Few things beat the calm feeling that follows a good clear out. But now that we're more aware of the impact our collective excessive consumption has had on the environment, it's important to know how to declutter in the most sustainable way possible.
Marie Kondo's hit Netflix show encouraged millions globally to reassess their wardrobes, declutter kitchen cupboards, and streamline beauty bags, bidding farewell to items that failed to "spark joy". And that in itself isn't a bad thing—but the great clearout era left many charities inundated with often unusable items.
So, what’s the best way to have a conscious clearout? Can you cut down to a capsule wardrobe without generating excess waste? With a little extra effort, the answer is a resounding yes. We spoke to several fashion and beauty experts who gave us tips on how to declutter more responsibly, so you can start the new season with a clear mind (and home).
Meet the experts on how to declutter your bedroom
- Dr Gracie McLaven (opens in new tab) is a clinical psychologist and Founder of Brain · Body · Wealth (opens in new tab) who advised My Imperfect Life on how clutter can affect your mental health.
- Lauren Cunningham (opens in new tab) is a celebrity stylist who has worked on magazine shoots, brand campaigns, and awards ceremonies. She shared tips on de-cluttering your closet.
- Ellis Ranson (opens in new tab) is a celebrity stylist who also gave insight into streamlining your closet.
- Emma Harrod is a professional organizer and founder of EH Lifestyling (opens in new tab), who has shared her expertise in de-cluttering.
- Chloe Wise is a beauty PR professional and shares skin tips and her experience with acne at @skin.ting (opens in new tab), advising My Imperfect Life readers on keeping on top of beauty products.
- Stephanie Harrison (opens in new tab) is an author and self-empowerment coach and shared some of the positive mental benefits of finding the right home for your unwanted items.
How to declutter your bedroom—MIL’s step-by-step guide
First things first, before you start decluttering make sure you’re in the right headspace to do so. If you’re struggling to let go, think about the bigger picture, reframe the process in your mind and focus on what you’re gaining from letting go of the clutter and finding it a new home.
“Clutter can cause sensory overload, resulting in us feeling overwhelmed and irritable,” says Dr. Gracie McLaven, clinical psychologist and founder of Brain · Body · Wealth. “By decluttering, we can gain a sense of empowerment, and feel calmer, happier, and in control.” Below are the key steps our experts have shared to help you declutter your fashion and beauty buys at home.
How to get rid of clothes sustainably
1. Take stock
First have a wardrobe clearout. Your closet is a great place to start when it comes to de-cluttering, but it's important to remember that the most sustainable fashion items are the ones you already own. Celebrity stylist Ellis Ranson notes: "fashion changes quickly so I ensure my clients have a strong staple wardrobe to help them transition through the seasons without ever feeling overwhelmed."
Look at everything you have as you go through, piece by piece. Instead of immediately purging, reconsider pieces and see if mixing up how you style them breathes in a new lease of life. Focus your attention on items in season at the time as they’ll be fresh in your mind and it’ll make it easier to find a home for any castoffs.
These tips aren’t limited to your closet clear out, the same principles apply to everything from your bookshelves to your spice rack (although, sadly, the resale market for second-hand oregano isn’t as lucrative as it is for fashion). By really looking at and reviewing what you’re using and what you’re neglecting, you can refine your life and remove the unwanted clutter.
2. Work out how regularly you wear each item in your closet
It's important to be honest with yourself, but it's easy to convince yourself that you wear some items more often than you actually do.
Turn all of the hooks on your hangers to face the same direction on the rail. Once you’ve worn a piece of clothing, turn its hanger in the opposite direction so you can keep track of what you’ve worn and what you’ve neglected—and work out which items could be sold or go to a new home. By noting what you wear regularly and what you perhaps don’t need, you’ll also be able to make smarter shopping decisions in the future for more sustainable living.
3. Create a system
Having a system not only helps you keep on top of your items, it also helps you to be more sustainable in the future. Professional organizer Emma Harrod is a firm believer in color coding: "creating blocks of color in your closet is both pleasing to the eye and functional. It’s important to organize space accordingly so you can find any item easily when you want it. This also helps to coordinate your outfits—and realize you don’t need yet another white T-shirt!”
Emma also recommends reassessing your storage and grouping together "types" of clothing. "Then, within each of these groups, initiate your color block. You will be able to clearly see the entire contents of your closet and gain a new perspective on how to style something, which in turn will help you fight off the urge for another unnecessary shopping spree.”
4. Ensure donated clothes are going to the right place
As mentioned, ensuring your clothes are going to the right place depending on the condition they're in is super important so that they don't put unnecessary pressure on local services. For culled items, the best way to ensure unwanted clothes don’t end up in landfill is to sell them, give them to a loved one, participate in a clothing swap, or donate to a charity—but for this last option, check in to see what the charity needs so as not to add to an excess, and make sure the items are in good enough condition to be resold or worn by someone else.
Upcycling is another option, as your unwanted items could still benefit you; old band tees could become a patchwork quilt, ill-fitting jeans could become denim shorts, and old sweatshirts and socks can be cut and used as dishcloths.
Very worn items still serve a purpose, as some clothing banks and charities have partnered with recyclers to repurpose fabrics, which helps to prevent anything from going to waste. Taking responsibility and ensuring your unwanted items find a good home will give you a wholesome boost—we've listed some of the best places to recycle your clothes in both the US and UK below.
