Help! I’ve decluttered, now what do I do with the stuff?

You’ve done great! The hardest part is deciding what to let go of…

But now you might be wondering, what on earth am I going to do with this pile of stuff?

Shockingly, DEFRA revealed that British households create 26 million tonnes of waste each year, of which only 12 million tonnes are recycled. The rest, 14 million tonnes is sent to landfill! Eye watering figures. We are only recycling 3% more than in 2010, recycling just 44% of waste.

Becoming more sustainable is so important and we all need to act now. Being a professional organiser, the nature of my work can sometimes cause a guilt-ridden headache on the sustainability front. Decluttering by definition is encouraging you to reduce the amount of possessions you own. You simply cannot live in a cluttered home, which is negatively impacting your mental health, for the sake of being a “perfect” eco-warrior! I do everything I can to recycle, donate and reuse when I’m working with my clients. Even if it means a little more effort on my part! I’ll often take an entire car-load of donation items to deliver to the charity shop; sometimes keeping back specific items which I’ll send separately to smaller, more niche charities specialising in one thing. Such as bras to Against Breast Cancer or Smalls for All.

So instead of hiring a skip without a thought, what can you do? Of course the very first thing to change is to shop mindfully, it’s vital that we don’t just buy for the sake of it, or buy too much. But that’s another blog post… I’m going to explain what you can do right now to get rid of your clutter, in a more sustainable way!

First up, donating your belongings

If you no longer have a use for something, it’s very likely that someone else will!

There are so many ways to donate now, you just have to do a little bit of research. Of course we all know about charity shops and often they are the first port of call. It’s a lovely feeling knowing that you’re helping a good cause whilst making much needed space at home.

If you have anything of higher value that you’d like to give to a good cause; The British Heart Foundation has a free postal service, so all you need to do is pack up and send! Plus, if you have any furniture or electrical items, you can book a free collection which is just fantastic. If you have a lot of things to donate in bags and boxes, they will collect these at the same time.

Please make sure you check what you’re sending off to them though, things need to be in a sellable condition! Having said this, they will often take more that you’d think depending on the individual shop.

Here is a list of charities with shops in the UK. This list by noway covers them all, but type in “Charity shop near me” on Google Maps and you’ll find one.

  • Cancer Research – Funding scientists, doctors and nurses to beat cancer sooner

    Mind UK – Providing advice and support to anyone suffering with their mental health

    Helen & Douglas House – Hospice for terminally ill children

    British Heart Foundation – Cardiovascular research charity – (Offers collection)

    British Red Cross – Helping people in crisis and emergency support

    Oxfam – Working to end the injustice of poverty

    Salvation Army – Working with people who have fallen on hard times, food and shelter for the homeless

    Age UK – Providing care, companionship for later life

    Sue Ryder – Provides palliative, neurological and bereavement support – (Offers collection)

    RSPCA – Leading animal welfare charity

Other donation options:

Refashion

A fantastic way to recycle clothes that no longer bring you joy. Re-fashion claims that the items sold on their website gain the charity 3x more than they could earn from a charity shop. They are partnered with Labour Behind the Label, the UK branch of the Clean Clothes campaign, who work to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry.

They accept high-street fashion and designer clothes in good condition, but struggle to sell clothes from ultra fast-fashion brands like Primark or supermarkets.

Smartworks Charity

Empowering women to secure employment and reach their full potential, by dressing and coaching. They are always in need of good quality workwear, coats, smart shoes, handbags and accessories.

Pens for Kids UK

Do you have an abundance of pens, pencils and unused stationary in working order that you no longer want? If so, don’t put them in the bin. Send them to the address below where they will be donated to children around the world who desperately need them. Pens for Kids UK are a family-run, not-for-profit organisation who have been running, (I believe) since 2010 and have sent over 1 million pens and pencils to-date.

Pens For Kids UK

PO Box 864

Orpington

BR6 1JQ

Food banks and homeless shelters & apps

If you have any in-date, non-perishable food items that you know you’re not going to eat in time, please donate them to your local food bank or homeless shelter. Along with any un-opened toiletries, feminine hygiene products, nappies, blankets etc. Often supermarkets have a bank to leave donations.

Also, check out Olio, a free app where you can quickly upload an item. Let’s say you have too much bread that you won’t eat in time. It doesn’t matter that it’s open, someone near you might want it. Loose, raw, cooked, opened, unopened. Here is a list, but generally speaking as long as it’s edible, it can go on there. Plus, it’s not just food!

Toys 4 Life

If you’re based in the Midlands you can take any unwanted toys to a drop off point, otherwise you can use their free post service. Toys 4 Life are a family run business who re-use and recycle unwanted plastic toys. They work with plastic recycling to reduce the quantity of toys going into landfill, as well as sending toys to socially deprived areas where people cannot afford to buy toys.

Next up, selling your items

Providing you have the time and patience to photograph, write a description and upload, selling your unwanted belongings is a great way to turn your decluttering efforts into hard-earned pennies! Just be sure to take the photographs in good, preferably natural light, especially if you’re trying to sell clothes.

I’m not going to talk in too much depth about selling clothes here, as I’ve previously written in a lot of detail in this post – Sell your unwanted clothes, 5 ways to make cash!

But in brief, for clothing and accessories – Depop / Vestiaire Collective / Vinted

For almost everything, Facebook Marketplace is great and the best bit, NO FEES. Hurrah! Plus, if you’ve got things that you want out of your house ASAP, especially if you’re willing to let go for free, the chances are someone will pick it up the same day. Just beware, you may get an influx of messages.

Ebay is a household name, I’ve yet to find anyone who doesn’t know about it. You can pretty much sell anything on Ebay.

