Well, you’ve reached the part of organizing that has you deciding what to do with the things that you aren’t keeping. You know you want them to leave your house but you don’t know in what way it will leave. There are so many different ways to get items out of your home.
Give it to a friend who needs that specific item.
Throw it away.
Let’s talk about how to know if you should donate something or not. First and foremost, please only donate things that are in good condition. If you wouldn’t give it to a friend, you shouldn’t donate it. If it is torn, broken, or worn out then it is trash. (Or up for a recycle or upcycle! But if you have a lot of things in your home, the chances that you will do something with the trash is not likely. Just be realistic at this stage.)
Depending on the amount of time you have you may just throw everything away or you may make different donations at different locations or somewhere in the middle just taking everything to one donation location.
There are so many situations that people find themselves in. You may be retired, know a lot of local establishments, and also have a lot of time on your hands. In that case, you may want to take your old magazines to a retirement center, your plastic utensils to the local burn center, and your women’s clothing to the local safe home drop-off.
You may have a particular relationship or connection with the local fire department who has a special mission that they are on so you help them whenever you can.
If you do not find yourself with that much time or a specific passion, do not feel bad for donating all those things to one place. Just because someone else is passionate about something doesn’t mean that you have to be passionate about the same things in the same ways.
In the same way that I will direct you to a small business to do your shopping and other living, I will direct you to a local charity for your donations. Your local charity can let you know what they are in need of and you can know that your donations are going to be used specifically and immediately. A simple search online should yield a charity or ministry of some sort and a quick phone call should let you know when you can make a drop off and what items they are currently in need of.
If you are looking for the best place for environmentally friendly recycling here are just a few place to be on the lookout for in your area.
Hardware store- battery and lightbulbs
Grocery store or Kohl’s – plastic grocery bags
Best Buy – electronics
Walmart – eye glasses
What other places do you recommend for donating? In what ways have you seen your still-good items be a blessing to others?
The majority of people in the US are marketed to in some form. We hear commercials and see billboards while we drive; we see commercials and “how other people live” while we watch TV; we see pictures of “how other people live” in magazines, on Pinterest, and in our newsfeeds on social media. There is a “your life should look like this” message that is thrown at us at every turn. You might call that an unrealistic “Z” in the alphabet and you feel like you are sitting way back at the letter “A.”
I talk all the time with my clients about going from “Your A to Your B.”
The reality is that “Z” isn’t real. Most of those pictures in our minds are staged. They are set up for the picture to showcase a product or feeling that the advertisers want you to buy. That’s why some of the pictures you see in my after shots still have more items in it and are likely less tidy than the magazine – because people live in those homes.
I do encourage my clients to dream about what they want their spaces to look like, to get a picture in their mind. Then we talk about how their family and home functions in different seasons. With their goal in mind, we work through decluttering and then organizing. While no one is expected in reality to get their home to the elusive Z, everyone will feel better when their space is serving them rather than holding them captive.
If your home feels out of control with piles everywhere, overstuffed closets, cabinets, and drawers you will need to go from Your A to Your B. Getting to Your M may take some time. It takes a lot of mental energy to make the decisions to let go of things. It can feel like a loss to have less items in your home. Likewise, if can feel like a major loss to have a lot less items in your home. So while you may only wear the same 10 outfits, getting rid of all of the rest of your clothes at once could feel impossible.
How can you move from Your A to Your B?
Let’s stick with the clothes example. Let’s say you have a walk-in closet, dresser, and chest of drawers full of clothes (and perhaps they are also overflowing in the laundry room, the couch, and the end of your bed). The most thorough way to go about this task is to put all of your clothes in one place at one time. However, if you are doing this alone, you are probably overwhelmed even thinking about that. You can always call in a local professional organizer to help guide you and keep you going. If you’d like to tackle your clothes on your own, I’ll recommend one way that might work for you.
Keep in mind that you are going from Your A to Your B. Instead of going from a house full of overflowing piles of clothing to a 1-foot section in the closet and half of a drawer, you may well be going from overflowing piles to everything fits in the closet and the dresser. That is wonderful progress!
- Write out every area where you have clothing. Dresser, closet, laundry room, car, etc.
- Choose a goal or two. Do you want to spend less time in the mornings deciding what to wear? Do you want to have less laundry to do? Do you want to see and wear only clothes that you feel good in?
- Take a before picture of your clothes. This will help you see what you are dealing with and will give you a great sense of accomplishment when you finish.
