The Green Guide to Downsizing
How to Modify Your Home for More Eco-Conscious Living
Most people have heard about eco-conscious living, but did you know that downsizing can play an important role? Whether you’re moving into a smaller space or simply looking to declutter your current home, downsizing has all kinds of green benefits. Best of all, it doesn’t have to be the overwhelming task it may seem to be on the surface — and we’re here to help!
This guide will discuss the ways downsizing can lead to greener living, and it will help you form a plan to get the job done effectively. We’ll identify the major opportunities for decluttering and provide tips on how to keep things to a minimum from this point on. No more overstuffed closets, no more heat-absorbing clutter racking up your energy bill. Let’s get started!
The Green Benefits of Downsizing
When you think about air circulation in your home, the mind tends to focus on aspects like ceiling fans and breezy windows. What often gets overlooked is how your stuff comes into play: the more items you have in a room, the more objects that can block circulation. Additionally, those items will constantly absorb heat and make your home more difficult to cool in the summer. Come winter, you may even discover that you have to blast the heat to warm yourself because your household items are zapping up much of your warm air.
Keep in mind that downsizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything you own, but simply prioritizing what you actually need on-hand at all times. You’re bound to have all kinds of items that you only need certain times of the year (like your holiday decorations), and others almost never (like the bed set that your oldest child has outgrown, but your youngest isn’t ready for yet). Instead of making seemingly endless trips back and forth between your home and storage unit — which isn’t just bad for the environment, it’s also a time-consuming hassle — opt for a delivery service that can do all the heavy lifting for you. Professionals will bring a large truck to pick up all of your items, and then transport them to a storage unit in a single trip. They’ll know how to maximize the space in the unit to ensure you get the most bang for your buck, and can bring back whichever boxes or items you need when the time comes.
Using a delivery option for your storage needs will also help you be more effective in your decluttering process, and in turn, even more eco-conscious. Since you won’t be dreading making the trip (or multiple trips) to a storage unit yourself, you can devote more time and energy to collecting the items you want to send to it. You won’t have to worry about limited space in your car, so you’ll be able to pack up everything you’re ready to put away. As you repeat this storage process over the years, you’ll keep yourself in the efficient habit of doing things all at once — gathering everything headed for storage, ordering a single pick up, and then enjoying your clutter-free home.
Taking Action: Implementing Eco-Conscious Changes
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Your in-home storage is the most logical place to start for your decluttering. It’s easy to have an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude about closets, the garage, and the attic, but in the end, you’re actually limiting both the living space and storage capacity of your home. By clearing these areas of the things you don’t need most of the time, you’ll make more room for the items you need regularly but don’t necessarily want to keep out in the open. That means more efficient heating and cooling, less clutter around the house, and no anxiety over a cascade of items falling to the floor each time you open a closet door.
Start by removing as many large items as you can:
- Spare furniture
- Appliances (such as old microwaves, air conditioner units, or mini refrigerators)
- Sealed boxes
Take the opportunity to recycle whatever you know you don’t need. If you have two of something, keep the newest or most functional. Anything you haven’t used in the past year or two can at the very least go to storage, but might be better off donated; there are likely plenty of families in your area who can make better use of it, and you might even be able to make a few dollars by selling it. Each item you recycle in this way is one fewer that needs to be manufactured and shipped, and while that may seem like a small environmental impact, it’s nevertheless a positive and important one. Plus, you’ll be helping families in your community save money and reduce their own carbon footprint at the same time.
When it comes to the garage, be assertive about reclaiming the space. Downsize your tool collection by eliminating spare pieces of equipment, and keep handy only what you use on a consistent basis. If you haven’t used your table saw since your home remodel three years ago, for instance, it’s probably worth sending to storage and freeing up the floor space. Be strategic with storing the items you keep around — get creative and maximize your space. Not only can you create better air circulation in one of the areas where it’s most important, but you’ll stay organized and be better prepared to tackle your DIY projects.
