Sparking Joy: How to (Ethically and Sustainably) Get Rid of Your Stuff

If you’re anything like us, then everyone you know Marie Kondo’d their home after her show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” (based on her best-selling book), debuted on Netflix in January 2019. Immediately, seemingly every human in the Netflix-watching world began the process of decluttering their homes en masse.

And then of course COVID-19 hit and staying at home became encouraged for the health and safety of communities. With more time at home, boredom at an all-time high, and an increased recognition that the spaces we occupy can have a significant effect on our mental health and energy —Kondo's wisdom and methods became more helpful than ever.

Now, with the highly anticipated premiere of Marie Kondo's new Netflix series, "Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo" airing on August 31st on Netflix, we're ready to begin Marie Kondo'ing our lives again.

According to the KonMari website, the new show will center around Kondo applying "the fundamentals of the KonMari Method™ to businesses, relationships and communities. The impacts of tidying are delightfully surprising, emotional and transformative in the lives of the people [Kondo] meets."

And it sounds like the new series will take a more personal approach than the first season. The description of the new season continues, "Throughout the process, viewers will also step into [Kondo's] own home, meet her family and get a glimpse into how she sparks joy in her daily life.""

The guiding principle of Kondo’s method is to rid your home of anything that doesn’t spark joy.

In her original show, and in her book, she recommends tackling clutter in a specific order: first, clothing, then books and paper, komono (miscellany), and finally sentimental items.

With many of us accumulating piles of things to get rid of, we want to highlight some responsible ways you can tidy your home while minimizing waste and giving back:

Clothes

While it will always be most sustainable to keep your clothes and continue to wear them, sometimes we truly don't need them anymore. As you're getting rid of clothes, here's how to make sure they continue to get some good use.

Give your clothes a second home by selling them to someone who will appreciate them.

If your clothes are name-brand and in good condition, it might be worth selling on Poshmark or thredUP.

You won’t get as much money as you initially spent, but hey, you were going to donate it anyway. Decide if the few bucks you’ll make are worth the trouble of shipping.

Poshmark takes a uniquely sustainable approach to shipping, by partnering with USPS to allow you to reuse any previous packaging you already have alongside a prepaid USPS priority mail shipping label.

You can also take clothing all at once to a consignment or resale shop in your town. You can even donate the money you make to a specific charity of your choosing.

Try hosting a clothing swap.

Invite friends to bring their unwanted clothing over and swap your unwanted items. Everyone leaves with new-to-them clothing at no cost! Donate whatever is leftover.

Donate your clothing in a way that's actually helpful.

Donate your clothing. But: Remember that donation centers aren’t your trash can for damaged clothes. Whatever you can’t donate because of stains, rips, or other damage, try to fix, repurpose, or recycle.

Old t-shirts can be used as rags, and sometimes animal shelters can use your warm clothing.

Madewell will take any brand of old jeans and recycle them for you as a part of their Repair, Resell, Recycle program. If your jeans are still in good condition (maybe they just don't fit you anymore), they'll partner with thredUP to resell your jeans to someone new. (Madewell jeans get listed on Madewell Forever. All others are sold through thredUP.) For jeans that aren't in good condition anymore, Madewell partners with Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green program to turn your old jeans into housing insulation for communities in need. Either way, they'll reward you with $20 off new ones.

Skip fast fashion from here on out.

Moving forward, skip over stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Zara. Fast fashion harms the environment and even the people who make the clothes. Instead, focus on buying used clothing, buying higher quality garments that are made to last, and, ultimately, buying less.


Books & Paper

Recycle your paper.

Paper can, of course, be recycled. (By the way, make sure you don't contaminate your recycling bin by participating in "wishful recycling".)

Minimize junk mail in the future.

To prevent accumulating too much paper in the future, switch all your bills to e-bills, cancel any unwanted subscriptions, and make an effort to cancel mailing lists. (Just not the Goodnewspaper.)

If you need help getting unsubscribed from junk mail, we created a guide to help you do just that.

Sell your books.

Similar to clothing, you can sell or donate books you no longer want — either online or locally.

In addition to local bookstores, you can sell your books through Powell's Books (even if you don't live in Portland, Oregon). Even better, they'll give you credits that you can use on more used books in the future, which is always more sustainable than buying brand-new books.

Donate your books.

If you want to donate your books, you could check if any local schools are taking donations. Operation Paperback ships books to overseas troops, and some organizations (such as Inside Books Project in Austin, Texas) sends books to people living inside prisons.


Komono

This category covers all your miscellaneous items.

Extend the life of your technology.

For tech items like computers or phone, first make sure you’ve cleared them of any data or accounts.

Many stores (like Apple) have trade-in or buy-back programs, which can be especially useful if you need to upgrade to something new anyway.

You can also try eBay, Gazelle, OfferUp, or even selling to a friend or family member through Instagram or Facebook.

FYI, you can’t simply throw away most tech items. In fact, at least half of U.S. states require you to properly recycle old electronics because of their toxic substances. But some schools or libraries might accept a donation, otherwise a quick Google search will lead you to how best to recycle your old phone or laptop in your area.

Support the right-to-repair.

In the future, we're hoping the U.S. will adopt more "right-to-repair" laws to ensure technology can be easily upgraded, and serve us for much longer periods of time.

Allow your home goods to continue to benefit your community.

For other household items such as tools, furniture, and kitchen equipment, again, you can try to sell it first before deciding to donate.

Toys can sometimes be donated to children’s hospitals, doctor’s offices, daycares, and churches. (Though during the pandemic they've become more wary of donations.)

Your community probably has a service to pick up large items that you can’t transport yourself. Dolly is a service that will facilitate the move of large items for donations or even Craigslist transactions.


Sentimental Items

1. First, see if someone else in your family might want the sentimental item, particularly if it’s a family heirloom. 

2. You can refashion many old sentimental items to better suit your taste. Stones from jewelry can be reset into modern rings, earrings, or necklaces. You can sand and repaint old furniture or even modernize it with new hardware.


While donating, repurposing, or recycling your old items might take a little extra work, it’s worth it for the sense of responsibility and sustainability in ridding your home of clutter instead of filling a landfill or mindlessly donating full trash bags.

That extra effort might just mean your item ends up in the right hands and can now spark joy for someone else. Now that you've tidied up your home, you have more free headspace. Go and use that for good.

All of the recommendations in this story are independently selected by the Good Good Good team. Some of the links may be affiliate links — which means that when you click them, we may earn a commission — which supports our ability to continue sharing good news. Thank you!


A different version of this story originally ran in Issue 06 of the Goodnewspaper. The Goodnewspaper is our monthly print newspaper filled with good news.
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August 26, 2021

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