Out with the old, in with the new. Every January, this morphs into the mantra of the moment. But is it ever really as simple as that phrase would have us believe? Decluttering, downsizing — they’re attractive goals, but there’s more to making a commitment to getting rid of things than just getting rid of things. How we dispose of our belongings comes with a greater responsibility to the health of our planet and ourselves, and so does how we replace them.
This year, instead of simply cleaning seasonally and without a second thought, we can instead approach the process mindfully and with intention. The more you know about the impact of your disposal and consumer habits, the more you’ll learn about the many ways to do good while you declutter. Let’s use the infamous closet cleanout as a case study for how to approach decluttering in the new year.
As it turns out, it’s more likely than not that you only wear around 20% of what’s currently in your closet. This means that you should be getting rid of a good 80% of your entire wardrobe. But how? Generally speaking, your options include upcycling and donating.
According to the EPA, of a total 258 million tons of municipal solid waste generated in 2014, 24.5 million tons, or 9.5%, consisted of textile waste specifically, and 14.7 million tons ended up in the landfills. How can you ensure your efforts for a cleaner closet won’t harm the environment?
First off, do not throw your clothes in the garbage unless they are completely beyond repair or saving. Just like furniture, clothing can be revived or turned into something else you could use, even if that’s just a dust rag.
For the items that you simply don’t love anymore and are taking up space, donate your clothing to local charitable organizations such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or find places that have recycling bins for clothing, a trend that’s becoming popular in urban areas around the country. There are also a number of retailers, including H&M, Levi’s, Madewell, and The North Face that have recycling and other buyback programs and incentives, so do your homework.
When people embark on a decluttering journey, they rarely plan for the part where they will eventually need to add back. Sooner or later, there will come a time when you will shop and bring something into your home, and decluttering isn’t a one and done event — it’s a mindset and lifestyle that extends to your habits as a consumer, and should include ways to promote a healthier earth and a healthier you.
When it comes to buying clothing, whether you intend to try the capsule wardrobe trend or not, there are ways to shop mindfully and prioritize brands who use manufacturing practices and materials proven to minimize their environmental impact.
Along with a majority of synthetic fabrics (but not all!), conventional cotton production has been proven to have a profoundly negative impact on the environment, economy, and public health. As an alternative, organic cotton mitigates a majority of this negative impact, and many companies are making the switch. PACT is a relatively new organic clothing brand that uses organic cotton and is also GOTS-certified, meaning they uphold textile processing standards that include both ecological and social criteria.
Other materials to look out for when shopping for new clothes include bamboo, hemp, alpaca, and silk. All of these materials have been shown to require less harmful pesticides and fertilizers than their alternatives, and have less of a drain on our natural resources and global economy.
Also be mindful of labels. Look for clothing that’s Fair Trade Certified, GOTS certified (as previously mentioned), OE, or OE 100, all of which are signs of clothing made with the earth in mind.
How do you intend to do good when you declutter?