- Take one section at a time to go through. You will likely find that it takes less time than you think if you can give 15-30 focused minutes a day to this task. Check the completed section off of your list to mark your progress.
- Take the clothes you aren’t keeping right away to be donated or schedule a yard sale or online sale. (When making the decision on what you will do with the clothes you aren’t keeping, be sure to think about what you have time for. If one reason you haven’t gone through your clothes is that you don’t have time, you may want to choose to donate your clothing as this is the least time consuming option.)
- Take an after picture of your clothes.
- Celebrate a job well done and enjoy your newly found clothing freedom!
- In about 6 months do the process again. You will find that your decluttering muscle is stronger, you have a better sense of what you like and want to keep, and another season will have passed.
A few weeks ago I shared that books were one of my major areas of belongings that “I have to keep this to stay alive.” Maybe you read that article and thought, “That sounds good but I still love to read and want access to books.” Well, there’s good news! Books are still in abundance and in a variety of formats. Here’s a little list of ways that you can have your cake and eat it to… or let go of your books and read them too!
Photo of elementary-aged child’s bookshelf.
This might be a no brainer to you but I recently saw that an adult friend of mine had just gotten her very first library card. Perhaps she didn’t live near a library growing up and, yes, I’m confident that she utilized the library at her high school and college for research. Now as an adult she has discovered the brand new (to her) world of the library for entertainment. Not only does a local library have real-life-in-your-hands books but it also has: audiobooks on CD, movies, board games, outside games, classes, clubs of all kinds, and even shows and events.
Ebooks are electronic books that you can read on almost any device these days. You can use a Kindle or Nook that are specifically designed for just this purpose or you can download an app to your smart phone or tablet. This might not scratch your itch if you want to hold an actual book but if you are looking to just read, this is a viable takes-up-no-more-space-in-your-home option.
Audiobooks on CD
Audiobooks are everywhere. As already mentioned, you can borrow audiobooks on CD from the local library with your library card. And, y’all, Cracker Barrel has audiobooks on CD that you can rent from one location and return to another location! Can you say, Road Trip!?!?
What if you don’t want to keep up with a physical set of CDs? There are apps! Some are subscription based (Audible.com an Amazon company) and some are just a place to download books (Google Play Books for Android users) and others that let you borrow for free (Libby, an OverDrive company). And if Christian books are your thing, Christianaudio.com has a free audiobook download each month along with the ability to purchase Christian audiobooks as well.
Then there is the age old delight of sharing books among friends. The best books I’ve read have come recommended by a friend. So when you’ve read a purchased book and enjoyed it, pass it along to a friend who will enjoy it and the journey of that book continues.
Notice that I didn’t mention used book stores or thrift store or garage sales. Each of these are a great way to build your library inexpensively. However, the goal is not to build your library but to lighten the load in your house and in your mind actually freeing you up to have time to read more. Enjoy!
***I have no affiliation with any of these links.
I’m a reader. In fact, for years I hauled boxes upon boxes of books with me each time I moved. Three big bookshelves worth. Y’all, books are heavy. (Here is my sincere apology and thanks to all of the wonderful people who used their time and energy to help make that happen.)
I had books from college, seminary, an amazing internship, and just life. I also had notebooks from all said stages of life. I was convinced that I needed all of these books. That I was one day going to need to look something up from one of the books that I was required to read and that if I couldn’t look it up that I was going to let someone down in a way that would ultimately crush them. That might sound extreme to you but it ran through my mind each time I thought about going through my books. How many times did I go back to those books? I’ll give you three guesses.
(image of a client’s curated bookshelf of Newberry Award wining books)
About two years ago, after yet another move, I decided that I just wasn’t reading the majority of the books that adorned my book shelves. Although I am a reader, I am not much of a re-reader. If it’s a story of any kind I’m probably not going to read it again. And unless it’s a super amazing book of truth or insight, my eyes aren’t going to see those pages again. Armed with my new knowledge about myself, I set out to decide which books I would read again. I was ruthless. That is what it took. I was also ready. I had spent years of building my decluttering-muscle.
I am now down to one shelf of books that I will recommend in a heartbeat and will read again, a stack of books for my profession (books that may or may not make it to the prized shelf), three series of books that I treasure, and a rotating stack of books that I am reading and then giving away.
I have substantially lightened the book load around here but I am still a heavy reader. The library, passed along books from friends, and the internet all help me to keep the book load under control.
***UPDATE: If you are looking for a way to keep reading and keep a minimal bookshelf. Here is an article I wrote with a few ways you can accomplish that goal.