As part of our 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge I have had many people ask me:
so when I fill my bags with stuff, what do I do with them?
This is a very good question, and the answer is actually going to vary from person to person. What you do with your stuff depends on YOU, your situation, and the stuff you are decluttering. As for me, I use all of the methods below depending on the item and situation. Here are my suggestions and guidelines, I've also added in a section on reader suggested places!
Craigslist / Ebay / Amazon / Local Facebook groups
These are my favorite options because you can get money back for your items. However, there is work involved. You need to take a picture, sign up for an account, post the item online, and hope somebody buys it. If you are listing on Craigslist you are bound to get some spam. If someone buys it, you have the hassle of getting them the item (either by mail or in-person). My personal guidelines are as follows:
- Can I get $30+ for this?
- Is it too big to fit in my vehicle? (If it fits, I usually donate it.)
- If mailing, is this under 10 lbs? (If heavier, sell local.)
I have had a lot of success with furniture or large lots of children's clothing. I would definitely explore this option if you have some high valued items or need to reclaim some space.
This is becoming increasingly popular in many areas. It’s essentially a local group of people that recycle items from person to person for no compensation. There is usually an email that goes out anytime someone is offering something. People will respond to the email and you can arrange pickup with one of the people. It’s a great way to get rid of items that are still in good condition, while helping someone else in need. Head to Freecycle.org to find a group near you. You also might be able to find a Facebook freecycle group for your area. Ask nearby friends or neighbors, or do a search.
Family / Friends
This is my favorite! We give a lot of stuff to people we know. We have also gotten a lot of stuff from people we know. This is an excellent option for furniture, decor baby items, kids clothes, and pretty much anything else. I also do this with fun, vintage items or decor that I don't need or have a spot for but know someone else would like in their home. Ask your friends/family to look around and "shop" your home. Don't be afraid to tell them no if you still want it, but let them know that if you DO get rid of it, they get dibs. Also keep an eye out if you see or hear of someone that seems to be struggling. Don't make them feel bad or like a charity case, but mention that you have something (say, baby clothes) and ask if they would be interested in them. You reaching out might make a world of difference to them. NOTE, very imporant: If you do give something to family, make sure it truly is something that you don't need back. I haven't had a bad experience with this, but this is the stuff fights are made of. If you are agreeing to give something away, know that accidents happen and it might not come back in perfect condition. If you are okay with letting it go or replacing, then let them use it. For me, I don't mind replacing big baby items because I shop garage sales and can get a replacement. If you don't feel this way (and that's okay!), don't let them borrow it. If you are okay with letting it go or replacing, then move forward with it.
This is pretty convenient as there are many Goodwill locations throughout the country. I feel like I need to mention this separately because there are rumors and a lot of controversy going around about them across social media. Here is a Snopes article on salaries of charitable organizations and here is what they have to say on their site. Despite the CEO’s salary or what you may hear, Goodwill IS a 501(c)3 Non-profit organization meaning that everything you give to them is tax deductible. Make sure to get a receipt, keep track of what you gave (snap a picture of the items if you can), and write it off on your taxes. They also contribute to other local organizations, and are a good source for entry level jobs and jobs for people with disabilities. One of the biggest benefits is that they provide low cost items to many people in need. I donate to Goodwill quite often because with four kids, it is easy to drive through and make a stop when running errands.
Other Non-profit Organizations
There are many other organizations (also tax deductible) that are good places to give your stuff. These places include Salvation Army, Purple Heart Veterans, Red Cross, The United Way, not to mention the less well known ones that do just as much to help people (if not more!). If you have any suggestions for good, local places to donate, please comment with the company name and location!
Please call first to any of the following places to see if they are in need of certain items, when they take donations, or for more information.
- Pregnancy resource centers (pregnancy or baby items)
- Animal shelters (old blankets, towels, rags, t-shirts)
- Homeless shelters (anything, toiletries, cold weather gear)
- Food banks, soup kitchens (non-expired food)
- "Dress for Success" or local based places that accept clothing for those heading into the work force
- Women's Shelter or Domestic Violence Shelter
- Libraries (eyeglasses, magazines, books, CDs, DVDs, etc - bonus, you can check them out!)
- Schools or teachers (organizing supplies, school supplies, books, crafts)
- Local scouting troops (crafts, other supplies)
- Nursing home (extra flowers, costume jewelry, magazines, books, other media, crafts, new toiletries)
- St. Vincent de Paul charities
- Habitat for Humanity Restores (unused or new building supplies, furniture)
- Preschools (craft supplies, books)
- Doctors' Offices (toys or books in good condition)
- Soles 4 Souls
- Veterans organizations or charities
- United Cerebral Palsy
- local Ronald McDonald House
- Deseret Industries
- The Rebecca Foundation (cloth diapers for low income families)
- School nurses (extra clothing for accidents)
Church (religious charities)
This is another tax deductible choice for donating items. In addition to the typical annual rummage sale fund-raiser, many churches work with local homeless shelters and foster care homes to provide less fortunate people with the items they need. Most of the time, proceeds go to a good use helping those less fortunate than us.
Consignment / thrift stores
These are very similar to Goodwill, except some of them will actually buy your stuff from you. The downside is that they usually don’t take everything and the amount they pay is typically nominal. Either way, you will benefit by helping a small business and getting rid of your stuff.
If you have time, I would recommend hosting a garage sale. The good news: You can get money for your stuff. The bad news: You will invest a lot of time, and most of your stuff wont sell (you will have to find a place to donate the rest anyways). Another pro – most of the people shopping at garage sales usually can’t afford to buy everything new, so you are directly helping out people in your community. I love shopping garage sales and have enjoyed having them. If I have the time, this is my favorite option. Here are some posts on my garage sale finds, as well as my tips for garage sailing, as I like to call it.
If you have items that are paper, plastic, or glass, keep in mind that this can be recycled. Most areas have curbside pickup, if not there are usually nearby recycling centers. If you have any metal products, your nearby scrapyard will buy this from you. If you have old electronics, there are special places where these are recycled or disposed of properly.
If the above options aren’t feasible, throw your stuff away. Don’t let the clutter get in the way of your life. Landfills have a bad connotation, but in recent years, there are great efforts underway to make them safer than in the past. For starters, environmental laws require landfills to be properly lined to prevent liquids from entering water sources. Some landfills are also implementing some innovative approaches for using non-recyclable trash residue to produce renewable energy and power homes. Remember to take any hazardous chemicals or unapproved items to the appropriate disposal sites, so they can be handled appropriately. These include paint, electronics, medicine, or old cleaning products. I have had a few people upset that I am advocating garbage, but that can't be farther from the truth. I hope that through the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge that you find that you need less and therefore you consume less. While you might need to throw some things in the garbage, I would hope that this is a small percentage. If it is hard for you to donate, then just get it out. Do not let your things consume you!
What do you do with your stuff?
If you have any great charities to donate to or recommendations, leave em in the comments!