A rule that is passed on from professional organizers to their clients all the time is this one: deal with decluttered items as soon as possible. If you don’t remove unwanted items from your home, you’re bound to integrate them back into your life. Not only will that ruin your organizing progress, but it will mean double the work when you declutter them again in the future.

But figuring out what to do with unwanted items can be hard. You don’t want to dump everything on your local donation center because they may not need everything you get rid of. But you also don’t want to throw everything in the trash, especially if certain things can be recycled.

It all comes down to sustainable decluttering. Basically, learn to discard your unwanted items responsibly and as quickly as possible. That’s why I thought it best to share six ways you can sustainably get rid of your decluttered items. 

6 ways to responsibly and sustainably discard your unwanted items

#1 — Sell them to earn extra cash

The first option when discarding unwanted items is to try to sell them first. This is a great way to give them a second life and make a little extra cash. You will not recoup everything you paid for the original item, but a few extra bucks here and there won’t hurt.

And thanks to this digital era, there has never been an easier time to sell unwanted things. This is the epitome of sustainable decluttering. For clothing items, you can sell them on Poshmark, thredUP, and The RealReal. Furniture can be posted on Facebook Marketplace or Let It Go. Books can be posted on PangoBooks and electronics can be sold on Decluttr. 

If you take a few minutes to research online marketplaces, chances are you’ll find one that sells exactly what you’re looking to discard. You can also try hosting a garage sale first and then sell online what you didn’t sell through that. Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned garage sale?  

When selling your unwanted items, give yourself a deadline so they’re not sitting in your home forever. For example, keep a spreadsheet and vow to get rid of the item through one of the other means if it doesn’t sell in 6 to 12 months.

#2 — Re-gift them to others

You will not get rid of everything by selling it online and that’s fine. So long as you try that option first, you can then move on to the second way to sustainably declutter your unwanted items and that’s by re-gifting them.

Obviously, this option is served best for items that are in still good working condition. You don’t want to gift someone a broken Crockpot or a dress with holes. You also don’t want to just dump your unwanted things on other people. Be thoughtful of who you give what. 

For example, consider conversations you may have had with friends or family members. Have any expressed a desire for a new set of cooking pots or some new work blouses? If you have any of the stuff they’re pining for, tell them you have something and will show it to them first. Always show it before shoving it into their lives.

For anything that didn’t sell at the garage sale or online, consider putting some unwanted things on the curb with a “Free” sign. You’ll be amazed at how fast they’ll go. 

#3 — Repurpose them into something else

Once you’ve exhausted the first two options, this third one is your next best bet. And that’s repurposing items into something else. If you’re even remotely creative, this option can be quite fun. Even if you’re not, a simple Google search will show you a ton of ways you can repurpose unwanted items into something new.

For example, you can turn single socks into mug warmers or use old magazines for wrapping paper. Worn or tattered shirts make for great cleaning rags, and you can easily transform broken furniture with a bit of a DIY spirit.

You can also repurpose items before gifting them to someone else or selling them. This gives you the opportunity to turn something common into a one-of-a-kind piece and people will be more willing to pay for that. 

So once you’ve sold or re-gifted your unwanted items, look to see what is left and ask yourself, “Can I repurpose anything into something new?” Again, a Google search will give you a ton of ideas so see what you can learn before moving on to the next decluttering option.

#4 — Donate to local centers

Depending on where you live, donation centers are a great way to discard unwanted items. But it’s important to know that dumping everything on them is the last thing you should do. Many donation centers accept certain items during certain times of the year. And if they’re inundated with something, they don’t want any more of it.

That’s why before you bring your bags or boxes of unwanted items, check the center’s website for what they’re currently collecting. If one doesn’t take a certain item, find others that might. You can also schedule donation pick-ups through certain organizations.

The Vietnam Veterans of America offer free pickups in many states and make scheduling super easy.  They accept everything from household items to small furniture, clothing, jewelry, books, and more. Once you’ve exhausted the first three options, check out any local donation centers to see what you can bring them and when.

#5 — Recycle what you can

Sustainable decluttering means taking the necessary time to recycle things properly. It’s always good to know what your town and/or state accepts and doesn’t accept in terms of recycling. You can find this information on your town’s main website. Because believe it or not, many states have different recycling guidelines.

This is because some areas may not have the right machinery to break down certain items while others do. So before you start tossing things in the recycling bin, take some time to find your local town’s guidelines. 

A great resource on this topic is Jennie Romer’s book, Can I Recycle This? In it, she breaks down recycling in general and how our best option is always to reuse or repurpose rather than recycle.

Fabric recycling can be tricky, but USAgain accepts a good deal of textile products. You can find local drop-off points on their website. Another option is TerraCycle, a waste management company focused on making it easy to recycle hard-to-recycle items. They offer free and paid programs. Check out their website for more information. 

Always do your best to discard your unwanted items using the first four options before this one. Yes, there will be plenty of stuff that you can recycle, but unless you’re doing it responsibly, it won’t matter. Because the sixth option we’re about to talk about is the last possible option you should use.

#6 — Toss the rest in the trash

I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of endless trash on beaches or heard about ships of trash circling the ocean over and over again because they have nowhere else to put it. That’s why when discarding your unwanted items, it’s best to avoid putting as much in the trash as possible. 

Is it completely unavoidable? No. You will have no choice but to throw some things away, but if you use the above-mentioned options first, you should have a lot less. Sustainable decluttering should show you how much stuff you collect without really needing it. It gives you the means to ask yourself the next time you want to buy something to wonder, “Do I really need this?”

Because when you become more intentional with what you buy and bring into your home, you’re already being more responsible about the waste you add to the already growing pile in landfills. As we said before, completely avoiding throwing things away is impossible. But once you stop bringing in unwanted items, you’re ahead of the curve.

Tossing the rest in the trash should be your last resort when discarding unwanted items. And if you take the time to do options 1 through 5, you should have very little to toss by the end.

While decluttering is a fabulous way to rid yourself of unwanted items, it’s important to learn from the experience. If you find yourself decluttering a lot every few months, you need to focus more on buying intentionally. 

And while we’ll all have items that have to be thrown away no matter what — like expired foods — if you learn to responsibly and sustainably get rid of your unwanted items, you’re going to feel better. You’ll also learn to stop buying things that don’t bring value to your life.
If you’re looking for more help in downsizing and decluttering, contact me today, and let’s talk. Your home should be an oasis and I’m more than happy to share my services with you to bring you that peace and tranquility.

6 Ways to Discard Your Unwanted Items Responsibly and Sustainably

February 20, 2023

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