Last week's article on Practical Good was all about spring cleaning, which included tips on how to declutter your physical space. The article briefly touched upon ways to start the cleanup process and taking the steps needed to clear your home or workspace. However, it didn't mention what to do with the things you no longer want around, so we'll expand on that in this article.
For the most part, the majority of people want just to put things away and not have them somewhere that it would interrupt their day. While this solves the issue of not having things cluttering up your space, often it defeats the purpose of this type of cleaning. The majority of people have many items that we barely use - sometimes never using them at all - yet keep holding on to it for years. Whether it be due to sentimental value, or loss aversion, or the thought that you will use the item eventually (spoiler alert: you won't), it's often better to let go.
Letting go doesn't necessarily mean to toss it straight in the garbage, although that might be the only option for things that are no longer in a usable state. But chances are most items that you don't use are still in good shape to continue to be used. Even if they're not in a good state, there might still be value in it elsewhere. It would be wasteful to throw something away just because it isn't new or unused.
So, what options do you have? Here are a few great ways to declutter your physical space and give your unused items another chance to remain useful.
Selling is easier than you think
An excellent option for getting rid of something you don't use is to sell it. Not only will you recoup space and mental energy, but you'll also get some money and make someone happy in the process. For the most part, it's a win-win for everyone involved.
- Garage Sale: If you have lots of things you want to throw out that are in saleable condition, a garage sale will serve that purpose. Spend some time outdoors with all of the things you want to sell, and let curious passersby look around and take the stuff you no longer want from your hands. It also has the bonus of getting to meet all sorts of great people from your community. The main drawback with garage sales is that it's a lot of work. You'll have to dedicate an entire day or weekend dealing with selling things, and it can be exhausting to have to haggle over a few dollars with everyone - no one ever wants to buy anything at the price you set. But it's a simple way to deal with decluttering quickly.
- eBay: If you're looking to sell online, eBay is the primary place to do so. You'll have access to millions of people from the comfort of home, and you can choose to either sell at a fixed amount or set an item for auction which might net you a higher-than-expected selling price. There are some caveats to selling on a site like eBay. As mentioned, there are millions on the site, so you'll be competing with other sellers from all over the globe. You'll also be responsible for shipping and packaging, and eBay can charge a sizeable percentage of your sales, so all these charges can quickly add up. Still, it's a great way to give items that are particularly hard to sell a home.
- Craigslist: The largest classified ads site is a standard way to sell anything. It's especially useful for larger items that are impossible to ship, like furniture. It's free to post anything, so it's easy to announce that you're selling something in your general area. Most people are wary of using Craigslist because you have to meet with complete strangers, and there have been plenty of cases in the news where sellers become victims of crime. But with lots of caution, it's a great way to sell anything, especially if you have something bulky that you can't ship anywhere or you need to unload something quickly.
Here are a few personal tips that will help you have great experiences with selling.
- If you dislike negotiating and want to sell something quickly, set your selling price to the absolute minimum you're willing to and be clear ahead of time that you won't negotiate because it's already at your lowest. We tend to want to want the most money for something, but sometimes your physical space and mental energy are worth more than a few extra dollars.
- If selling on Craigslist, do your best to meet with potential buyers somewhere public with many people. If selling something that's not too big, take it with you and complete the transaction in public.
- If you're selling something where the person has to go to your home to pick it up (like a couch or fridge, for example), meet the person somewhere public first and trust your instinct. If they give you a negative vibe, make an excuse and don't proceed with the sale. If you do decide to sell the item to them, make sure there's are a few friends or family with you at home, and try to complete the deal during the day.
- Make sure to consider shipping and handling costs if you're selling through eBay. Once the seller pays, you can't ask for more money if postage or packaging is more than you expected so you'll have to eat the cost or risk getting negative feedback that might lower your chances of selling online successfully.
- Before tossing out something that's broken, check if there's a market to sell. Some people can repair or use spare parts out of your non-working items as long as you're up-front about the object being defective and sell it incredibly cheap. You'd be surprised at how much money you can get from something you were about to toss out.
