Emma Gleeson

August 1, 2020

Sustainable decluttering with professional declutterer, Emma Gleeson

Sustainable decluttering with professional declutterer, Emma Gleeson

Emma Gleeson

August 1, 2020

Thanks to Marie Kondo, decluttering is pretty hot these days. But decluttering, without looking at WHY you have so much stuff in the first place, is as useless as a crash diet – it ain’t gonna stick long term. It’s unsustainable, in every sense.

We have to break the cycle of feeling like we have too much stuff, doing a clear out, feeling good about ourselves, and going straight back out and buying more. The fact that you’re following The Useless Project means you’re probably already looking at your own shopping habits, which is fantastic!

Decluttering Tips for Tricky Items

It’s easy to get info about how to start a declutter, so I’ll hop straight to the tricker decisions that can get us stuck.

Letting go of items that don’t have a clear Yes/No answer about whether or not they are to be kept is difficult. But holding on to stuff you don’t use or need is wasteful. I get a bit like Phoebe with the Christmas Tree about this stuff – I want every item to fulfil its destiny to be used

Here are a few reasons why you might be finding it hard to let go of something, and how to deal with that block:

It was expensive

This is never a reason to keep something you don’t use. This excuse is about guilt over the money you have spent. That money is not coming back so forgive yourself and move that item on to someone who might love it.

It’s useful

But is it useful TO YOU? The roots of this excuse lie in our very primal human fear of scarcity. It can be really hard to untangle this fear, but just take your time with it. Google The Endowment Effect to learn more.

It was a gift

This is very personal so I’m always reluctant to give clearcut advice about presents. Take some time to think about these items and assess whether or not the person who gave it to you will care or even notice if you no longer own it.

It has sentimental value

I’m all about sentimental value; if something matters to you, it isn’t clutter. If you feel like you’re keeping too much for sentimental reasons, try and unpick the anxiety you feel about decluttering those items. Be kind to yourself through a declutter, it can be very emotional xx

Disposing your clutter sustainably

Sustainable and responsible disposal of clutter is one of the most important parts of the process. It’s really essential  that we stop using charity shops as dumping grounds for our unwanted stuff. Learn to treat them with respect and only send things there that you know have re-sale value.

Clothing banks v charity shops

Clothing banks are tricky territory for many reasons. The only one I trust for textiles that are no longer usable are Liberties Recycling, who have banks nationwide. They repurpose textiles into rags for car seating and other industrial purposes. Sadly, “textile recycling” is extremely hard and the technology is nowhere near where it needs to be. Some animal shelters accept old towels and blankets for bedding, which is great. 

***Always call ahead to check before donating***


Freecycle is a website where you can post things you need to rehome and other people in your area can come and pick them up. No money is involved – it’s just a community sharing platform. I love it. If you’re looking for cash for an item, Adverts.ie or Daft.ie are great.

Electronic recycling

Recycle IT in Clondalkin is the place to bring any broken electronics. I know this is Dublin-centric info so check out www.weeeireland.ie for nationwide electronic recycling.

Direct Provision

Toiletries and useable make-up are accepted by some Direct Provision centres and women’s shelters. **Again, always call ahead before dropping anything off.**

It’s all about relearning

Above all, practise placing higher value on what you own and what you buy. We’ve been trained out of this by capitalism’s cheap prices and low quality products, but we can relearn. 

Emma Gleeson is a writer and sustainability consultant. She has an MA in fashion history with a specialisation in sustainability from the London College of Fashion. For the past 7 years she has helped people responsibly declutter their lives and has given talks at festivals and colleges all over Ireland. She is passionate about mindful materialism and wants everyone to buy less and buy better whilst also appreciating and taking care of what they already own. Her book Stuff Happens! will be published by Penguin Books in 2021.