Are You ‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo’? Here’s How to Do It the Green Way

Since the Marie Kondo Netflix special ‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo’ was released on January 1, tidying up has become a nationwide craze. Although the Japanese decluttering expert has been on and off the New York Times bestseller list since her first U.S. book was published in 2014, her Instagram following has increased by nearly 2 million since her Netflix debut. In the same timeframe, resale stores around the country are claiming that their donation piles have reached record levels. Clearly, her ideas are catching on.

If you are one of many Americans with too much “stuff,” it’s not a bad idea to downsize. However, most “stuff” takes a long time to break down once it’s in the landfill, and when it comes to plastic, it might never break down. If you decide to use the KonMari method to declutter, follow these tips to make sure as little ends up in the landfill as possible.

1. Don’t toss everything into a garbage bag. Not everything you’re getting rid of is trash. If someone would still pay money for it, sell it. If someone would still use it, donate it. If the item needs fixing, repair it. And if the material is recyclable, recycle it! Only toss what truly cannot be reused or recycled.

2. Donate only what you would give to a friend. Donating is a great way to extend the life of your belongings! Find a list of our local donation locations here. However, most resale organizations — charity or not — end up tossing the items they can’t sell. So don’t donate belongings you wouldn’t feel comfortable giving to one of your friends. If you have items that you think someone would use, but no one would pay money for them (such as partially used cleaning products), try giving them away for free on Craigslist or Freecycle. Otherwise, find a way to recycle them instead.

3. Repair items that need it, or give them to someone who will. Sure, repairing something is a pain, whether it’s your toilet or a boot with a broken zipper. On the flip side, repairing something extends its life and reduces how much you need to buy. If you have something that you can’t fix, try giving it away or selling it at a reduced price. Local sales apps are great for this, including OfferUp, Letgo, Craigslist, Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace. You can advertise that your item needs some TLC, and that way, someone who has the time and skills to repair it can find it.

4. Recycle or upcycle items that can’t be used again. If you no longer have a use for something, and you don’t think your friends would use it either, find out if you can recycle it. For example, textiles can’t be recycled curbside, but you can recycle them in other ways. Clothing companies ThredUp and For Days will both recycle your old clothes, and For Days will even give you up to $50 in store credit. If you’re feeling crafty, you could take all the T-shirts in your closet that don’t bring you joy and turn them into T-shirt yarn for crafting. Find more alternative recycling programs and reuse ideas by searching our Recycling Guide.

5. Buy less stuff! You’ll never need to Marie Kondo your home if you refuse to buy stuff you don’t need in the first place. One of the great lessons Kondo teaches is appreciation for our belongings. According to her philosophy, we should treat them well and thank them for their service every day. What’s not very appreciative? Sending a giant pile of garbage bags to the dump!

6. Buy secondhand. The recent surge in donations to secondhand stores has people asking: Will buying secondhand become as popular as donating? Or is the secondhand shop simply a short layover on the trip to the landfill? You can help by buying secondhand yourself! Not only will you be discouraging overproduction of new materials, you’ll be able to afford items of higher quality than you can afford to buy new. In other words, you can spend less cash on nicer things that will last longer.

Go ahead and Marie Kondo your home this spring! Just remember to donate carefully, recycle more, and buy less stuff in the future.