- Choose where to start: This seems obvious, but sometimes it can be really hard to figure out what area of your home to tackle first. If it helps, create a list of all the areas you want to tackle in order of importance. Lets say your bedroom is the messiest: Start with that room, then work your way to the least messy room/area. I find tackling the hardest spots first makes the rest feel so much easier.
- Create piles using bins or bags: While you clean, you’re bound to notice things you no longer want or need. Especially in your bedroom. Do yourself a favor and place a bag or a bin in every area of your home you intend on cleaning out. When you find something you want to donate, recycle, or re-gift (yes, it’s okay to do that), place it in the bin/bag. By the time my mom and I went through my room, I had four big bags filled with clothes and old toys ready to be donated!
The top portion of my desk after being cleaned. I still have a lot of stuff on it, but I’m okay with that right now. It’s stuff I use and love, so it adds value to my life.
- Use DIY cleaners and reusable cloths/rags: When you’re ready to start actually cleaning, don’t settle for toxin-laden cleaning products and paper towels. Instead, reach for natural cleaners and cloth wipes/rags to get the job done. Personally, I love using my DIY orange peel vinegar on practically everything. I used it to clean so much of my room, it’s not even funny: My desk, my TV screen, my TV stand, you name it. I just sprayed a little bit on the surface, wiped it down with a cloth rag and tada! Totally clean, dust free and no waste was made. As far as cloth rags go, you can go out and buy cloth rags or make your own from old cotton shirts (just cut them up). We use a mix of both in my house. For cleaning floors, I just use a broom and a swifter. I wrap the swifter with a big rag and fill it with castile soap mixed with water to get the job done. Pro tip: Make sure you start with a clean slate before dusting and remove all items off a surface. This makes it a lot easier, plus it allows you to go through all the items when you’re done dusting. If you don’t like or need an item anymore, you don’t have to put it back on the surface you just dusted. Just put it in the donate/recycle pile you created earlier.
- Keep items that give your life value: While going through your things, ask yourself if an item gives value to your life. Really meditate on it. Will you use it over the course of the year? Does it make you happy? If the answer is yes, keep it. If not, let go and send it off to be recycled or donated. On another note, you never know what you’ll find while cleaning your home. You could stumble across something you need but didn’t know you had. For example, my headphones recently broke and I was debating replacing them with a more sustainable headphone brand. However, while cleaning my room I found a spare set of headphones! It saved me a buck and saves new resources from being wasted. These are the items you should always keep and use until the end of their life. Also, for the record, I intend on giving my old, broken headphones to Best Buy – they accept electronics and wires in any state and recycle the parts. Just throwing that out there!
My favorite zero waste cleaner: Orange peel vinegar! It’s so easy to make, cheap and gets the job done. I use it on literally everything from cleaning my desk to wiping down my TV screen.
Donate or recycle everything you no longer need: When the area you wanted to clean is spotless, it’s time to reflect on everything you put in your bins/bags. Which items are recyclable and which are you going to donate? Depending on where you live, and the materials of the item you’re looking to get rid of, you might be able to recycle it. If you live in NYC like me, here’s what you can’t and cannot recycle. While gutting out my closet, I found old schoolbags filled with notebooks and binders. I recycled all the paper notes I found, including paper (not plastic coated) folders, etc. I also found perfectly good, untouched office/school supplies I plan on donating when the time is right. As far as donating goes, always donate old clothes, toys, books and jewelry you no longer want. There are several places that will be more than happy to take them off your hands, such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and local thrift stores (just google your state and ‘thrift store’ – you might be amazed at what you find). Sometimes churches and local charities will take donations too, though they tend to prefer money donations (you can always call and ask if they’ll take items too, of course). If you can’t find an actual store, church or charity near you that accepts donations, try to find a donation bin you can utilize. If all else fails, you can schedule a donation pick up right from the comfort of your home with Pickup Please. It’s completely free and you can schedule it right from your computer or phone. They will accept everything and anything from clothes to toys to small furniture. It’s even tax deductible! Super convenient and totally zero waste friendly. Also, as a side note, your community might host Stop N’ Swap events where you can bring your donations in for free, and pick up a few items for free. NYC hosts these all the time, so I definitely recommend looking into them. As a last resort, look into selling your items (or posting it for free) on Craigstlist or Freecycle!
- Repair and re-purpose your items: After cleaning out my closet, I noticed a whole bunch of clothes that need to be repaired. I recommend making a noted list of all the items that have tears, holes, broken buttons, etc. If you’re good with a needle, you can try to repair them yourself. If not, perhaps find a local tailor who will get the job done for you. Also, if you find an abundance of items that you don’t want to recycle or donate, but don’t use, consider re-purposing them. For example, lets say you have a bunch of beauty products you no longer use (e.i. face masks, facial scrubs, body scrubs, etc.), but don’t want to waste them. If they’re relatively new, and in decent condition, consider gifting them to your friends. If they’re nearly empty, or completely empty, consider saving the packaging and reusing it for some fun DIYs (like my DIY lip balm – I used an old eye shadow container to store it). The same goes for hair products: I found a whole bag of hair products like headbands and scrunchies I no longer wear. Gift them to your friends and family, or use them in crafts. Get creative and think outside the box: Just don’t throw things in the trash!
Over the course of the winter, I must admit I barely clean my room. Dust piles up, items sneak their way onto my desk and my closet looks like a tornado hit it. But come spring? The weather is gorgeous, the sun is shining, and I’m ready to detox everything negative from my life. That’s how I know it’s time for some zero waste spring cleaning! Just the other day, I tackled my room: I practically gutted my closet, dusted every nook and cranny and donated a bunch of items I no longer find useful. It’s amazing how many items you keep and hold onto over the weeks, months and years. I often have trouble letting go of my items, but sometimes, you just have to. I always make sure everything gets a second chance at life though: I never just throw things away. Donating old toys from 10+ years ago, clothes I barely wear, and books I don’t read are all part of the zero waste way. It’s honestly freeing to let them go, and it’s good to know they won’t go to waste! If you’re thinking about spring cleaning your room (or entire house), here are six zero waste spring cleaning tips I have to offer you.
Zero waste spring cleaning tips
Bonus tip: Dryer lint, floor sweepings and vacuum dirt can all be composted! Don’t send them to a landfill, just add them to your compost pail. If there’s not enough room in your compost pail, grab a big bucket or big mason jar and store all the lint, floor sweepings and vacuum dirt in there until you can add it to your compost.
Do you have any zero waste spring cleaning tips? I’d love to hear them!