Donate to help yourself and many others.
Selling is excellent to recoup some of the cost of an item that you bought. That's fine for you, but sometimes you have to think outside of yourself and onto others who might not be as lucky as you are. No matter in which community you're in, there are many people in need of essential items like clothing, bedding, or kitchen utensils. If you have some articles that might be useful for underprivileged families, please considering donating these items to a thrift shop or a charitable organization.
By donating items that are still in good condition, you'll be helping the needy in many ways. If donating to a reputable organization, you'll be giving to people who desperately need essential items like clothing and warm blankets. Some places, like thrift shops, resell your items at a low cost to people who might not qualify for charitable donations but don't have enough money to buy new things. In turn, that money is often used to help others in need. For example, Goodwill assists ex-convicts to reintegrate into the workforce by offering them jobs and training.
There are also many non-profits that are doing fantastic work in your community with a minimal budget. These organizations often need materials to accomplish their mission. If you know of any non-profit organization near you, contact them or check their website to see if they're in need of items that you might have.
Depending on your donation and where you live, you might be able to get some economic benefits out of contributions in the form of tax deductions. But that should never be the aim. We should all give with the mentality of helping our fellow man and woman in need.
Here are a few items that you should consider donating:
- Items that are no longer useful to you: The main things in this category are clothes that no longer fit or are "not in style," bedding that's not being used and occupying lots of space in your closet, or upgrade household utilities. Most charitable organizations or thrift shops will gladly accept these types of items as long as they're in usable condition.
- Items that others might need much more than you do: You might have a few articles that you occasionally use or want to sell for a few extra dollars. But if it's something that might be more useful in the hands of someone in dire need of those items, consider donating instead of keeping it or trying to sell it. For example, if you live someplace that gets very cold in the winter, and you have more than a handful of coats or thick blankets, donating a few of the lesser-used items can help a homeless person who doesn't have a single jacket or blanket. You might end up saving someone's life with a simple donation.
Recycle for the long-term health of the planet.
Selling and donating items will ensure that things in perfectly usable condition will continue to be useful. Other times you'll have items that just aren't in good shape to sell or donate. Instead of tossing it in the regular trash, look into recycling instead.
The benefits of recycling branch out in many directions. One of the main advantages is reducing the amount of waste, leading to less space taken in landfills all across the world. Also, new products will use the materials from recycled items, which in turn saves on raw materials and consumes fewer resources on the planet. It also preserves energy by needing less processing for new materials and lowers greenhouse gas emissions, which will help curb global warming and air pollution.
Recycling doesn't apply to items that are not in good condition. You might have items that are technically in great condition but are nearly impossible to sell or even donate. Old books and obsolete computer equipment are prime examples of products that no one wants to buy, and most places won't even accept for donations. There are also some items you might think would be acceptable for donation but aren't, like carpets, baby cribs, or mattresses.
Depending on where you live, you might have recycling centers nearby that will accept all types of different materials for recycling free of charge. In other places, you might need to pay for recycling services. Even if there's a few to take old equipment in for recycling, I would still strongly recommend it as you'll be helping out in the conservation of our planet and our future.
Small steps for your Practical Good
If you're ready to start letting go of those things that are no longer useful around your home or workplace, these steps will help you get on your way to a simple, clutter-free space while helping your items continue to be useful in many other ways:
- Make a list of things you can sell, donate or recycle: You don't have to decide what you want to do with each item right now, but having a list will help you plan out the best path to take afterward.
- Take one day this week to do one of those three actions: Look at your list and see if you have more items you want to sell, donate or recycle. If you have more stuff to sell, take a day to prepare those items for sale by cleaning them up, taking pictures, and posting the items online. If you're planning to donate more, research local charities and thrift shops to figure out where to take your items and go as soon as you can. If you're going to recycle, check if your community has a recycling center you can drop the items off at and take them.