De-Cluttering without Wasting — 5 Tips for Conscious Downsizing

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The topic of living a “clutter-free” lifestyle isn’t a new one around here. I’ve been through several downsizing/minimalism phases, each one varying in severity and longevity, and bits and pieces of my journey are littered throughout the online pages of this blog. Getting rid of stuff, it seems, comes and goes in trendy waves. I’ve ridden several and, I hope, crossed over into a balanced lifestyle of intentionally living with less without the guilt or restriction I once felt about the label “minimalist”. (A label I don’t subscribe to, by the way).

With the recent success of Netflix’s rendition of Marie Kondo’s not-so-new method of tidying up, it seems minimalism is on another trendy high, with folks all over the world declaring which items do and don’t spark joy in their lives. I love lots of things about Kondo’s method, especially the subjectivity, but one thing I’m hesitant to love about this “mass exodus” of ex-hoarders into minimalist territory is the sheer amount of waste that’s bound to be created, despite the KonMari warnings to dispose of things mindfully.

It’s inevitable, somewhat, creating waste initially when you begin to live a more conscious lifestyle. But I think it’s possible to Marie-Kondo your life without throwing all of your non-joy-sparking possessions into a landfill.

This blog post could go much more in depth, but, for sake of time and practicality, here is my quick two cents on how and why to de-clutter as mindfully as I think we should do anything else. Whether it’s your first bout of downsizing or you’re a veteran minimalist, living with intention requires you to be mindful in all areas of life, including where you put the things that don’t serve you anymore.


Infographic via  Trade Machines.  See the entire image  here  - it’s very eyeopening.

Infographic via Trade Machines. See the entire image here - it’s very eyeopening.

  1. Get rid of clothing responsibly

    Americans purchase one article of clothing per week and we keep our clothes for only half as long as we used to 20 years ago. It’s estimated that Americans toss about 70.5 pounds of textile waste into landfills each year, with a measly 15% ever being donated. The pictured infographic is wonderfully helpful for explaining more.

    Here are a few simple ways to be mindful with your downsized clothing:

    • Host a clothing swap

    • Sell or re-gift them

    • Send pieces to relevant charities

    • Send them to a certified textile recycling center (a full post is coming soon on textile recycling, but here’s some great info in the meantime!)

  2. Purge Heirlooms Carefully

    Sentimental clutter is one of the hardest areas for most people to purge. The memories associated often seem to attach themselves to the physical item. I’ve never ascribed to the “rule” that you can’t keep any sentimental items, but here are a few rules that I follow when getting rid of anything with sentimental value.

    • Send the most valuable to other family members

    • Keep what you love without guilt

    • Host a garage sale or “free sale” to purge the rest

  3. Declutter your Kitchen without Throwing it all in the Trash

    Things like spices, mismatched sets, and appliances that you never use all probably fall in the category of “not sparking joy”. Be careful that you don’t lump it all into the trash when, chances are, each item needs individual consideration.

    • Sell/donate appliances and supplies in good condition

    • Combine extra spices/herbs or use them up before recycling the packaging

    • Compost food waste

    • Recycle as many containers as possible

  4. Find charities/organizations that may need your miscellaneous extras

    For odds and ends that you don’t use and aren’t sure what to do with, there may be a charity or organization that will take it off your hands. Many schools will accept musical instruments, office supplies, or children’s toys. Homeless shelters often take clothes, unused food, and the like. Do some digging into local organizations and send some items their way.

  5. Carefully consider future new belongings

    The cornerstone of a mindful lifestyle with less clutter (which ultimately means creating less waste), is what you do moving forward. If you purge your belongings only to replace them shortly after with “new and improved” ones, you’ve missed the point.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t shop or buy things that do, indeed, spark joy or fill a gap. However, once the initial purge is over, being extra cautious of what you buy/accept/bring in means that you’ll have less clutter and less to worry about downsizing later.

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As you Kon-Mari your belongings, remember to do it without creating unnecessary trash. Here are a few ways to de-clutter without waste.

Of course, none of us do this perfectly. It’s impossible to exist without creating waste of some sort. However, I hope these tips inspire you to Kon-Mari your life away and dispose of the joyless items responsibly.

Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat more!

#InspiringZeroWaste || January Goal

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As promised, the first installment of my #InspiringZeroWaste goals. I’m so excited about the reaction to this challenge and can’t wait to hear how your months go and which areas you choose to work on. I sat down with my planner today to map out each of my goals (I got halfway through the year and will reevaluate what I need to focus on as the year progresses) and was surprised by how tricky it was choosing what to focus on.

I’m not new to the “Zero Waste” lifestyle — I’ve been slowly working on reducing the waste my family and I produce for three or four years now. However, despite the progress I’ve made, I still found myself getting discouraged and overwhelmed by the amount I still had left to tackle. All of the little conveniences that we don’t even pay attention to until we realize how wasteful they are, all of the road trip stops at gas stations for a quick (plastic wrapped) snack, all of the in-flight plastic cups, or waste created while on vacation. It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?

This challenge, as I mentioned in my introduction post, is meant to aid you in cultivating an overall awareness of what you’re consuming and where your lifestyle is headed while making tangible progress towards your goals. How is it going for you so far? Let’s support each other along the way and watch as our goals become habits over the year.

So, my first goal of the year is to “zero waste-ify” my shower routine. I’ve been using clean, organic and healthy beauty products for a while, but of course, each of them usually comes in (recyclable) plastic. There are a few other options I’ve found, like Plaine Products’ amazing refillable aluminum containers, or Seed Phytonutrient’s biodegradable recycled packaging. But I would ultimately prefer to skip the “packaging” step all together and use a product that was truly waste-less.

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For Shampoo: I trying my hand at shampoo bars (gasp! I know). I’ve wanted to for a while, but have either been testing other brands or waiting for my old shampoos to run out. The timing was perfect for this month, so I decided to jump right in. I’ve been using the bar shampoo from Natural Vegan Club for a week or so now (washing my hair usually twice per week) and am pleasantly surprised. I’m still using up an old conditioner, but plan to buy a conditioner bar from Unwrapped Life.

For Bodywash: Similarly, I’m waiting for a bottle to finish (that I’ll recycle) and then I’ll use bar soap for shaving and washing. I have quite a collection built up from several brands, so I don’t suspect I’ll be buying any new soap for a while.

For Shaving: This is the area I’ve struggled with the most. I use my razor a lot — daily in some way or another, so I’ve tried just about everything. Except a safety razor. So this month, I’ll be buying one (I’m debating between Leaf Shave or Oui Shave — I’d love your recommendations!) Safety razors are zero waste in that there isn’t a plastic cartridge or handle that you throw out (because, as far as I know, they can’t be recycled) every few weeks. Their blades can be saved and sent to centers that specifically recycle razor blades. I’m nervously excited to order mine (they’re a bit of an investment) and will definitely be sharing about how I like it.

My favorite part about this routine is how versatile it is. My kids can use the same products I do (except the razor, of course) and each of them travels extremely well without needing to waste travel-sized products or cram giant shampoo bottles into my carry-ons.

I’ll plan to write an update on how each month goes (maybe as a “quarterly update” if monthly updates don’t work out), but for now, I’d love to hear what your goal for January is and/or if you’ve ever tried zero waste-ing your shower routine.


Don’t forget to use the tag #InspiringZeroWaste to share your posts with me and others in the community!