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Sustainable Decluttering To Start the New Year

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After getting home from visiting my family for the holidays, we had a few days to hang out and regroup. Like so many people at the beginning of a new year, I decided to dive into some cabinets and drawers to clean out old things that could be new to others. Although we are pretty diligent about what comes into our house, things still seem to pile up (especially in the boys’ playroom). We also decided to start working on transforming the boys’ playroom into a school workspace for them, so that fed the energy to clean up and clear out.

Unfortunately, far too much of our trash ends up in landfills. Too often, people throw perfectly good things straight into the garbage. I recently started following some dumpster divers on Instagram just to see what they’re up to, and it’s pretty incredible the volume and quality of things they find in the trash.

Even when we bring things to thrift stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army, they receive far more goods than they could ever sell. A huge portion of donated items are sent overseas (where they degrade local markets and burden poor communities) or deposited into their trash and headed to landfills and incinerators.

As I set out to declutter a few spaces in our house, we spent a bit of extra time and effort making sure that as many of our extra items as possible went directly to families that could use them or to more specific outlets than large thrift shops to make the best use of these items.

In the end, some things went to Goodwill and some things landed directly in our trash. Here’s how I rehomed several boxes of items I decluttered over the last few weeks.

Direct Gifts to Friends

As I sorted through our extra things, I set aside several things that I thought would be perfect for some of my friends or their kids.


A couple of years ago, our boys tried piano lessons. They lasted about a year and a half, but haven’t really touched the piano in nearly two years. It was time for the keyboard to find a new home. We gave it to a friend who loves making music and hope he has a blast using it.


I had two boxes of clothes that the boys outgrew. The woman who cleans our house has a grandson a bit younger than my boys. I’ve asked her in the past if she had an interest in going through and taking any clothes for him. She always loves taking the clothes back to him and letting him have a few new-to-him things. She told me she also sends some of it back to her family in Mexico.

We had some Philadelphia sports team apparel the boys no longer wore. We have plenty of local friends with younger kids who are more than happy to take this off our hands.


I scanned through my bookshelf and pulled out a couple of dozen books I no longer need. Several of them are related to sustainable living. I decided to give them away on Instagram. They were books that I thought people who followed me on Instagram and have similar interests in eco-friendly living for families would also like.

The books were in great condition (most were practically new). Everyone loves receiving mail, so I was happy to gift them to others and deliver a dollop of joy to their mailbox.

Art & School Supplies

My friend and business partner, Jess, from Thoughtfully Sustainable homeschools her kids. They are also really creative artists. We had a bunch of school and art supplies that I thought her kids might love. We also had a few kits from Annie’s Young Woodworking Kits subscription that my boys never got around to creating, and I knew her kids would love making them.

Over the course of an afternoon, I bombarded her phone with photos of items inquiring if she wanted them. I put those she wanted into a box and will give them to her next time I see her.

Buy Nothing

You know I love my local Buy Nothing group. I took photos of puzzles, step stools the boys no longer need, toys in good condition, chapter books for kids, a countertop compost container, puzzle books & sticker books, knives that needed sharpening (but were otherwise in good condition), colored pencils and pens, and a handful of other things. I didn’t receive requests for everything through the Buy Nothing group, but I was happy to pass along about half of the items to neighbors instead of dropping them at a local thrift shop.


We sent about three boxes of items to Goodwill. These were things that I posted on Buy Nothing and no one requested or didn’t have an otherwise specific home. Everything in the boxes was clean, in good condition, and ready to put on their shelves for others who might need these items. I try not to donate things to Goodwill that I know they would never be able to sell to others.


Miscellaneous markers, broken toys, and a few other odds and ends filled a bit less than one trash bag. These items really had no other use and went straight to the trash. Sometimes, it’s evitable that something has lived its full life.

As you’re decluttering now to start the year fresh (or anytime you need a reset on your space and your possessions), consider taking your time to declutter a bit more sustainably. Can you find homes for items other than a thrift shop that receives far more than they sell?

Maybe you could even start by consigning things at a consignment shop before heading to the thrift shop? You could make a bit of money through this method, which is a fun bonus.

Do you know anyone specifically who could use the items? Do you have a Buy Nothing group? Can you sell items or give them away for free on Facebook Marketplace? Items listed for free typically go really quickly on Facebook Marketplace, which has a larger audience than Buy Nothing communities.

I’d love to hear how you declutter with sustainability in mind?

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