Once your designated home storage areas are cleared of unnecessary items, look for ways to eliminate clutter around the house. Simplify your shelves: keep your favorite framed photos, but go through your dozens of books to see what you can donate. If you’re no longer in love with any of the knickknacks that line the surfaces, allow yourself to part with them. You can hold onto a few of your favorite, and then see if friends or family want to take any of the rest. If there are items your décor has outgrown but are too sentimental to give up completely, package them with care and set them aside to go to storage. Remember that on top of making a significant green impact on your home, decluttering can actually alleviate stress, so you shouldn’t feel bad it.
Depending on your family’s home and lifestyle, certain spaces will provide the most opportunity for decluttering:
- Living room and common areas
- Kids’ bedrooms
- Kids’ playrooms
- Home offices
Common areas like the living room tend to accumulate objects from daily life, and often, it’s simply easier to leave things loose than find a home for them. But with your newly-freed closet space, there’s no reason to keep out anything you don’t need to. In fact, you can even store large furniture like bookshelves and chests in closets to create a more open space with better circulation while still keeping your items accessible — or completely convert the space into something more functional but out of the way. Utilize any drawers and chests to store remotes, coasters, and books you’re in the process of reading. The less “stuff” you have lying around, the better.
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It’s much easier said than done to eliminate clutter from children’s bedrooms and play areas, but you can still find ways to keep the chaos to a dull roar. Use toy chests, bins, and drawers for organized storage (in closets whenever possible), and make “clean-up time” a game for your kids to incentivize them to keep the area tidy. Sort through their items at least a couple times a year to clear out the toys and books they no longer want or need, and try to eliminate your emotions in the process. It’s OK to keep the items that are truly sentimental — baby’s first blanket, his or her favorite stuffed monkey, his or her christening outfit — but don’t get caught up in keeping absolutely everything. Years down the line, you’ll wonder why you kept all the potty training books you ever bought if you knew you were done having kids; keep what you can’t bear to part with, store anything you might realistically need, and donate the rest to a good cause.
Your home office is another area where circulation and proper heating and cooling is essential — no one can concentrate well in a messy, stifling space. Start by going through any of your “junk” or “miscellaneous document” drawers and get serious about shredding anything you truly don’t need. From composting to package cushioning, there are all kinds of green, practical ways to reuse the shredded paper. For documents you can’t afford to get rid of, consider scanning them into your computer for a permanent, easily-accessible digital copy, and then sending the rest to storage. For tax-related documents, keep hard copies from the last five years on-hand in addition to your digital scans; if you do end up needing to refer to that information, you’ll save yourself from having to print additional copies. Any hard copies older than five years can go to storage, ideally in a secure filing cabinet. (Just remember to lock the drawers before it’s taken away, and keep the key somewhere secure at home.)
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Next, get your desk under control. Donate any unused supplies to local schools, community centers, or youth outreach programs, and recycle anything that’s too old or worn for others to make use of. Be as critical as possible so you can really be effective — if you never use that three-hole punch now that your company is all digital, donate it. If the kids (or grandkids) are always eyeballing your highlighters and you hardly ever use them, put them aside for playtime. Re-home anything you can, but be wary of simply re-locating clutter.
No home office is complete without some personal touches, so feel free to keep any décor or photos that make it feel like yours, but eliminate any excess that you can. Perhaps you have a colleague or adult child who would appreciate your old college textbooks, or your young kids would enjoy playing with your old binders and presentations. Sit at your desk periodically to get a feel for what it will be like to work in your space as you declutter; as your items begin to lessen, you’ll quickly recognize which things you value having around and which you can do without.
Decluttering your home is a great way to be more eco-conscious in your everyday life, and once you’ve started, it becomes easier and easier. Some people may even discover that they’re ready to downsize into a smaller home and take their green living to a brand new level. Whatever your situation, let this guide lead the way to less clutter and better home efficiency.