By: Jess Mihalczo


This year, Spring is taking on an unusual meaning in the wake of the COVID-19 quarantine.

Many of us are spending more time at home than we are used to, which can cause stir-craziness. Our instinct may be to throw lots of items away right now, but we risk overloading our Sanitation trucks with more material than they can handle (especially since there are currently less workers available than usual). Instead, let’s consider this year’s Spring cleaning a “Clean-In”!



When it comes to the Spring Clean-In, your goal is to minimize. Declutter your space and adapt your lifestyle to avoid accumulating unneeded items that have to be purged each year. This is also a simple step towards creating a zero waste lifestyle.



Get Organized


Spring Clean-In can seem a bit overwhelming, so the first step is to set goals of what you want to get done and create a schedule. One helpful tip for making your work more manageable is to start small. Maybe your first goal is simply to clean out that old junk drawer that’s been piling up for years. Next you can move onto bigger goals, such as starting your own compost bin to reduce your food waste!



                                       Download this template here (PDF)


Make four piles:

Keep, Donate, Recycle, and Trash


In Marie Kondo style, pick up each object in your home and ask yourself, “have I used this item in the last year?”, and assess how this item makes you feel when you hold it. Genuinely happy, or are you holding onto it because you would feel guilty getting rid of it?

If you haven’t used this item in the past year, and feel bad getting rid of it, let go of your guilt! Add the item to the donation, recycling, or trash pile. 




Once you have your donation pile, it’s time to plan where your stuff will go! Green Philly put together this list of local places to donate or sell your unwanted furniture, and CleanPHL recently launched this Recycling and Donation Finder.

If you’re hoping to make some money from your old items, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and LetGo are all great places to start. There are also apps like Poshmark and Mercari where you can sell gently used items quickly and with easy shipping options. If you would prefer to donate, Goodwill, Philly AIDS Thrift, Habitat for Humanity, and Uhuru are all great (and tax-deductible!) options.

Since you won’t be able to sell or donate your used items right away, having neatly packed and labeled boxes will make things quick and easy when the time comes. This is also a good time to revisit the storage space in your home and consider whether or not you are making the most of it. Check out this blog post by Family Handyman on ways to squeeze more storage out of small spaces. 




Revisit your recycling and trash piles. Recycling only the proper items is very important, and not all items with the recycling symbol can go in your curbside recycling bin. When you mix non-recyclables into your curbside recycling bin, it can ruin an entire truckload of otherwise good material. 

Refer to your local recycling guidelines (Philly’s are found below and on the Streets website here) for the most accurate information. In any case, make sure to flatten cardboard, clean or empty out plastics, and never bag recyclables.




If you live in Philadelphia, checkout the CleanPHL Recycling and Donation Finder  for help with hard to recycle items. If you’re outside of Philly, Earth911 is a great resource for finding recycling facilities in your area.

You can also take the following items to one of the city’s six Sanitation Convenience Centers* for proper disposal:

      • Christmas trees
      • Collectible rubbish (up to six receptacles, or 12 bags)
      • Mattresses and box springs (unwrapped)
      • Recyclable materials
      • Yard waste 


*During the COVID-19 quarantine, Sanitation Convenience Centers will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 8am to 8pm.




After you’ve decluttered, it’s time to make your home feel as comfortable and cozy as possible. “Hygge” is the Danish art of adding special touches to your home to help you focus during the day and relax in the evening. Mental Floss Magazine put up a list of the top 10 ways to incorporate Hygge practices into your home

While most of us probably don’t want to be bunkered down at home right now, the least we can do is to make the most out of our time. Creating a weekly schedule and a comfortable space can make a huge difference. Happy Spring Clean-In!


If you or someone you know is struggling with housing insecurity, please visit the Philadelphia Housing Resource Guide and the CDC’s Guidelines for responding to Coronavirus among people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.


To volunteer with Keep Philadelphia Beautiful or learn how to get involved with improving recycling or litter in your neighborhood, e-mail