This is the third part of a three part series to help you with your decluttering projects while you are home during this crazy social distancing time. In part one, I talked about how to decide where to even start. You can read Part 1 here. Part 2 focused on the how-to of decluttering your space. You can read Part 2 here.
While it feels really good to be decluttering your home while you are home social-distancing, there is a real problem on what to do with the items you are actually decluttering. Then there is the task of keeping your spaces decluttered after you have finished. Here are some suggestions for next steps:
Donate, Sell or Trash
There are not a lot of donation options right now with the closings on non-essential businesses including donation centers. However, there are still some options available, it’s just finding the one that works best for you.
While you are decluttering you have your options for what to do with the goods – Trash, Keep, Donate/Sell or put away elsewhere. Keep and put elsewhere are the easy parts, and hopefully at the end of your purging or cleaning session you put all of those things away. Trash, Donate and Sell is where it gets a little tricker.
Selling Used/Unwanted Items
I will admit that it pains me when I am trying to get rid of something with tags, never been worn, or cost a pretty penny. It is so hard to donate those things. If you are feeling motivated you can try to sell these items either online or through local outlets like consignment or Facebook Marketplace. This may prove more difficult right now because making the needed contact face to face is a bad idea. You can try doing a “porch pick-up” if you are selling within your local area with payment via Venmo or Paypal. This allows you to do the transaction contactless.
You can also try an online platform like Poshmark for clothing. This allows you to post pictures, and very easily transact with a buyer while Poshmark does most of the financial work. You pay a fee, but they manage the financial portion, and supply you with a mailing label. It’s up to you to pack your items and drop them at the post office. There are similar apps for a broader range of items – Mercari and Letgo are two of the more popular ones.
Tip: Search the site you are using for the same or similar items. This will give you an idea on how to set your prices. Remember, the item is only as valuable as what someone wants to pay for it, so look at sold items and see what people actually paid for them.
One other way to sell is through consignment. Right now this may not be a possibility since most retail businesses are closed. When things get back to normal you can look into this option. You can find a consignment shop in your neighborhood. When you take your items they will go through them, choose what they think they can sell, and they take it from there. You get money or credit when the item sells. You can also look into online thrift shops like ThredUp where you can send items to sell and make a little money – https://www.thredup.com/.
Donating right now may take a little work. While most donation centers are closed and not taking donations, there are a few that may still work for you. Here are a few to start with:
- Donation Boxes:
These are the large metal boxes you see in parking lots. One word of caution is that not all of them are donations to nonprofits, so looking into the organization servicing the box may be necessary. And whatever you do, if the box is overfull, it’s not a great idea to pile things next to it. In the long run, it may make the item unusable, so you may as well have thrown it out at home.
- Mail in Donation:
With the Amazon Give Back Box partnership you can refill your empty amazon shipment box with items to donate, then go to the site, enter your zip code, and you will get a shipping label. You can find more information on their site – https://givebackbox.com/works.
The online thrift shop ThredUp has a cleanout program that may work for you as well. In addition to being able to sell your items through them, you can also request a Donation Kit. You pack up the items, send them off. They will give a donation to a charity of your choice, and you get a tax deduction receipt. More info here – https://www.thredup.com/cleanout
You can also look into donating your used books through a Books to Prisoners Program – https://prisonbookprogram.org/resources/other-books-to-prisoners-programs/
- Item Pickup:
If you have a lot of items (or larger items) to donate, it might make sense to reach out to a local organization that may be providing pickup. Head to the Donation Town website where you can search for organizations that will pick up your items – http://donationtown.org/donation-pick-up.html
Whenever donating it’s a good practice to make sure the items you are donating are clean and usable. I highly recommend not using your local donation center as an alternative to trashing or recycling something as that will only create more work for the charity you are trying to support.
And don’t forget to think about tax implications. You can get a tax deduction receipt for your donations, and may be able to write them off on your taxes (your tax professional or the IRS site can give you more info on this topic). The IRS site also has a guide to help determine the value of donated goods – https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-publication-561. The alternative is to use a donation tracking tool like It’s Deductible (this is what I use!) – https://itsdeductibleonline.intuit.com/. This allows you to value your donation by item and have it easily available when it is time to do your taxes.
- Garage Sale:
Having a garage sale is not for the faint of heart, it takes some work…and a time when we are not all social-distancing! If you are doing a whole house purge, this may be a great option to make some extra money. Personally I have held successful garage sales over the years, but, I have also heard many stories of them being a lot of work for not a lot of return. It’s up to you to decide your level or risk/reward. If this is something you want to plan for, I found a great article at Dave Ramsy’s blog that goes into detail about tips for having a successful garage sale. You can read that here – https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/garage-sale-tips.
Trash and Recycling
If your items have no foreseeable value, or you are not so inclined to go through any of the steps above, then trashing or recycling may be the option for you. Check your local recycling guidelines for help on what you can and can’t recycle. Remember that recycling electronics is a whole separate topic, so you may want to research this before you get rid of old tech equipment.
After reading all the above information, it’s obvious that the actual decluttering is really only the first step in the process. But I can personally attest that it feels so good after it’s finished.
If none of these solutions work for you right now, you can designate a place in your home where you can collect your items for donation to deal with when things return to normal and donation centers reopen. Designate a spot in a basement, garage, or spare room. Boxing or bagging the items now will make them really easy to transport when it’s time to get rid of them. Plus, if you close up bags and boxes you will be less inclined to pull items back out.
Decluttering is really a lot of work and not something we normally spend a lot of time on. This is why it is so popular now while we are home during the COVID-19 situation. Chances are it may be a long time until you have this kind of time again, so you want to make sure your efforts are not wasted. Staying decluttered takes work and practice.
Use the “one in-one out” method whenever you can. When you buy something new, get rid of something similar. This is great especially with clothing. If you buy a new pair of sneakers…get rid of the old ones. Another option for clothing is having a set number of hangers in your closet, then only have enough clothing to fill those hangers. If you find yourself with an item and no hanger – time to get rid of something taking up valuable hanger space.
Another thing to remember is to keep things that fit into the space you have, don’t create new space for more stuff. If you have a t-shirt drawer and you can’t fit another concert shirt in it, then think about purging your collection rather than taking over a second drawer.
In the end, one of the best ways to control the clutter is to really think about the things that you bring into your home – do you need it, does it make you happy, and will you really use it. The space in your home is so valuable. Filling it with things that make you feel good is a big step towards treating your space as it deserves to be treated.