Decluttering is a great way to keep your home clean and maintain a minimalistic lifestyle. It’s also a great way to prepare for a move. But decluttering can also be a source of waste and environmental pollution if you’re not careful.

Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to ensure you stay environmentally friendly while decluttering your home. 

Rent a Dumpster – But Use It Responsibly

One of the most convenient options for decluttering is renting a dumpster temporarily, especially if you have to get rid of big, bulky items. However, you should know that there are certain rules for what you can and can’t throw into a dumpster. For example, you can’t use a dumpster to get rid of gasoline, paints, old electronics and batteries, hot water tanks, and other forms of hazardous waste. If you don’t follow the rules, you could be doing damage to the environment – and you might face a stiff fine as well. 

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (in That Order) 

While decluttering, you should be focusing on reducing, reusing, and recycling – in that order. 

  • Reduce. First, you need to be reducing your consumption. If you’re in a position to declutter your home, you’ve likely consumed more than you need; you’ve bought more items than were necessary to live your intended lifestyle. The last thing you need is to buy more stuff, which would make your problem even worse. Commit to living a more minimalistic lifestyle from this moment forward. 
  • Reuse. When possible, find a new use for the items you no longer need. Depending on the nature of the item, you may be able to use it for another purpose, give it to a friend, donate it, or even transform it via “upcycling” to turn it into something fundamentally different. 
  • Recycle. If you can’t reuse or transform something, your only real “decluttering” option is to get rid of it. And the best way to get rid of it is to recycle it, so its component materials can be used in something else in the future, rather than going to waste. 

Donate Responsibly 

Donating your items can be an environmentally friendly and socially beneficial way to dispose of things you no longer want. For example, if you have a wardrobe full of clothes you never wear anymore, you can donate many of those items to a local thrift store so someone else can make use of them. However, there are right and wrong ways to go about this. 

Not all donations end up on store shelves or in the hands of people who need those items. If the items you donate are dirty, damaged, or otherwise deemed unfit, they might get thrown away. Make sure you go through the items you’re donating and evaluate their condition. If they’re dirty, wash them. If they have slight bits of damage, consider patching them up. 

If your items aren’t fit to donate, you may still be in a position to give those items new life. For example, you might be able to give them to a friend, who can do a better job of fixing them up. Or you might be able to “upcycle” them into something entirely new. 

Understand Correct Disposal Techniques for Electronics 

One of the biggest sources of environmental pollution from decluttering consumers is incorrect disposal of electronics. Electronic devices contain a variety of harmful heavy metals and other chemicals, including mercury, lead, lithium, and barium. If irresponsibly disposed of, these metals can end up in the soil, or even in the water supply, presenting harm to various plant and animal species, as well as humans. 

Fortunately, disposing of electronics is simple if you take them to a responsible recycler. After thoroughly deleting any personal information you have stored on the device, an electronics recycler may be able to refurbish and resell the device. If not, they can correctly dismantle the device, recover and recycle the valuable materials inside, and safely dispose of the rest. 

Optimize for a Minimalistic Lifestyle

When decluttering, you should be optimizing for a minimalistic lifestyle. In other words, you should be trying to live only with necessary things and things you truly appreciate. With fewer possessions and renewed attention on what matters in your life, you’ll be able to live efficiently in a smaller space, using fewer resources – and you’ll likely feel happier as well. 

Decluttering can be a meaningful practice that helps you sort through your past feelings, reevaluate your current possessions, and set a course for a more deliberate, attentive, and minimalistic lifestyle. However, you shouldn’t simply throw away anything and everything that no longer fits your current lifestyle and goals; pay close attention to what you’re going through and the processes you’re using to dispose of things.