Incorporate these sustainable storage ideas into your home to prevent paper pileups and reduce waste.
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Getting organized can both boost productivity and create a soothing environment. When we live with less and have systems for our stuff, complete with labels, daily tasks become easier and more efficient. Plus, an organized space simply feels calming, which is something we can all benefit from after spending more time at home.

However, decluttering can do more harm than good for the environment if not done carefully. Recyclable items often end up in landfills and plastic containers contribute to the ever-growing global warming crisis. The good news is that now more than ever it's possible to practice eco-friendly organization while also reducing waste.

If sustainable home organizing is important to you, take comfort in knowing that it's relatively easy to achieve. With a little forethought, you can conveniently organize your home while simultaneously doing your part to preserve the environment.

glass food storage containers
Credit: Michael Partenio

1. Declutter intentionally.

The first step in the organizing process is to let go of the stuff you no longer need or want. Items such as clothing, small kitchen appliances, books, or even furniture can be donated if still in good condition. However, find out which items your local charities or donation centers are able to accept before dropping them off or scheduling a pickup. An alternative option is to give things away to family members, friends, or neighbors, or plan a garage sale to give back to your community. 

2. Research your recycling options.

Some of your things won't be able to be donated but can be recycled rather than tossed. Visit Earth911 to learn how to correctly recycle anything from lightbulbs to old cleaning products. The site also lets you know exactly where to drop the items locally.

3. Choose sustainable organization products.

When it comes to purchasing bins and baskets to organize the things you want to keep, look for ones made of recycled or renewable materials. More and more, companies are choosing to create products using elements such as bamboo, cotton, and water hyacinth.

"A key feature of sustainable products is that they are built to last," says Kerry Keihn of Earth Equity Advisors. "That benefits the environment by cutting down on waste and materials needed to produce replaceable products, but it also makes things more efficient for consumers."

Sustainable organizing products are often higher quality and more durable than those made from thin plastic. Therefore, they don't need to be replaced as often, saving you time and money in the long run, as well as reducing waste.

However, you'll want to make sure the supplies are certified. "Just because a certification uses the word 'green' or 'sustainable', it does not necessarily mean the product or company is as eco-friendly as you might hope. Research the certification to be sure the product aligns with your values," says Keihn.

4. Repurpose items you own.

Rather than buying new containers to sort your closets, drawers, or desk, reuse items you already own. Shoe and jewelry boxes make for sturdy organizers inside dresser drawers and glass jars can hold pens, dry pantry goods, or makeup brushes. Be creative and think outside the box for genius storage solutions that don't require a trip to the store or a blow to your budget.

5. Be intentional when shopping.

Once you've decluttered, have a clear idea of what you actually want to bring into your home. Impulse buying not only causes clutter but can also hurt the environment. Just think of the excess packaging that comes with products you buy, especially those ordered online.

If you shop in bulk, consider decanting items so you know exactly what you have at any given time. This not only makes finding things when you need them incredibly easy but it also prevents you from overbuying and wasting goods that might expire over time, such as food and medicine. Consider using airtight glass jars with bamboo lids to store oats, pasta, or rice in the pantry, and mark the expiration date or cooking instructions using a dry erase marker. This allows you to clearly see how much you have before blindly buying more.

6. Go paperless.

Plastic isn't the only material to look out for when it comes to environmental concerns. Paper can create clutter in your home and contribute to deforestation. While recycling helps to save trees, energy, and water, it's an even better option to intake less of it overall. There are several options for removing yourself from junk mail lists and many companies offer paperless billing and correspondence. Consider setting up an email account specifically for receipts to organize them at tax time and prevent paper pileups on countertops or in your bag.

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