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5 Ways to Make Spring Cleaning More Sustainable

Spring cleaning is great—mindful spring cleaning is better. Here's how to make your annual declutter a planet-friendly task.

sustainable spring cleaning
Written by
Calin Van Paris
Journalist and author
Adam Minter
knows a thing or two about waste. Not only has Minter covered the global recycling trade for nearly two decades, he also comes from a third-generation scrap metal recycling family, and his grandmother ran a
thrift store
. So when it comes to spring cleaning (aka the seasonal act of decluttering), Minter has some learned opinions—and some helpful advice.
"The technical term for 'stuff' is actually 'durable goods'—
that you use more than once. That's the official term and the economic statistics," says Minter. "And there's a lot of it. I mean, the figure I love is between 1967 and 2017, durable goods sales increased almost twentyfold in the United States."
While it may feel like a similar expansion of things has occurred in your home, in this case, out of sight does not equal out of mind—or at least out of the
. This year, honor your commitment to sustainability by incorporating mindfulness into your spring cleaning routine.

5 Ways to Make Your Spring Cleaning More Mindful and Sustainable

sustainable spring cleaning

1. Get Real About Your Stuff

Your belongings may have value to you, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have value to others. "It's gotten to the point where a lot of our identity is wrapped up in the stuff we have," says Minter. "And this can be, you know, I buy this brand, which says this about me as a person."
Consider which of your things would sell were you to host a garage sale (maybe even try it as an experiment) and act accordingly to determine what should be consigned, donated, gifted, or properly disposed of.

2. Donate With Care

Avoid shoving all of your odds and ends into bags and boxes and dropping them off at
your nearest donation center
. Instead, think about what items could potentially be useful to others, or really do have a second life to offer.
"People donate a lot of stuff that can't be reused," says Minter. "That's not a good thing to do, because you're basically just offloading the responsibility to throw it away and asking Goodwill to pay for it."

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3. Do Your Recycling Research

As with donating, pretending that everything you toss into your blue bins is destined to reach a magical, eco-friendly end is a no-no. 25% (or 1 in 4) of the items that get recycled
aren't actually recyclable
. Take the time to research your city’s recycling guidelines to ensure items are being disposed of correctly.

4. Embrace the Gifting Economy

Buy Nothing
groups are a fantastic means of offloading items for free, and finding exactly what you need in return. Partaking in the gifting economy may change your habits on a larger scale, too.
"It does make people more mindful about their consumption," says Minter. "They start thinking about what they're buying, and whether this is something that at some point they can put on a Buy Nothing group... or is it a disposable product that's never going to have a second owner and is going to end up in the trash, in an incinerator, or a landfill somewhere."

5. Repair and Reuse

Repairing and mending are undeniably time-consuming prospects, but embracing "fix it" over "toss it" is essential to a more mindful and environmentally sound world. "You can't have a more sustainable economy or a more sustainable consumer without people who are willing to mend clothing," says Minter.