Low Waste Moving

I guess, somewhere in the constant change of my early 20s, I’ve become an accidental expert in moving. I’ve moved across the country, across cities, temporarily, permanently, in a suitcase, in a car, with a truck, from roommates to solo, back home to my parents’ house, etc etc etc. Moving is an unavoidable part of life. Even in the thick of it, when my buyers cancel and I promise never to move again, I always know a new beginning will come sooner or later.

Since I started bringing zero waste, sustainable practices into my lifestyle a few years ago, moving also comes with the added desire (pressure?) to send as little to the landfill as possible.

Most recently I downsized a studio apartment into a car and ended up with about a half bag of trash, thrown in the only full-size garbage bag I’ve owned at that apartment. And I was mad it wasn’t less.

I for sure needed a reality check. I also could have used a roadmap to the low waste, inexpensive options for moving when everything seemed so wasteful and pricey. So here we are 🙂


The first step is to let your idea of perfectionism go. Particularly if you are moving unexpectedly (me, six months ago), you won’t have the luxury of time to prepare. Even if you do have time to prepare (me, three weeks ago), moving has a way of tripping you up.  You don’t need to be perfect to be good. Take what you will from these tips and leave the rest!

Start your “spring cleaning” as early as possible. You’re never as minimalist as you thought. Save yourself some headache at the end of your move and reconcile the small things early on.

Make some weird recipes with your unused food. Bring old classified documents to shred at Staples or any office supply store. See if you’ll really wear that sweater. Open all the drawers in your home and think about what will stay and what will go. Having everything visible is a helpful gauge.

Bring unwanted clothes to Buffalo Exchange or Plato’s Closet, and donate the rest. For totally worn clothes, research textile recycling near you. Try to avoid the “Goodwill dump,” where you leave things not listed on Goodwill’s accepted donations in their donation box. (what? me? I would never coin this term to describe my own behavior.) These items will get tossed and you’re creating more work for someone else.

Hoard cardboard boxes in the weeks before your move. Especially if you’re using a truck to move, you will probably need more cardboard boxes than you have. I kept boxes in my (tiny) closets all throughout college, which is honestly a useful strategy, but I’ve also gone to the grocery store to ask for spare boxes. Really anywhere that takes in daily shipments (most stores, maybe your school/workplace) will have more than enough boxes to give you, and you will feel like a sucker if you buy them from Uhaul.

using every container in my apartment to pack – this is everything I kept!

Use what you have. This is a “yeah duh” for those who have been in the zero waste game for a while, but it bears repeating. Resourcefulness will save you so much time and money. Use your laundry bag, gym bags, grocery totes for storage! Use scarves, dish rags, clothes, and towels to wrap your dishes. Take free newspapers from coffee shops and use them to wrap mugs, then recycle.

Lean on your friends. And give them free/cheap stuff! I don’t know anyone else who would take my half used balsamic vinegar or my old nail clippers. Plus they will come to pick it up and you will get to see them. Friends are good.


I was able to sell/give away many of my items via IG story to my friends, who came to pick them up throughout the week.

Sell on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, local groups, fervently but with caution.

My strategy has always been to find the price of a new/comparable version of my item, then post mine online for at least 20% lower with a link to the comparable listing. Yes, I don’t make the MOST money, but my goal is to have the item go to a useful home and get out of my sight, and that is usually accomplished with this strategy. I’m super upfront about any flaws. I don’t let the person into my home unless absolutely necessary, no matter how nice they seem.

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Don’t trust anyone until they are at your doorstep! I sold my bed (for a comically low price – it was creaky and already a hand-me-down, but it came with all accessories and was comfortable) to a girl who desperately wanted it, and she ghosted me on my move-out day. Luckily, I was able to find a last-minute buyer, but not without a lot of added stress.

Find homes for difficult-to-recycle items. Credo Beauty takes old makeup products of near any brand through Terracycle, and give you points to use at their store. Terracycle is the real queen – look for Terracycle drop-offs near you, especially to get rid of those random skincare products or obscure household cleaners you’ve been carrying from place to place, thinking you might need someday! Speaking as someone who has brought silver polishing wipes to four different homes. If you’re into zero waste you’ve probably stopped buying most of these products in recent memory, but at least for me my teenage random-product consumption history has a way of following me around.IMG_7384

Turnip Green Creative Reuse is a wonderful resource in Nashville to bring your miscellaneous art and hardware supplies. I bought frames here and then donated them back, along with tons of old postcards, paints, cloth and paper scraps, and watercolor paper that I didn’t have room to move.

Get to know your convenience center. I was used to going to mine to bring compost and miscellaneous recyclables since my apartment complex only recycled cardboard (ugh), and that knowledge was super helpful in my move. I made several trips with emptied cleaners, old food/drink containers, etc. just to get them out of my sight. Seriously, it feels SO GOOD.

It can be tempting to bring everything you own to the dump and yell SEE YA, but hopefully these tips help you reduce what you bring to the landfill or leave on the curb.

Finally, take a deep breath. There’s a reason I almost cried when an eHow page suggested this to me on the night before my move, when I was lying on my bed that was NOT supposed to be there. Moving sucks! You are doing so well!

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