Auction Houses in general, are perfect for more valuable items, such as antique or vintage furniture, paintings, family heirlooms and so on. They all differ, some are fussier than others. Some may visit your home to see if they can take on the items, others you’ll just be able to drop them straight in. If you have something specialised, make sure you do your research first! You’ll need the auction house to be the right fit. Plus they’ll take a commission.

Carboot Sales. Granted, not an all-year-round option and not everyone enjoys stuff like this, but if your game it can be a fun and great for people watching! (In the summer). The downside of this? You will need somewhere to store your clutter until you have a free weekend day to do this – not a good choice if you’re in a rush or have limited space.

Don’t have time to sell? Never fear… a newer concept and something I’ve recently found, as mentioned in my previous blog post. reThread is a site claiming zero-hassle for selling your clothes! In short, they do everything for you, all you have to do is post the items. This is a brilliant option for time-poor individuals. Just bare in mind that they take a commission for their work, which is understandable, but you’ll still see some profits and far better than cluttering up your wardrobe!

If you have CD’s, DVD’s, computer games, other tech or mobile phones in good condition, they can be sent to Music Magpie, Ziffit also accept books and Zapper even accept LEGO!

A super sustainable option, reusing and repurposing

Now before I start, this of course isn’t going to apply to everything, but it’s a great one.

Old shoe boxes destined for recycling? Save money, use shoe boxes as drawer dividers! You don’t have to have expensive Home Edit style containers for an organised home. They can house socks, knickers, bras, make-up etc. You can even use them in your food cupboards or pantry to store rice packets and herbs!

Empty make-up or beauty pots? See below how to gain rewards for recycling them. Alternatively, if it’s a nice-looking pot, you could use it to keep things like hair grips!

Any empty plastic containers you find, before you recycle them, could you use them in the garden or greenhouse? I often keep fruit trays to use as seedling planters! Monty Don would be impressed I’m sure…

Lastly, recycling your items

There are so many ways to recycle nowadays, it still needs A LOT of work, but we can all do a little bit more to help the environment.

Of course every county is different, thankfully here in South Oxfordshire I can recycle quite a lot from home, but when I lived in Reading we couldn’t even put glass in the recycling, which still utterly baffles me!

To help you out on your recycling quest, I’ve linked a fantastic website Recycle Now that has an extensive list of “what to do with” which you can use as a resource if you’re not sure how to recycle or dispose of something.

Don’t forget to recycle plastic bags at your local supermarket if you can. Not all branches offer this, but Co-Op, Tesco and Sainsburys have soft-plastic banks.

One more thing, don’t forget to remove the tape and labels from cardboard before recycling and rinse things out. If you don’t, all the recycling will be contaminated and may have to go to landfill!

Recycling clothes or textiles?

H&M have a great recycling program, whereby you can take any unwanted clothes or textiles, by any brand, in any condition to a cash desk in one of their (289 approx) UK stores. In exchange they’ll give you a voucher to use. It’s a great guilt-free way to get shot of clothes and textiles, especially as they accept any condition. The bad stuff gets shredded into textile fibres for insulation materials, how cool is that!?

What about make-up and beauty products?

Many brands offer a service by which you can take in or send back empties and they’ll offer you money-off, points, or a free product in exchange. John Lewis, MAC Cosmetics, AVEDA, Kiehls, Lush, Garnier, Origins, L’Occitane, Boots and many more.

Thousands of brands work with Terracycle most have drop-off locations, some even have postal recycling, which is amazing. The envelopes are prepaid too! You can now recycle things like razors by sending them off for free. Click the Terracyle link to see what you can recycle locally that may otherwise end up in landfill, such as crips packets, contact lenses, water filters, tooth brushes and paste tubes.

So you’ve done all that, but still have some things left over…

Unfortunately not everything can be reused, recycled, sold or donated and these sadly have to go to landfill, as much as it pains me to say.

Here are some common things found during decluttering that falls into this yucky category:

  • VHS tapes & Cassette (very rarely accepted at recycling centres or charity shops)

    Wrapping paper with glitter and metallic bits

    Rubber gloves

    Elastic bands

    Six pack ring holders from drinks cans (please ALWAYS cut these up, sea life can get stuck in them)

    Standard sponges

    Ceramics

    Broken pens and pencils

    Wood

    Plastic bags, wrappers, films (some can be recycled at local supermarkets through Terracycle)

    Plastic items mixed with metal, rubber or foam (e.g hangers, but any in good condition do try taking to a charity shop, they might be running low)

    Glass mirrors

    Incandescant light bulbs

    Sticky tape

    Some plastic toys and games

    Used disposable face masks!

    Some textiles

     

This list is not exhaustive and there are many other items that don’t come up very often during decluttering. Also, some of these listed CAN be recycled, through Terracycle and other schemes, but not in household recycling bins.

Stay tuned for a new blog post coming soon with eco alternatives for products destined for landfill. Sign up to email alerts or follow me over on Instagram or Facebook to keep up-to-date.

Big jobs that require extra help.

Sometimes there are no two ways about it and house clearance or a skip is required.

Alternatives to skips are Hippo Bags, these can be cheaper, but are often a lot easier to manage. For a start you can pick a bag up from most DIY stores, so you can get started straight away, without needing to wait for a skip to be delivered. The smallest bag costs £156.99 including the collection when it’s full, the largest is £277.99.

For rubbish removal and house clearance, Just Clear are a nationwide company and prices start from £70+VAT.

I really hope you found this helpful! If you’ve got anything to add, or if you’ve learned something new, do let me know in the comments below. If you liked it, please share it with your friends :)

*NB To be clear, I’m not an expert or specialist in recycling and refuse, all companies, charities and figure sources are linked. Like most of us, I’m learning how to be more sustainable, implementing small changes as often as I can. Progress, not perfection.

Have a lovely weekend.

Amy x