Start where you can, with what feels obvious, so you can get used to decluttering and living with less.

Assign each item a home - and a place in your life

If an item is relevant to your life - give it an official spot that puts it in the position to be used. That might mean clearing out low-value kitchen appliances so you can get to your pots and pans without any drama. It might mean unpacking a box of decorations and setting them out so they can be enjoyed in sight.

This is what organization is all about - taking the stuff that matters to you and setting it up so you can easily engage with it. When it's done right, it sets you up to declutter easily in the future because you can see clearly that there are still things that you don't use even though it would be easy for you to use them.

Learn from your clutter

Decluttering can be painful, hilarious, liberating...and it can also be enlightening. Sometimes our clutter is stuff that's just old and out of date and we never got around to tossing it. Other times, it's stuff that we acquired that, for one reason or another, didn't work out. This is where you can start to get insight into your patterns of consumption and learn to set some boundaries for yourself when something isn't working for you.

My household, steady at a decluttered equilibrium for three years, has embraced the power of our consumer awareness. Not only has this enabled to generate an average of six trash bags per year, my life feels richer than ever. Like, literally luxurious, not because I finally realized love is all I need or anything like that. I really enjoy my stuff because what I do have provides a lot of value in my life.

With Love & Gratitude,

Anna Brunelle