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How to Prepare Your Space for Zero Waste by Decluttering

If there is one concept that has been foundational to my Zero Waste journey it’s this: you need far less stuff than you think. That’s right. It’s decluttering time!

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist by any stretch of the word (at least not yet), but I have certainly learned the value of “lightening the load.”

Clearing away the things you never use is an immense breath of fresh air. Plus, it is a great way to clear the path for new zero waste habits. 

Clear your space by decluttering

Why Decluttering is Important

One of the very first things Josh and I noticed when we started transitioning to zero waste was the sheer amount of random stuff we had in our house.

Five living situations, two states, and one marriage later and we had collected quite a stash; it wasn’t pretty. Ready to hear something horrifying? We used to own eleven cutting boards…eleven! 

Now, I know most of you aren’t operating like this (proud of you) but there is something to be said for the American tendency to collect large amounts of stuff, good or bad. We are a generally affluent nation made up of people who have been conditioned to buy, buy, buy. And we are so overloaded with possessions that many of us turn to storage units to hold onto the things we never use.

Zero waste does not mean you have to live a stark, white-on-white, minimalist, I-own-one-shirt lifestyle. It does however mean you need to be willing to part with your lust for things

Life is bigger than stuff people. Don’t buy things you don’t need. It’ll only bog you down!

Are there environmental benefits to decluttering?

A thousand times yes! The more willing you are to live a life free of unnecessary purchases, the more likely you are to uphold the preservation of limited resources. 

Our earth does not produce infinitely.

Take fast fashion, for example. Large retailers like H&M and Forever 21 produce extremely inexpensive clothing that is poor quality and has a low resale value, and they make it in absolutely vast amounts. 

That tube top you just bought will be “off trend” faster than you can blink, then you’re stuck with it. Even if you choose to donate it to a textile take-back program, it only has a 0.1 percent chance of actually getting recycled.

Not to mention, that kind of shopping is a ludicrous waste of money. The more you buy, the more they manufacture. 

Read about sustainable textiles here, and find a list of ethical brands to shop from here.

Declutter for a zero waste lifestyle

Take your spending tendencies down a notch and focus on creating a simplified home that supports the lifestyle you really want to live.

Decluttering makes Zero Waste manageable; impulse shopping makes it all a lot harder.

Other Amazing Reasons to Declutter

  1. You’ll spend far less time tidying up!
  2. You’ll find your home feels more like a sanctuary.
  3. You’ll have more time to dedicate to things you really want to do.
  4. You’ll be able to walk into your home space with a clear mind.
  5. You’ll start looking for opportunities to share with others.

Reasons You May Be Avoiding Decluttering

  1. You own many items with sentimental value. Do you feel you owe it to someone to keep that gift?
  2. You feel the need to keep up appearances. Do you use possessions to appear wealthy, well-traveled, or intelligent?
  3. You are afraid of empty surfaces. Do you struggle with the thought of an unencumbered home?
  4. You are a huge fan of knick knacks. Are you a collector?
  5. You paid a lot for the things you own. Could it be that many of your possessions are really just sunk cost?

Your Homework

1) Donate or sell any unnecessary duplicates.

Like I said earlier, we used to own eleven cutting boards. They were accumulated over the course of many years, for many reasons, but it was still completely unnecessary. We absolutely noticed this “duplicate problem” in the kitchen the most.

I used to be utterly amazed by the amount of dirty dishes we could produce in a day… we just had too many of each thing! Once we pared down to only what Josh and I needed for our daily life, we started spending a lot less time doing dishes and a lot more time with each other. Worth it!

2) Part with “unitaskers” and choose multipurpose items.

I used to be fascinated by As Seen on TV-esque gadgets. You know, those items that sound like an absolute “wonder gadget” but turn out to be utterly useless? Yeah, I call those unitaskers. Get rid of the avocado pitter, the banana slicer, and the bagel guillotine; just use a knife!

3) Only keep that which inspires joy or serves a purpose.

If I were to tell you to “Go through the whole house and get rid of anything you don’t need” this blog would be a lot shorter and a lot less helpful. 

Deciphering that which you need and that which you don’t can be challenging, especially when you’re torn by inner issues like sentimentality.

I suggest taking the Kon Mari approach. She challenges us to ask ourselves if those hard-to-part-with items “inspire joy.” 

The things we own should have meaning.

Do you find decluttering intimidating? What do you think is holding you back?


Friday 5th of January 2018

The Kon Marie method is a great tip for a serious and focused de-clutter. It certainly worked for me who had literally generations of inherited 'family stuff' as well as things accumulated from living on 4 continents crammed into my apartment. For those without the time (or in my case free hands) to read the book there is a great audio book version. Very handy to listen to while your fingers are busy doing other things. Oh, and another bonus, because it is anelectronic version there is zero waste!


Tuesday 9th of January 2018

So true! I love the Kon Marie method :) It's simple, yet so effective!


Tuesday 3rd of January 2017

Where would be a good place to donate knives? I have a drawer full and only use two.


Tuesday 3rd of January 2017

My first inclination is your average thrift store. However, before you head for your secondhand shop, I would definitely see if any friends or family members could use them. Second, if no immediate friends need them, call around to food banks in your area or attempt to share them in a Buy Nothing group if you have one. Good luck! I've pared my collection down to a single chef's knife and I can honestly say it's all I need.

Lauretta Wright

Monday 2nd of January 2017

I'm always having clear outs but it's really therapeutic so I can't help it. Also I feel I'm doing some good when I take my unwanted items to the charity shop


Tuesday 3rd of January 2017

It feels great, doesn't it? I would definitely suggest opening up your giveaway circle as well. Maybe look for Buy Nothing groups in your area, or non-profits who could use your unwanted items! It's a great way to give back so other people don't have to make those purchases.

Jenn @ Love My Blog

Monday 2nd of January 2017

Decluttering is definitely a goal of mine for 2017. I love clean, organized spaces but I just can't seem to keep up with it. I'll be focusing hard on this goal this year.


Monday 2nd of January 2017

I'm in the same boat. Keeping things neat feels so good, but you definitely have to keep the habit.

Paula @MummyVsWork

Monday 2nd of January 2017

I love to declutter, not minimalist but I can't stand having things just for the sake of having them! We are looking to extend our home this year so will be using the first few months as a chance to clear the decks of things we don't need!


Monday 2nd of January 2017

Oooh, a remodeling project! Best of luck!