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How to declutter when going zero waste - ClassyAshli - Ashli Cooper

Listen, I know this entire post may sound a little contradictory to the entire goal of someone on a zero waste journey, but hear me out.

There’s a pretty good chance that if you’re anything like me, you have accumulated a lot of crap before deciding to embark on this lovely journey to zero waste.

Also if you’re like me, you’ve seen the Instagram pictures of homes fully furnished and filled with all things zero waste, and you may even aspire to have homes like these one day.

These homes have a certain aesthetic that draws us in. You know the clean, seemingly empty and completely purposeful home where the contents of it appear not to add any additional harm to the environment.

However, at this stage of our journeys (the beginning), we are not these people. We still have a crapload of crap.

And there are two things we can do about it.

We can get rid of it and start with a clean slate.
We can use everything until it’s no longer usable.

Fair warning: if you are of the second type, this post may not be for you, and here’s why…

As I do completely believe in using things until they can’t be used any longer, I also believe in cultivating a home that makes you happy to come home to and live in. I believe that everything in your home should to some degree make you happy.

I don’t believe in holding onto things we don’t want just for the sake of holding onto it. What is a life that’s full of things we don’t want? Awful. Irritating. Nagging. Almost itchy. You know what I mean?

I’m just not here for that.

So I came up with a pretty good way to determine if something is worth keeping. If you’re worried about this being wasteful, don’t worry. I gotcha covered.

I included my Amazon affiliate link for a used copy of the book I recommended. Please either rent from the library or if you must buy it, buy pre-loved. What is an affiliate link, you ask? Click here.


The first thing we want to decide is what we are going to keep.

This can be broken down into two categories: things that are consumables and things that bring us joy.



Consumables are the things that are meant to be used up. Things such as food, makeup, hygiene products, cleaning products, etc. In short, this is the stuff that comes in a bottle or container of some sort.

We can keep anything that belongs in this category. Then, use it up and figure out what to do with the container once it’s all gone.



This idea I got from Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do so. No, seriously. Go read it. It will change your life.

Basically, you have to analyze each item that you own and determine whether or not it sparks joy. If you want to go full on and do your whole home in one go, I’d suggest reading the book first.

If you want a quickie method just to help you decide whether or not you want to keep those plastic containers or switch them to something more sustainable, here’s what I suggest. Go get the item. And by go get I actually mean go get it.

Hold it in your hand, and ask yousrself, “Does this item bring me joy?” Also ask yourself, “Does it bring me joy to use it until it can no longer be used?” If your answer is yes, then keep it. If it’s not, here are a three more questions to ask yourself before you ditch it.


1. “If I move this item somewhere else, will it then bring me joy?”

The goal here is to see if whether or not using item somewhere else will make you better appreciate it.

For example, let’s say you have a basket that you’re using to store something. Would if add joy if you were to maybe put it on a bookshelf?

Sometimes things need to get new homes for us to really appreciate their value.


2. “Can I turn this into something that will spark joy?”

Some people are crafty. If you’re one of those people who can look at a plastic water bottle and see your kid’s new toy airplane, you go Glen Coco.

Sometimes we need to repurpose something or remake it into a new item that we can cherish for the long haul. Case and point: I have this sweater that I got from Pacsun ages ago.

A few years ago I managed to do something really dumb in it. I painted a desk. My sweater was maroon. The paint was gray. Wanna take a wild guess at what happened to it?

I spilled paint on it, of course.

Luckily, paint spilled on the forearm part, so I was able to roll up the sleeves and keep wearing it. Eventually though, the sweater just did not wear well anymore.

I looked like I was wearing a maroon potato sack. Then, an idea came to me.

I decided to take the sleeves of said sweater and use them to fix up my beloved but raggedy backpack I got from Target a few years ago. #Winning.


3. “Do I value the purpose that this item provides?”

You know that stapler you have? Or the hole punch? Those items might not necessarily bring you a whole lot of joy, but you can’t tell me they aren’t pretty dang useful. These are just examples, as I’m sure there are zero waste alternatives. But until you get around to replacing them, keep these types of items.



Everything else.


Kind of.


Just keep reading.

Remember earlier when I told you to keep your consumables? Here’s the exception.

Sometimes we accumulate a lot of crap. And sometimes that crap expires. Other times, we feel like it’s just too much or too overwhelming to work our way through it. In these cases, I think it’s fair if you decide to get rid of them.

If the item has expired and you feel it’s unsafe to use, trash it. Please. Don’t kill yourself trying to go zero waste. Consider the actual risks before doing so though.

Let’s face it, nowadays products come with a million and fifteen preservatives and can take a really, really long time to go bad.

Most times, those expiry dates are put there for the company’s safety, not yours. So don’t be too quick to throw something out just because of the date.

Consider the item first, ya know? Old Dairy? Might wanna throw it out. Shampoo? Could probably be kept and used.

You can also repurpose these items. Like, if you have reaaaalllyy old shampoo that might legitimately be way past its prime, you could always use it to wash the floors or something.

Now that we cleared that up, get rid of everything else.


At this point, you’re basically just down to a bunch of things that don’t ignite a single happy center in your  brain, and I don’t think these types of things have any business sharing a home with us.

Like I mentioned earlier, I completely agree with the concept of using things until they are no more. However, this does not necessarily mean we have to use them until they are no more.

So with that said, now that we’ve decided what we want to keep and what we’d like to remove from our lives, it’s time to figure out the most sustainable way to get that done.

If you want to find out how to get rid of your things while producing very little if any waste, read this post. But first…

Is there anything that you’ve felt guilted into holding on to just because you don’t want to be wasteful? If so, let me know about it in the comments!

How to declutter when going zero waste: Deciding what to keep when going zero waste can be kind of tricky. Find out how you can declutter your home even if you're on a zero waste journey.

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