Think before tidying up

A woman carries a stack of woolen jumpers.

Like so many others, you may be inspired to start tidying up around your home after watching Marie Kondo’s Netflix series, and that’s great. It’s a win for minimalism – yay! However, once you’re done thanking your items that no longer spark joy, I implore you to please think about three things before you simply throw them ‘away’.

You can make sure that your old joyless things will bring new joy to someone else. Read on for ideas on how you can maximise the benefit of donating your pre-loved items without putting charity shops under pressure. Somebody you will probably never meet will be grateful that you did.

One of the main problems that I see with the KonMari method of decluttering is the advice to do it all in one big sweep. I do understand that you really have to be in the right mood when tackling tidying up. The problem is, if you don’t take the time to properly sort, store and deliver unwanted items you could potentially be doing more harm than good.

I’m determined to make my stuff do the most good that it possibly can, so it’s a slow and thoughtful process. It makes tidying up that much more enjoyable and fulfilling to know that you have made a difference in someone else’s life.

Deciding what to keep and what to let go of is Marie’s domain. It’s the getting rid of stuff part that I want to help with. Before you chuck that crappy souvenir from your trip to Bangkok, or that ugly necktie from the 80’s, stop and think through these three steps.

A hand drawn image of a house. Inside is a love heart, coin and small plants.
Illustration by Twinewood Studio

1. Think before you throw

  • Can you repair it? Check out a repair cafe near you or offer it to someone who has the skills to repair it.
  • Can you recycle it? Landfill should always be your last resort. Clean it up, dismantle it if you have to and recycle responsibly. If you’re not sure if it can be recycled, check out Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You website or TerraCycle for services and local collection points.
  • Can you sell it? Why not reward yourself by selling good quality larger ticket items on gumtree or ebay? I made $1,600 on gumtree in one year alone. Sometimes patience is the key. If you don’t have the space and time to store items, drop the price to move it on quickly. Any money you get is more than you’d make if you dumped it.
  • Can you donate it? Something may no longer have any value to you, but there has never been a more important time to remember the old expression of ‘one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.’ This takes us to the next step…

2. Think before you donate

Opportunity shops are inundated with donations from well meaning tidy upper-ers. Charities spend millions of dollars annually sending clothes and other items to landfill that aren’t fit for sale . It might feel like a huge relief to have that bag of embarrassing fashion out of your sight, but don’t make it someone else’s problem.

Search for organisations that collect specific items and give them directly to people who need them. People who may not have the money to buy these things, even discounted from an op shop, will benefit immediately.

For my fellow Melburnians, I wrote a list of such organisations for Weekend Notes. However, you’ll find that many of them have collection points around Australia, so check it out.

Your old lamp could light up the home of an asylum seeker. That jacket that you might think is ‘so last season’ could give a woman experiencing disadvantage the confidence she needs for a job interview. Your superseded laptop or tablet could be just the thing that a volunteer community group needs to get up and running.

There are so many organisations who work to re-home used items to people in need. New ones are popping up all the time too – it’s a great time to be alive! My best tip is to get into the habit of googling, “Donate + <item> + <home city>” and be inspired by what you find.

Here I am (left) donating running shoes to Shoes for Planet Earth through one of their collection points – Footpro.

3. Think before you buy

Once you’ve finished tidying up, you’ll enjoy a sense of calm and clarity like you’ve never experienced before. Hopefully, you’ll never want to let this feeling go. But there’s only one way to keep it…

Stop buying stuff.

If you really need stuff, buy second hand stuff. Join your local Freecycle group. Ask friends ad family. It takes a change in mindset and behaviour but it is undeniably liberating.

I used to be a bargain hunter. I was often proudly telling friends and family about my latest buy. Nowadays, I barely venture into shopping centres and much prefer op shops if I really need something.

Once again, patience is the key. I’m willing to wait until I find what I really want. I’ll wander into many an op shop and set up search alerts on gumtree until I find it. When I finally do, it is a more gratifying form of retail therapy than I ever thought possible.

For more ideas on reducing your consumption, read my interview with zero-waste living guru, Erin Rhoads.

Without doubt, tidying up and clearing your home of clutter can be a joyful experience. Why not share that joy with as many others as possible?

Featured image: Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

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