An integral part of running a zero waste or a low waste home is eliminating excess. Getting your home ready for a zero waste or low waste lifestyle essentially requires first reducing your clutter. The truly dedicated even start by rethinking their home to prevent waste of space – no mean feat considering an average family of 4 only uses 40% of their living area in the US. In the UK where space is less readily available, it might mean discarding items that are not in use or are not actually needed. Below our zero-waste enthusiast, Sine Buyuka, shares helpful tips for decluttering and what to do with unwanted items.
There are countless guides on how you can de-clutter your home, books, blogs, documentaries that provide in-depth and detailed information on how best to tackle this process…There are different strategies for different people. Only holding on to things that ‘spark joy’ is perhaps the most popular at the moment! Putting aside anything you haven’t used in a year is a timeless classic, limiting possessions to specific numbers is an alternative, and the answer to the question of whether you’d still keep something only for yourself even if noone else would ever see it, will come in handy when it’s time to decide on the trickier items. There is not one rule and you will know what works best for you with a little research and honest reflection.
If there is a house move on the horizon, then the weeks leading up to it would be a great time to start the de-cluttering process. If you are an indecisive person by nature, a ruthless friend who has done this before will be of great help. There are also professional de-cluttering services all around the UK now, take your pick here.
There are entire books dedicated to de-cluttering but not many offer tips on what to do with unwanted items. Here are some ideas for discarding on your way to a zero waste home.
‘Give and make-up’ is a wonderful non-profit initiative whose purpose is to get everyday essentials into the hands of women and children who have suffered from domestic violence and found refuge in shelters. Working closely with Refugecharity, they also accept pants, socks, toys, pyjamas and more – find out here.
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In addition to ‘Give and make-up’, bra banks scattered across the UK by Against Breast Cancer are a great place for your old bras. Their bra recycling scheme raises funds for breast cancer research and support small businesses in Africa. You can find your nearest bra bank here. For really old pants that can’t be donated, 100% cotton ones can be cut in pieces and composted in a compost bin. You can also contact your local council to see if textile recycling is available in your area.
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Some charity shops like Oxfam, St Christophers Hospice and Mind accept old socks for either recycling or charitable projects. It’s best to call beforehand though.
Considering how only 10-30% of what is given to UK charities overall actually ends up being sold over the counter, it might be worth looking into alternatives. Clothes swapping events like this organized by Betsy’s Closet Swap Shop are great, as well as organizing your own party with friends. We have recently met a stylist who had her living room window facing a busy street put a sign outside her door and turn her flat into a pop-up store for the day. Designer items can be sold to high-end consignment shops or online. If you are short on time, you can try a service like Vestiaire who collect and sell your items for you.
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Of course, you can always sell your furniture on Gumtree but if you’d rather donate, British Heart Foundation amongst other charities offers free collection and are able to accept quite a wide range of items from mattresses to dishwashers. Check out what you can donate here.
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You can go on the Reuse Network search engine to find your nearest reuse centre.
BHF also collects small electricals and washing machines. Mobile phones and laptops can be sold online (please mind your security) or can be donated to pretty much any charity shop. Some councils offer a household recycling collection service for small electrical items that are no longer in working order. You can also head over to Recycle Now directory.
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Homeless shelters are in dire need of non-perishable food items. Fare Share also has collection points in over 100 Tesco stores. However, for anything that’s past their use by date or are partially used which can’t be donated, there’s the app Olio, which allows you to list your items for someone local to come and pick up. Olio is also frequently used by volunteers, who collect food to distribute to charities and shelters.
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Discogs would be a good place to sell your records but if you don’t have the time to list them one by one, quite a lot of record stores like Flashback and Music & Video Exchange would buy them. There are also markets and fairs for selling vinyl, although hiring a stall would cost a good penny. Alternatively, they can be donated at charity shops, along with your books. Your local library would most likely accept old books as well.
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You can send toys and games to hospitals like Great Ormond Street Hospital, charities like Women’s Aid or Refuge.
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If you, like us, have dozens of foreign coins from your travels that are sitting in a drawer, then you can send them over to the Toy Project, as well as unwanted toys.
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