December 22, 2021
Planning a big summer clean-up over the break? While holidays are the time we are meant to relax and unwind, it is also the only free time most of us get to clear out our homes of old, unused and broken things. Some of us prefer a big clean at the end of the year as a symbolic way to bid farewell to the year behind us and give a fresh start to the next one.
Whatever your reason, here are five tips to help you do a clean-up that is good for you and the environment. Instead of chucking unwanted things in garbage bags and straight into your waste bins (aka landfills), we can get rid of things in more responsible ways that help us feel good by doing something good for the planet while decluttering our homes.
As basic as this tip sounds, trust us, it really helps. This will help you plan your time and the areas in your home that you'd like to clean. But the best bit is it gives you an idea of the materials you will encounter, so you can find out how to tackle the tricky ones and plan ahead.
For example, if you are cleaning out your wardrobe, you can find ways to recycle worn or damaged clothing that aren’t in good enough condition to donate or sell on Recycling Near You. If you are cleaning your garage or storage cupboard and have a mix of tricky items like electronics and motor oil, making a list will help you responsibly dispose of them. A great place to start is the materials page on Recycling Near You – a directory of items and recycling options in your area.
To use your time efficiently and make sorting of items (or materials) easy, we recommend splitting a big clean into small parts and tackling similar items at the same time, so it's faster and simpler for you clean. For example, you could clean out all your wardrobes and linen closets together. While cleaning, sort items into piles to help you with the disposal process later. We suggest having three piles – new/unused items, used items that are in good condition, and broken/unusable items.
Cleaning products that don’t contain harsh chemicals are much better for the environment. It’s easy to make your own using basic household kitchen supplies. White vinegar, baking soda, salt, lemon and lime can all be used to make quick and natural cleaning sprays. Simply google how to make cleaning products at home and you will find plenty of recipes. While you’re at it, why not skip on paper towels and wipes and use homemade rags instead? Those really old unusable clothes make great cleaning rags! Give it a try and make your cleaning process greener.
Once your clean-up is over and all items are nicely sorted in three piles, we suggest you address the tricky pile first: the broken/unusable items. In a typical household, this could be a mix of various things including damaged clothes and shoes, electronic items, furniture, toys, utensils, and more. But one key thing to remember is – you can recycle more than you think.
Here are some free recycling options for the most common household items:
Clothes that aren’t in good enough condition to donate, sell or trade can be recycled at H&M and Zara outlets (check out the retailers' websites or the clothing page on Recycling Near You for more details).
Old quilts, towels and bed linen can be dropped off at a Sheridan outlet.
Old or broken mobile phones can be recycled through MobileMuster, either by mail or dropping them off (they have 3,500 drop-off locations around the country!).
Old or broken TVs and computers can be recycled through the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme.
Some stationery items like pens can be dropped off at Officeworks stores.
For any remaining items, visit the materials page on Recycling Near You to find a recycler in your area or visit your council’s website.
As for the easy piles (new and pre-loved items) we suggest the following:
Swap – Call your friends and family over (or meet them outdoors, whichever is safer given the ongoing pandemic) and have a swap party! This is a great way to keep things in use and keep them from being dumped in landfills.
Garage Sale – If you’re a thrifty one or don't mind the hassle of making extra cash, this is an excellent option for you. Get to know your neighbours while you do a good thing for the planet. If this sounds like you, you should also check out the Garage Sale Trail.
Online Marketplace – Another great option is to sell your items online. It's a simple way to earn some extra cash. Gumtree is a great option as it offers a wide variety of categories, which means you can sell almost all household items.
Why is responsible buying a tip in a cleaning article, you might ask? Well, most of us are tempted to buy new things after giving away old ones. It's become human nature to buy nice new things to fill the spaces we cleared up. Hence, this tip.
If and when you feel the need to buy new stuff, we would love for you to keep a few things in mind. To begin with, ask yourself if you need the item you want to buy. If yes, consider buying a pre-loved item or swapping. Reducing how many new things you purchase is the best way to go.
If you are buying an item that has to be new (like underwear!!!), we say shop around. Look for brands that have sustainable practices in place. Even better if they are produced locally. How you shop makes a difference, so do it consciously. Good On You has a helpful rating system for clothing, so you see how green your favourite brand is.
We hope these tips help you do a more sustainable clean of your home.
Neha brings over a decade of experience in marketing communications and describes herself as a "one-woman band", having worked across all PR, Corporate Communications and Marcom functions. As a Master of Sustainability candidate at the University of Sydney, she did her academic research project at Planet Ark on the topic - Applying the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Organisational Planning & Strategy. She is passionate about combining the two disciples - communications and sustainability and climate science. She loves food, travelling and books.