8 Hacks To Declutter Responsibly

Occupational Therapist, Barbara Hemphill says, “Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.” 

Most of us tend to take up year-end decluttering as a ritual, and while this helps clean the mess in our homes, it may add to the environmental pressures that come from ineffective waste management. And naturally, as a conscious Earth warrior, just the thought of it may rake up your eco-anxiety

But, with the holiday season around the corner, it’s essential to make space for Santa and those house parties too, right? The good news is, there are quite a few responsible ways to get rid of unwanted clutter and start the year on a fresh note. 

Before we get into the ‘how’, let’s take a quick look at the why’s too! 

What is Decluttering?

Clutter is a mess accumulated overtime when we buy more than we can consume. As the word suggests, decluttering means letting go of unnecessary items to clear a crowded place. However, it doesn’t always mean throwing away stuff you haven’t used in a while. You can always put the unwanted things to better and more sustainable use.

Our lifestyle has become cramped, and so have our living spaces. As a result, we always end up with more clutter and less time, bringing multiple side effects. According to studies, hoarding and clutter have also been linked to depression and anxiety disorders. While your situation may not be that extreme, it’s always refreshing (and often healing) to regularly clean out your surroundings and stay minimal. 

Why You Must Declutter Regularly?

Cluttering can adversely affect our sleeping patterns, reduce focus, and increase binge habits. In addition, an unorganised surrounding can also lower your productivity. 

Consider your work-from-home situation and picture your desk surrounded by piles of clothes and papers as you go on with your daily tasks. Isn’t it bound to make you feel a tad more stressed and maybe even affect your concentration? 

Now, before you jump into action and start cleaning, the first, and most crucial is to understand what to declutter.

What to Declutter?

Start Small:

  • Begin with one drawer, closet, or room. If your whole house is a mess, be realistic about the amount of time it will take for you to clean up. The festive season is usually packed, and cleaning up the whole house can consume days at a stretch.

  • To begin with, pick a room or a corner that you intend to decorate for the festivities or for hosting the guests. Don’t try to clean it all in one sitting. Instead, prioritise the mess you want to eliminate first according to its usefulness or the time elapsed since it was last used. Then, bid farewell to the things that haven’t been used in, say, more than a year. While decluttering might look like a one-time activity,  it stays effective when revisited at regular intervals.

The Three Can’s:

For every item that makes you wonder if it is worth staying in the house, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Can it be used again for the same purpose? If yes, ensure you reuse before you decide to discard!

  2. Can it be revamped or repaired? If yes, get it fixed and continue to reuse it!

  3. Can it be used elsewhere? If yes, it’s time to get creative and upcycle!

The honest answer to these questions will determine if you have got yourself a decluttering project or not. If you have, here are some simple hacks for you to accomplish the task! 

How to Declutter?

1. Donate:

"One person’s trash is another person’s treasure."

We have many things in our closets that no longer bring a smile to us or have lost their purpose. The year-end festive season also brings along many gifts that we don’t need. They eventually turn to waste when stowed.

Put them to better use by giving them away to charity and donation centres. You can also pass some items on to friends and family who may have better use for them. Additionally, many animal rescue and shelter homes also accept towels and bedsheets as donations. But you must ensure the items you are donating are still useable and not in a junk state.

2. Reuse and Recycle:

Every Indian household is genetically programmed to use stuff until its last breath. Our parents and grandparents have clung to the reuse legacy for decades. Be it using old clothing items for cleaning, old newspapers for packing fragile items, or those Diwali dry fruit baskets to organise stationery, the practice of reusing is in our blood. Carry it on! 

While cleaning up and preparing for the upcoming festive house parties, you may find or end up using products that aren’t easily reusable. While prepping for guests, you may also find some extra waste from packaging and decor on your hands. A great and simple way to manage such waste is to send it for recycling. Mindful segregation of your wet & dry waste can help make this much easier. From paper to plastic, most of it is recyclable and this can prevent the dumping of excess waste.

Pro Tip: While decluttering around the house, you may find a bunch of old and unused electronics. You can send it over to e-waste recyclers in your city, who will ensure responsible management of your obsolete electronics.

3. Upcycle:

Upcycling is the creative practice of putting an item to a different use. A lot of waste surrounding you can be transformed into something useful. All you need is some creativity. With Christmas ‘round the corner, you can have some DIY fun by upcycling decor!

For example, have you ever thought of using your old jewellery, which makes you sparkle no more, to make Christmas tree ornaments? You can even use old cans as light hangings or recycled paper for crafting baubles or gift wrapping (as we do!); the list is long!

4. Marie Kondo’s KonMari method:

The method coined by and named after the Tidying Expert, Marie Kondo, is simple. Try segregating the items in your closet into ‘Keep’, ‘Donate’ and ‘Unsure’ categories. Pick up one thing from the ‘Unsure’ list at a time and ask yourself,

“Does this spark joy?"

If the item in question fails to bring any happiness to you or a sense of purpose, it is meant to leave your surroundings. Moreover, isn’t this just a super fun way to get that cleaning going?!

5. Make It A Habit:

All your efforts in decluttering will last as long as your determination. So don’t give up after the first round of cleaning up. Instead, develop a sharp eye for identifying stuff that can be repurposed or put to some other use sustainably.

Also, include digital decluttering in your daily life. Be it your inbox, your social media feed or the mobile notifications, become habitual of having a clean physical and digital environment.

6. Prevention Is Better Than Cure:

One of the best ways for successful decluttering is to prevent cluttering! Sounds stupid? We assure you, it is not. The conscious choice to use pre-owned cloth bags for shopping, saying no to plastic pouches, or opting for e-bills over paper ones are simple yet clever ways to prevent random, unwanted clutter.

Further, these preventive habits will help you stay minimal, and on track towards becoming sustainable. Decluttering also teaches you to stick to only the essentials that fulfil your daily needs and curb the urge to splurge. Once minimalism becomes a habit, you’ll naturally end up buying only the things that you need!

7. Return To Mother Earth:

All the edible waste from your home is potential compost. Whether you have the space for a large garden or even a small balcony, you can arrange a compost bin for your home and make it a regular practice to compost your kitchen waste. If not, see if your locality can facilitate composting.

You can also contact compost services in your city to consult the experts if you’re intending to but struggling with composting.

Pro Tip:  Did you know that you can compost all paper, cardboard, cotton and wool rags, hair and fur too? If you must, throw it all away to the compost bin!

8. Friend Connect:

Probably the most fun way to turn this task into a bonding activity is to do it with friends! Connect with like-minded people who know a thing or two and have a knack for sustainability. You will be surprised at the ideas you get from other Earth-lovers!

And if you want to take a step further, why not start an exchange club or a collection drive with your Sustainability Gang? Tie up with a donation centre or an NGO to give away all your collections. Social Media also offers many such opportunities. 

    Be it your home or our planet, unwanted trash can be the cause of much distress. As you prepare to begin the New Year on a fresh note, these local Change Makers can help you stay sustainable and expand your efforts. 

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