🇺🇸Where to get rid of clothes in the US
- American Textile Recycling Service (opens in new tab): all donations are tax deductible
- Blue Jeans Go Green (opens in new tab): donate your denim
- Earth911 (opens in new tab): enter your zip code to find out more about the services in your area
- Goodwill (opens in new tab): the revenue generated from new and lightly-used items provides employment training and job placement services in your local community
- RecycleNow (opens in new tab): search your zip code for local services
- Salvation Army (opens in new tab): schedule a free pick-up
- Simple Recycling (opens in new tab): also offers free home pick-ups for clothing and shoes
🇬🇧Where to get rid of clothes in the UK
- By Rotation (opens in new tab): enables you to rent out designer items
- Collect My Clothes (opens in new tab): contactless collection, nationwide
- Depop (opens in new tab): another easy site to turn your clothes into cash
- eBay (opens in new tab): sell your unwanted clothes online
- HURR (opens in new tab): another designer rental service, though renters can make an offer to buy some items
- RecycleNow (opens in new tab): search your postcode code for local services
- Traid (opens in new tab): turns waste clothes into resources
- Terracycle (opens in new tab): recycle all your beauty packaging
- Vinted (opens in new tab): unlike the above two, doesn't take a percentage of your sales
- YourClothes (opens in new tab): swap, share, donate
How to get rid of underwear
Underwear is trickier to rehome or recycle because people don't tend to buy these items secondhand, while additional features like underwiring found in bras make them more complex than straight-up fabric recycling. However, you can donate bras that are in good condition and certain services are in particular need of these items. Below are some need-to-know underwear recycling services available in both America and the UK.
🇺🇸Where to get rid of underwear in the US
- Donate your bra (opens in new tab): Support women globally
- Free the Girls (opens in new tab): Empowering women who’ve overcome sex trafficking into bra-selling buisnesses
- I support the Girls (opens in new tab): Donations can be mailed
- The Bra Recyclers (opens in new tab): Partnered with 100 non-profits globally
🇬🇧Where to get rid of underwear in the UK
- Fabscrap (opens in new tab): a one-stop textile reuse and recycling resource
- I collect clothes (opens in new tab): support charities with your unwanted clothing
- Smalls for All (opens in new tab): Global underwear recycling
- Traid (opens in new tab): Textile collection charity
How to get rid of beauty products sustainably
Tackling your make-up bag and any beauty drawers also doesn't have to mean generating huge amounts of waste. "There’s no need to feel guilty and there are plenty of ways to do this sustainably," shares content creator and founder of SkinTing, Chloe Wise. "First, be honest about what does and doesn’t work for you in terms of products. This will help you avoid holding on to products that will expire before you use them."
1. Take note of expiry dates
Expiration dates are important as they indicate whether a product is still 1) safe to use and 2) effective. An open jar symbol with a number and "M" inside indicates the number of months a product needs to be used within. An hourglass means the product lasts for less than 30 months, and indicates the BBE (best before end) or expiry date.
Chloe recommends labeling products with the date you open them so you know when it's time to toss it. "For those products that do go out of date, you can declutter and recycle the packaging—retailers like Boots (opens in new tab) now have in-store recycling points—or turn it into something new, for instance re-using moisturizer pots to store cotton buds." Regional recycling rules vary, so make sure you're separating packaging per local guidance.
2. Ask family and friends to use them up
Partially used beauty items are harder to recycle, but there are things you can do with products that don't work for you. "Any products that don’t work for me and are facing a cull I’ll offer to friends and family as my first port of call," Chloe says. "This often gives loved ones the chance to try something they may not have been able to otherwise."
3. Donate or sell unopened items
If products haven't been opened they can be donated to local charities, shelters or food banks, or even be sold on sites like eBay and Depop, as with pre-loved fashion.
Doing the former can also have a positive impact on your local community. There are more needed supplies, of course, but an unused lipstick that's still in date and is donated may end up in the hands of someone who needs a confidence boost in times of need. Take cues from author and self-empowerment coach Stephanie Harrison. "Positive ripples evoked by a selfless act positively affect not just your own health and sense of pride and achievement but your community too.”
🇺🇸Where to get rid of beauty products in the US
- Terracycle (opens in new tab) : has partnered with Garnier to recycle skincare and haircare packaging
- Back to Mac (opens in new tab): exchange six empty MAC containers for one new product
- Aveda recycle (opens in new tab): collecting rigid plastic caps so they don’t end up in landfill or the ocean
- Kiehl's rewards (opens in new tab): earn points by returning empties to store
🇬🇧Where to get rid of beauty products in the UK
- Beautycycle (opens in new tab): powered by John Lewis
- The Hygenie Bank (opens in new tab): find your local drop-off point
- Beauty Banks (opens in new tab): doorway collections supporting local communities and refugees
- Toiletries Amnesty (opens in new tab): takes unopened toiletries and distributes them among those who need them most
Sarah-Rose Harrison is a London-based celebrity stylist and Contributing Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.
No day is ever quite the same for her but the one constant is that she’s always looking for the next big thing and the newest style.
From ways to be more sustainable to up-and-coming brands, she’s got you covered.
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