Where to Donate Your Stuff after Decluttering (and what else you can do with things you no longer want)
by Susan McCarthy
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You know the routine. While decluttering, sort your stuff into piles – keep, donate, toss, sell, gift – the number and names of the piles may be different depending on your project and which Organizer’s system you are using. However, after you sort stuff into piles, do you really know what your next step is?
For example, when you create a “sell” pile, do you know where or how you are selling those items? To which charity is your “donate” pile going and how is it getting there? Although it seems obvious that you plan to do something with your piles, you may want to think through some of these logistics before you get involved in a major decluttering project.
Why? Because if stuff that’s supposed to leave doesn’t, you haven’t really decluttered, you’ve simply moved stuff to a new location.
When You Want to Donate Your Stuff
Just because you don’t want that end table or you can’t wear those jeans, it doesn’t mean someone else can’t use them. When you donate an item to charity the item may go directly to a person in need or it may get sold in a thrift store so that the money earned can purchase necessary supplies.
Will you donate to one charity? Or, will clothing go to the local thrift shop, books to the town library, and furniture to a charity that will come to your house and pick up the items? Will you (can you) leave stuff alongside the street with a “FREE” sign? If you know where stuff will go, you won’t have piles-in-waiting throughout your house.
Pickup Service – Every so often, I get a postcard in my mailbox about a charity that will have a truck in the area on a certain date to pick up donations right from my house – all I have to do is make a phone call or schedule online. The charity’s website will tell you how they use your donation. Having the charity pick up the boxes you leave in the driveway is convenient … however, it might be a few weeks before they will be in your area.
Of course, even before you start decluttering, you could contact a charity, schedule a pickup and then focus on filling bags and boxes by that date. Make sure the charity will take the items you leave out. If they say, “no furniture,” they will leave it in your driveway.
Drop-off Donation Centers and Boxes – Look online to see where the closest donation center is and find out their hours of operation. Can you drop off stuff when they aren’t open? If you are choosy about what charity you are dealing with, you may have to drive further or out of your way. Will that be a deterrent to handling this task?
Once you bag or box your items for donation, put them in the car right away so the next time you are driving around you can drop off the items (unless you are making a special trip). Obviously, this task will be easier to carry out if you live or work near the donation center.
In my area, I see a lot of businesses that allow donation boxes for different charities to sit in their parking lots. If you want more information on the charity, you can research it online to find out what percentage of funds go to operating expenses and salaries versus those individuals the charity says they help. However, if you are more interested in getting the items out of your house, then that is your goal.
When You Want to Gift Items to Friends and Family
Maybe you pass along a book to a friend with the recommendation that she gives it to someone else when she’s done reading it. Maybe you give your job-hunting nephew that suit jacket that doesn’t fit you. Baby clothes go to your sister-in-law. Grandma’s china is claimed by your daughter.
However, until you actually hand the item to the recipient, it isn’t really theirs – it’s still yours. This means, you need to see the person and hand them the item or you need to ship it to them. If you’ve finally decided that you don’t want your grandmother’s china (after much anguished deliberation) and your niece claims it, but you won’t see her until Christmas, in eight months, do you really want to store the item that long? One box may not be an issue (if you have the space); however, after you’ve decided that you can get rid of something, keeping it sends your brain mixed messages. Also, what do you do if you forget to give the item to the person?
Also, is the individual taking the item because they truly want it or because they don’t want to tell you, “no?” When giving an item as a gift, you may want to tell the person that they are free to pass the item along in the future. If an item has a special memory, write a note to the new owner.
When You Want to Sell Your Stuff
It’s tempting to want to recoup at least some of the money you spent on the items you are now releasing. How will you do this? Consignment shop? Resale website? Yard sale? eBay? Craigslist? Auction house? Pawn shop?
Different items will likely require a variety of venues. It will be difficult to ship a hutch; having someone who will carry out of your house is preferred. Will you take the time to photograph items, post descriptions online, pack items, and then bring them to UPS or USPS to ship? If you haven’t sold things online, you may want to talk to a friend or coworker who has so that you have a better sense of how much time this will take and if it’s financially worth the work.
Again, knowing up front what you’ll do with different items will help you move them out faster. If you think that you’ll have a yard sale in September, you don’t have much incentive to declutter in February because you’ll have all those boxes around for months and it won’t feel like you did any decluttering!
You likely have a fairly good idea about what you own, so you can start investigating different options for selling stuff even before you start decluttering.
When You Have Stuff to Throw Away
Do you have a limit to how much trash or recycling you can throw out each week (you’re limited to what fits in the bin)? Do you normally fill the bin, or do you have space left over? You may decide to limit some of your decluttering efforts to the two extra bags of trash that you could fit in the bin each week.
Would you need a dumpster? How long is the rental? This fee would be an incentive to work faster!
Do you have a lot of papers with personal information that would need to be shredded? Do you want to do this by hand or bring the papers to a service (or have the service come to you if you have that much paper)?
Yes, you could figure out all this stuff when the situation arises; but, remember, your goal is to get the stuff out of your house. If you end up holding onto bags and boxes of stuff for longer than a week or two, the chances of that stuff remaining at your house becomes riskier. An hour or so of internet research up front can make it easier on you to donate, sell, gift, or toss the items you’ve decided to release from your home.
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