Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle to Spark Joy
Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method and her new show on Netflix have many of us questioning the amount of things we own and is tempting people to try a more minimalist lifestyle. As an organization committed to reducing waste, we found ourselves wondering what’s happening to the excess clothes, food, paper, and reusable items that no longer “spark joy”? And how can people incorporate the concepts of reduce, reuse, recycle into their quest to declutter? If decluttering and reducing waste bring you joy, is it possible to be both clutter-free and a steward of the environment?
Here’s how you can reduce your waste and help your discarded items find a new home so you can spark joy for yourself and the environment.
Clothing: As you purge your closet of unwanted items, put aside gently used clothing items that you can sell or donate. There’s a chance that the shirt that once sparked joy in your life might spark joy in someone else’s life now. Contact organizations supporting communities recovering from natural disaster, a local shelter for the homeless, a community church, or Goodwill to confirm if they’re accepting donations. Alternatively, reach out to a family member or friend who might not have the means to splurge on clothing items, or even consider posting giving away items via social media. You’ll have a much smaller “throw out” pile as a result.
Food: Food in the refrigerator and pantry can easily get pushed to the back and forgotten about. Though Marie’s show doesn’t address this element specifically, now is a good time to take stock of any items that should be consumed before their “use by” date. For example, Pacific Foods packages many broths and soups in food and beverage cartons. They recommend consuming a product within six months of the “best if used by” date. “Best if used by” dates are used to communicate quality, while “use by” dates indicate that the product may no longer be good for consumption after that date. Americans throw away $165 billion in wasted food every year, much of which goes to the landfill; so purchase only what you need, consume what you purchase, and don’t throw food away unnecessarily. And if the safety window of your food and beverage cartons has already passed, simply empty the content of the carton into the sink, toss the carton in the recycling bin with the cap on, and take it to the curb on recycling day.
Paper: One of the essential items Marie Kondo focuses on is eliminating paper that you’ve accumulated around your home over months and years. Yes, we’re talking about that drawer in your kitchen with all the coupons and flyers, or the area of your bookshelf holding receipts, notes, and bills. First, find an alternative paperless system to reduce waste from the get-go by opting in for paperless billing or emailed receipts. Then file away the documents you need a physically copy of, recycle the remaining paper (confirm that your community accepts paper first!). Note that most recycling programs don’t accept shredded paper, so in the case that you have some, check with your local recycling facility before tossing it in your recycling bin.
Reusable items: As you set aside the items that do spark joy, make a special pile for your favorite reusable items: think your orange reusable water bottle, your bamboo utensils, your canvas groceries tote bag, and your monogrammed coffee tumbler. Find a visible storage place for these items that makes it easy to use them on a day-to-day basis. If you have 10 travel coffee mugs or one too many grocery totes, give them to a friend or family member who may not have started their own collection or donate them.
Whether it’s the MariKondo method or something else, working towards a lifestyle of reduce, reuse, and recycle will keep your clutter down, preserve our natural resources, and provide more joy in your life.