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Reducing waste by decluttering: a room-by-room tutorial

What does it mean to reduce? The first R doesn’t always get as much attention as the other two – reuse and recycle – but it’s incredibly important. It’s not just about finding new ways to reduce waste; it’s also about living with less.

Since many of us get the urge to clean out and freshen up our homes during the spring, this is a great time to talk about decluttering. There are some alarming statistics about how much stuff we actually own. Americans spend over a trillion dollars annually on nonessential goods. In fact, we spend more on shoes, jewelry and watches than we do on higher education. Plus, there are a lot of benefits to decluttering, including less debt, less stuff to maintain, and less stress.

An easy way to declutter is to work room by room. Here are some steps to get started.

Cleaning out your closets

Clothing and shoes often take up a lot of space, so let’s start in your closets. Take a look and think about how much you really wear everything you own.

  • Donate unwanted clothes that are in good condition. Search this website for donation options close to you.
  • Find recycling options for non-reusable clothing and linens. These items are accepted at Hennepin County drop-off facilities, and several cities have started to offer curbside clothing recycling programs. Learn more in the Green Disposal Guide.
  • When you’re looking to add items to your wardrobe, don’t get caught up in the pull of fast fashion, which is the trend of stores selling cheaply made clothing that aren’t built to last. Shop for new-to-you clothing at reuse retailers instead, invest in high-quality clothing, and try out some strategies for developing a minimalist wardrobe. Search online for ideas.

Cooking off the clutter

Let’s move to the kitchen next.

  • Do you have food that is nearing expiration that you won’t be able to eat? Donate it to a local food pantry.
  • Do you find that you are often throwing out food? Learn food storage tips and techniques, and invest in quality products that will help you store food.
  • Do you use all those kitchen gadgets? Donate those that you no longer need, and make wise buying decisions to keep clutter out. For example, look for appliances that serve multiple purposes and use coffee makers with reusable filters. Try using simple tools to replace your electric gadgets. Learn more tips for having a minimalist kitchen.

Get less in every room

Now that you’ve tackled some of the biggest cluttering areas, consider small changes to make in every room.

  • Consider ways to reduce the amount of personal care products and cleaners that you have in your bathroom. Consider what you really need, use multipurpose products, look for greener options, buy the least hazardous product for the job, or make your own. Remember that cleaners are often hazardous waste and should be used up or brought to a drop-off facility for proper disposal. Empty bottles can go in the garbage.
  • Donate unneeded blankets or towels that are in good shape, or bring ones that are more worn to the Animal Humane Society to be used for bedding, grooming or cleaning up their animal shelters.
  • Check your bookshelves for books you may not read again. Donate or recycle them along with items from your home office that you no longer need.
  • Take a look in your garage, work room and gear closets. Donate or sell unused items like bikes, tools, plant containers, and sports equipment. Keep the engines of vehicles, lawn mowers and other equipment tune up. Consider renting or borrowing tools you use occasionally instead of buying your own.

Once you’ve take these steps, you’ll be well on your way to a decluttered lifestyle!