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Declutter with Purpose

March 29, 2019

Wisconsin has finally unthawed! Tulips and daffodils are emerging after a long winter’s nap, the Milwaukee Brewers are back on the field, and indoors, many of us have begun that ritual known as spring cleaning. Along with the usual washing, dusting, yard cleanup and the like, Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has spearheaded a decluttering trend, which some of us include on our spring cleaning chore lists. After careful purging, sorting, and packing stacks of those material objects that no longer spark joy, now what?

A first step most of us take is to donate items to a local resale or thrift shop. Most of those stores are affiliated with a nonprofit group that is partially funded through the sales from store merchandise. This, of course, is an awesome way to help support the mission of a nonprofit organization doing great work. Although in January, the “Today” show reported how second-hand stores have reported a dramatic uptick in donations, possibly due to Kondo’s book and new Netflix series, “Tidying Up.” Maybe it’s time to spread the bounty around a bit, so here are some other ideas for repurposing clothing and household items:

  1. Homeless shelters, emergency services, and community church pantries: Many shelters are in need of gently used clothing for their homeless or indigent guests. Rather than reselling items to the public to make money, these services give donated clothing, shoes, or coats directly to those in need. Some shelters serve just men, some provide emergency shelter for women, and some serve families and accept clothing for children and infants.
  2. TerraCycle: This company provides a zero waste answer for unwanted clothing and fabric. You can order one of their recycling boxes online (terracycle.com) for your unwanted items. Once the company receives the items, they sort them and recycle, upcycle, or reuse as appropriate.
  3. Clothing swaps: Invite some friends over for a glass of wine, and have them bring a bag of unwanted clothes. Arrange the clothing on a table and tell everyone to have at it. There are also swap events throughout the area.
  4. Fix or repair: A small tear or a missing button are easy fixes and can extend the life of a garment. Keep a basic sewing kit on hand with a couple of different sized needles and basic colors of thread. If you don’t know how to sew, no problem—many people do, so chances are you know someone who can help you out. There are also tailoring shops income communities, and many dry cleaners also offer tailoring and alteration services.
  5. Rags: If there’s an item that’s no longer usable, cut it into squares for rages to use for washing the car, dusting, or other chores.

I always have a sense of accomplishment after purging drawers and closets and sending items on to a new life. But the ideal solution is to choose our consumables carefully and not generate so much unnecessary clutter in the first place. When shopping for new clothing, try to avoid fast fashion that will quickly go out of style (looking at you, cutout shoulder tops!) and choose classic looks that can be mixed and matched. Be conscious while shopping and consider whether you really need that eighth pair of dress shoes or T-shirts in every color of a box of crayons. Shop out of necessity rather than just for fun. Spending our money on experiences instead of excessive consumables can create memories more fulfilling than buying a new pair of jeans, and memories from those experiences can ultimately spark joy for years to come.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

 

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