As the days grow warmer, now is the perfect time to make your living space clear of clutter. These simple tips from Tiffany Francis will help you clean up without polluting the planet, as well as finding new homes for the things you no longer need.
Join the fashion revolution
Decluttering your wardrobe is an amazing way to be free of the clothes you no longer wear and re-evaluate your relationship with the fashion industry. But before taking unwanted clothes to your local charity shop (where they can still end up in landfill due to surplus fast fashion donations), try selling them through depop.com or organise a clothes swap with friends and family.
After all, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure! The best tip for decluttering your wardrobe? Buy fewer items in the first place and cherish the ones you have.
Get to grips with recycling
We all know to pop our cereal boxes and baked bean tins in the recycling, but what about those oat milk cartons and mysterious plastic items at the back of the fridge? How clean do they have to be? What about smashed glass?
Even the most eco-conscious can forget the basics, so use this time to get to grips with your local recycling rules and ensure 2019 is as low waste as possible. Not all local UK councils offer the same recycling services so visit recyclenow.com to find out what’s available in your area.
Make your own cleaning spray
Even the most eco-friendly cleaning sprays cost money and produce plastic, so try making your own chemical-free general purpose cleaner using a few kitchen essentials. Simply combine ½ cup vinegar, ¼ cup bicarbonate of soda and 2 litres water in a bucket and decant into a spray bottle. Perfect for sprucing up tiles, bathroom panels, mirrors, windows and hard surfaces!
Ditch food waste
It’s no crime to overindulge in the supermarket, but there’s no excuse for letting good food go to waste. Use vegan wax wraps (£12.75, rowenstillwater.com) to keep fruit and vegetables fresher for longer, transform those brown bananas into banana bread, and use peelings and scraps to make your own freezable vegetable stock for soups and stews.
Wondering why you have three tins of mushroom soup in the cupboard when you don’t even like it? Clear space in your kitchen for the foods you really love, and donate unwanted items to your local food bank to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. Visit trusselltrust.org.uk to find your nearest drop-off point.
Digitalise your paperwork
Still receiving bank statements through the post? Free yourself of the paper burden, shred and recycle the old stuff and switch to digital statements for an easy, clutter-free approach to your finances. If you give to charities you could also save paper by asking not to receive membership magazines and other paperwork if you honestly don’t read it.
Your money will still go to good causes but you won’t have unwanted material cluttering up the coffee table. Alternatively, ask to receive charity updates by email rather than through the post.
Grow an indoor jungle
Plug-in air fresheners may make your home smell of fresh oranges or baked cookies, but there’s nothing cosy about their ingredients. According to one study by the Natural Resources Defence Council, 86% of US air fresheners contain phthalates, a chemical associated with a range of disorders and diseases in humans.
Ditch the plug-ins, open the windows and use house plants to brighten up and oxygenate your home instead. Some of the best air-purifying plants include dracaena, spider plants, peace lilies and aloe vera.
Make your own wood polish
Keep your best furniture squeaky clean with a simple homemade polishing recipe. Just combine ¼ cup fresh lemon juice with ½ cup olive oil, stir well and use a soft cloth to distribute the mixture over wooden surfaces.
For varnished wood, mix 2 tablespoons olive oil with 1 tablespoon white vinegar and 1 litre warm water. Decant into a spray bottle and spritz onto wood before drying with a soft cloth.
Go nuts for soap nuts
Fed up of buying overpriced washing detergent full of strange chemicals? Grab yourself a bag of soap nuts – an ancient way of cleaning clothes using the berries of the Sapindus mukorossi, a tree from the lychee family. The berries contain saponin, which is a surfactant that can be used like soap.
Just pop them in a small fabric bag with the rest of your washing, et voila – clean clothes without nasty detergents. Soap nuts are 100% biodegradable and the tree itself helps convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, reducing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Visit soapnuts.co.uk to find out more.
Switch to bamboo
Bamboo is widely known as a miracle fibre – it’s renewable, quick to grow and versatile, with a whole range of products now available to replace single-use items. We love the paper towels from Bambooee (£9.99, Amazon), who claim that one roll can replace up to 286 rolls of paper towel as their reusable nature means they can be washed up to 100 times.
Their bamboo is sourced from organic plantations using sustainable practices, and the towels can be machine washed in warm or cold water. Genius…
Repair, restore, repurpose
We all have that dusty drawer full of broken things we’ve never quite gotten round to repairing, but most will only need a little attention before they’re in full working order again.
Visit ifixit.com to see what new skills you can learn – it’s a free online community for people looking to repair things, from electronics and clothing to toys, tech and furniture. Resist the temptation to buy something new and fix something old instead – it’s far more satisfying and the planet will thank you for the effort.
Tiffany Francis is an author and artist. Her first book, Food You Can Forage, was published in 2018 by Bloomsbury. She also writes and illustrates her own vegan zine called Rabbit Food. Find out more at tiffanyfrancis.com