The secret to joy? Getting rid of your stuff. So promises Marie Kondo in her latest best-seller, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, which is a companion to her first best-seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. In Spark Joy, Kondo elaborates on her "KonMari Method" of de-cluttering your home: discard the items that don’t bring you joy, and you will begin to create your ideal lifestyle. You will also take better care of the items that do bring you joy, and, almost incidentally, tidy up your home. But when you’re going through your belongings, how can you dispose of all of those joyless objects in a mindful, yogic way?
In honor of Earth Day, we asked Lauren Taylor, Global Director of PR and Content for TerraCycle, a company that reuses, upcycles, and recycles waste instead of incinerating or landfilling it, how to be eco-friendly when you’re putting the KonMari method into practice (or simply spring cleaning your home).
4 Areas of Your Home to Declutter
Kondo suggests giving unwanted clothing to charity or donating it to a used clothing shop like Goodwill or Salvation Army. But she also has more creative ideas, like using pretty fabric to wrap up unsightly low-voltage cables or household appliances or even to cover a plastic bottle to make a lovely and unique vase. If clothing can't be reused or recycled, TerraCycle shreds it and uses it for filling and stuffing (check out their Zero Waste Box program for more information). Now your closet is clean—and guilt-free!
Kondo recommends discarding books that don’t spark joy, as well as the ones you've only read halfway or haven’t read at all (be honest with yourself ... are you ever going to tackle that dusty copy of War and Peace?) Used books can often be sold, donated to a local library, or recycled. TerraCycle removes book covers and determines if they are just paper or cardboard or if there’s any plastic in there. If they're made of paper, they're recycled through typical means. If they're made of plastic, they're shredded, melted, and sold in pellet form to manufacturers who want to use recycled plastic in their products (this moves waste from a linear system to a circular one, allowing it to keep cycling in our economy, TerraCycle explains).
Paper is the third thing to go on Kondo's list. Fortunately if you have a lot of it, it's pretty much universally accepted for recycling, Taylor notes. Some, like newspaper, is even compostable.
See also5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Komono (Miscellaneous Items) and Sentimental Items
Lastly, Kondo recommends going through your komono, which covers stationery supplies, electrical cords, cosmetics, kitchen goods, food, cleaning supplies, and laundry items, followed by your sentimental items (mementos, photos), and believe it or not, nearly all of these things can be reused or recycled. “We haven’t found anything we can’t recycle,” Taylor says. “We take a look first to see if it can be reused or upcycled, and if not we’ll recycle.”
Kondo suggests storing a compost bag for food scraps in your freezer. Yard sales are a great way to turn your trash into someone else's treasure, as the saying goes; you can also sell or donate your used electronics here. If you have hazardous materials to dispose of, the EPA suggests researching household hazardous waste collection days in your community to properly dispose of cleaners, paints, automotive supplies, and other items (TerraCycle cannot accept hazardous materials).
Of course, the real key to tidying up is to think twice before you buy or accept a lot of stuff you don’t need. "I long ago reached the point where I had just the right amount of possessions in my life, and having stayed true to my sense of joy and practiced the rules of my trade, my closet never overflows with clothes, nor do books end up stacked on my floor," Kondo says in Spark Joy. "Of course, I buy new clothes and other things, but I also let go of those that have served their purpose."
Taylor points out that the first step to "tidying up" is to reduce your consumption and purchasing to begin with (and when you do buy something, to consider the packaging). "There’s still a lot of space on the planet, but what do you want it to look like?” she says.