decluttering sustainably

Since my Christmas tree came down I’ve been on a decluttering and spring cleaning mission like never before.  Our house is up for sale just now and the idea of packing, moving and then unpacking stuff we don’t use or need does not fill me with any joy whatsoever, so I’ve been going through everything we own with a fine toothcomb.

When you’re cleaning out drawers and cupboards it can be tempting to put everything in a black bag and put it in the bin.  Before you do that here are some handy ideas on decluttering sustainably.

Unwanted Goods for Donation

decluttering tips

Charity shops are an excellent first port of call for your unwanted goods, and for decluttering sustainably.  Charity shops will gratefully take any clothes, shoes, accessories, books, DVDs, CDs, homewares and furniture in good saleable condition.  If you have old clothes, towels or sheets you can also donate them to charity shops – put them in a separate bag marked “rags” and the charity will get some money from selling them to the rag trade for textile recycling.  Many shops will pick up your items for you if you don’t have any transport.

Charity shops don’t tend to take are electrical goods (some do, so do check with your local shop); gas appliances; bikes or helmets; toys without a CE mark; food and drink; medication or vitamins; personal items such as shavers or epilators (unless new and sealed in a box); and any soft furnishings (such as sofas and cushions) and teddy bears without a fire label on them.

Doctors and dentist surgeries will always always welcome piles of old magazine donations.

For other items that you don’t need and don’t want any money for then Freecycle is brilliant for decluttering sustainably.  I have listed so many things I no longer need on Freecycle and without fail everything has been taken.  Even really random things you might think no-one would want or need should be listed on Freecycle.  I’ve seen so many strange things listed on there, that all seem to get snapped up.  The last item I listed was some bits of wood leftover from doing some home renovations.  This was snapped up within a day – it turned out to be just the thing the lady needed to finish off her bathroom renovations!  Someone else’s rubbish really is someone else’s treasure!

I’ve also had a lot of success with using Gumtree to list things for free.  We upgraded our washing machine a couple of years ago to a combined washer dryer – the old one was at least 9 years old but it still ran fine, it just didn’t meet our needs any more.  The company we bought our new machine from offered to recycle it if we paid them £25 for it.  Instead of scrapping a perfectly good machine, and spending money unnecessarily, I listed the machine on Gumtree, in their freebie section, as free to a good home.   I honestly received about 40 emails in the space of an hour – in the end it went to a man who was setting up his own flat and couldn’t afford to buy a machine, which is way better than recycling it.  He even picked it up on the same day as I listed the advert!

Unwanted Goods for Recycling

Your local community recycling centre is able to take a whole host of items for recycling, free of charge, from energy saving light bulbs to batteries, to mattresses and even water based paints and tyres (if your decluttering takes you as far as your garage or shed!).  Just search your local council’s website for where your nearest community recycling centre is, and what they can take (if you’re in Edinburgh, here is what can be recycled).  Make sure your waste is separated before you go!

Decluttering sustainably your shed?  There are a few bike recycling charities around the UK that take unwanted bikes, recycle them, and sell them on.  Just search for “bike recycling” in your area – quite often they can collect your bike from you.  Alternatively you can take them to your community recycling centre, who then pass the bikes on to local charities.

Unwanted Items You Want to Sell

gumtree or ebay or preloved

For items you want to sell then Gumtree, Preloved and eBay are all brilliant.  There are no fees to pay for selling on Gumtree or Preloved, and these work much like classified ads in your local paper, in that you list the item, interested buyers contact you and then come to yours to pick it up and then pay cash in hand.  For items that you are selling that you intend on the buyer collecting from you then stick to Gumtree or Preloved.  eBay’s seller fees can be pretty high and it isn’t really worth it when you can list on Gumtree or Preloved for free.

For smaller items that you can post, although eBay and Paypal fees are high, it’s worth it to get a nationwide or worldwide audience.  There are quite a few other online auction sites out there but I tend to stick to eBay as it’s the most well-known and well used.  When selling on eBay take good quality photos, write a clear and accurate description of the item, and when you write the title of your auction use up as much as the characters as possible with good descriptive words the people might use to search for that item.  I tend to start auctions at prices as low as possible – I list most of my items with a starting bid of just 10 pence.  I find this gets people’s attention and interest and I find that items tend to go for much more than when I used to list them at higher prices!  If this approach makes you uneasy you can always place a reserve price (the minimum you want to sell an item for) but in all my years of selling on eBay (9 now!) I’ve never actually had to set a reserve price.

For clothes you don’t want to sell or donate then there are a number of swapping services online.  I haven’t used any, but a few of the ones I’ve come across include and Swap Style.

For CD’s, DVDs, and computer games I’ve heard a lot of friends have had success with Music Magpie, although I haven’t used them myself, and for mobile phone recycling there are heaps of companies on the internet who will recycle your old phone.  I’ve used Fonebank and Mazuma before – both seem to offer good prices.

Alternatively there are car boots sales up and down the country that you can sell your goods at for a fee.  For baby gear, clothes and toys then there are NCT sales around the country.  If you’re in Scotland there are also Jack & Jill Markets around the country, which are fantastic for decluttering sustainability.

How to Get Started Decluttering Sustainably

If you’re finding hard to know where to start, then start small.  Pick one drawer or one cupboard and start from there – you can work up to bigger areas once you’ve gained some momentum.  I find doing one small area at a time, and setting a timer for 15 minutes makes it seem like a less overwhelming task.

If you’re not sure whether to get rid of any item or not then place it in a box or bag and place it out of sight for a month.  If you haven’t needed the item or thought about it after a month then it can go!

Finally, the best tip I’ve ever heard is not to get too sentimental about objects.  Of course, there are some things that you should keep, but other less inconsequential items can go.  All you have to do is remember that by getting rid of the item then you’re not getting rid of the memory.

Good luck!