Adventures in decluttering, round one

Since January I’ve had a box in my room designated as the place to put things I’m getting rid of, and I’ve slowly been adding to it, one item at a time. And eventually that box got full. Hooray!

But said box then continued to sit in a corner of my room for months. I’ve mentioned it here multiple times, saying I need to empty it.

Why was that? One simple question.

What do I do with the stuff once it’s “decluttered”?

I could drop everything off at Goodwill and that would be it—it would be out of my apartment and off my hands. But so much of what’s donated ends up in the trash, especially clothes, and I don’t want to contribute to that. I’ve been spending more consciously lately (including not buying clothes, but ahem, more on that soon), and I also want to declutter/de-own more consciously, too. So that left me with a dilemma: what to do about the box of stuff?

There are a very few specific items that I could get some money for if I sold them on Craigslist or somewhere else. And I am planning on doing so. But for the majority of the stuff, it would be way more time and effort than it was worth to bother even trying to sell half of the things, so listing it on OfferUp wasn’t something I was willing to take the time to do.

I could sort it out by type and find various places around the city to drop things off to (most places will only accept certain types of donations). I could list it on a buy nothing group, but I think most of those are run via Facebook. As much as I wanted the stuff out of my life, I hate Facebook more, and it wasn’t worth reactivating my personal account to post in those groups, let alone keep checking in to see if anyone responded about my stuff. That’s a last-ditch option for sure. Surely there’s gotta be some other way, right??

That question led to months of paralysis, until I recently finally got sick of it and wanted to reclaim that space in my room. And in my life. Wondering what I’m going to do with the stuff has taken up precious headspace that it certainly doesn’t need to.

At the very least, emptying the box would get some momentum going so I could continue slowly decluttering my apartment; I needed to empty the box so I could go about filling it back up again.

And I finally had an idea.

Yet another reason to love where I live

An awesome thing about my neighborhood is that it’s a common and accepted practice to place boxes of stuff out on the sidewalk with a “free” sign and have people take items as they walk by. I’ve certainly grabbed things on more than one occasion (whether I needed it or not, since “free” and “on sale” have historically been hard for me to pass up on. But that’s a different story that I’ve already written about). Why not do the same for my stuff, at least as a first pass? I’d much rather have people in the neighborhood take my things and use them, than risk my stuff going straight to the landfill after donating it.

And if, like me, those people later decided they didn’t actually need and want the free thing they grabbed off the sidewalk? Well, that would be their problem, not mine. I have no illusions about the fact that the stuff I declutter is probably going to end up in the trash eventually. But I’d rather that process happen later, rather than sooner.

So I decided I’d set the clothes aside for now and set the books, kitchen supplies, holiday decorations, and other odds and ends out on the sidewalk to see what happened.


I happened to look out of my window an hour or so after setting my items out there and saw two women stopped and going through the box. When they left, it was with the bulk of the items. I’m certainly not complaining! It’s actually surprising how gratifying it was to actually see people taking my things, rather than glancing outside and seeing the box was emptier than it had been.

Over the course of the day everything disappeared except for a few books. But those are one of the easiest things for me to get rid of since there are a few of the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood (also something I’ve taken advantage of when I see a book that catches my eye. Some of those books are still sitting unread on my shelf…).

As for the clothes, I’m either going to drop them off at a local homeless shelter (or a women’s shelter, but I need to call to confirm that they would want donations of clothes) or save them to bring home to my parents. There’s a fantastic consignment shop right by my mom’s work and she’s brought untold amounts of stuff there. And since I’m going home in October, I’ll probably just have her include my clothes in her next trip there.

There used to be a full box here, but now it’s down to just this pile of clothes (which admittedly should be much bigger)

So this first round was an unmitigated success!

Celebrating a little step

That first box of things is just a minuscule drop in the bucket compared to all of the other stuff I should be letting go of. There is so much more I need to get rid of, including so many more clothes.

But I have to remember that this is a process; I’m not going to magically hit the optimum level of decluttered one day and that’ll be it for the rest of my life. Even actual minimalists have to reevaluate their belongings from time to time. It might take another round or two for me to finally feel like I can let go of something that I’m currently on the fence about and keeping “just in case,” but that’s not a failure by any means.

So I’m proud of the fact that I’ve at least started this process, and wow did it feel good to set that box out on the sidewalk and get it out of my apartment! While in theory that stuff’s been “decluttered” for a while, it just changed locations in my apartment instead of actually leaving. I’m happy I’ve got that much more breathing room now.

Here’s to building off that momentum for an even more successful round two. Life will gradually start to slow down after I get back from FinCon next week so perhaps I’ll have more successes to report in the near future.

9 Replies to “Adventures in decluttering, round one”

  1. Congrats on the decluttering success! That’s awesome that your neighborhood supports that sort of thing. In my city, ‘Treasure Days’ are hosted twice per year where you can put anything you want on the curb and people can take it. The last one of the year happened last week and I TOTALLY forgot about it. I had a couple things I would have liked to get rid of but I guess I’ll have to try another method.

    Have fun at FinCon!

  2. I love this! Our neighbourhood does this too. One time, my partner even saw a perfectly maintained Dyson on the curb (we live in an area with lots of high-income families). It’s wonderful to see that our things can still be of value to others, even when we’re ready to part with them, and then see the empty space in your home where those things used to be.

  3. I’ve had great success putting stuff on the curb with a “Free” sign. I too feel better that items were chosen and hopefully made it to a new home where they will get more use before ending up in the landfill!

  4. Nice! More space is great and that has to be a relieving feeling now that you have more room to navigate around your apartment. The biggest part is really just getting rid of the mental space that those things were taking up. Even sitting in a box in the corner is a constant reminder that you need to get rid of them. Well done!

  5. Hooray! The downside of living at the top of a hill in a cul de sac is that this wouldn’t work for me, but I SO wish it would. I hear you on the paralysis of decluttering once you want to do better than just add to the Goodwill stream, and quite likely just to the landfill. Just because we’ve passed it on doesn’t mean we aren’t ultimately responsible for where our stuff ends up next.

  6. YAY! Congrats in taking another step forward. I really struggle with the decision of how is the best (or maybe least harmful) way to get rid of unwanted items. I love your solution and wish my apartment complex would allow this type of exchange. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love the feeling of having stuff gone! I tried to sell a couch on craigslist for over a month before finally just putting it on the curb. Having it out of the apartment completely overruled the feeling of not getting any money out of it, hah.
    Taking items to Goodwill/Salvation Army is a huge chore for me, as it would involve a car trip (and I don’t own a car). I need to take your route more often in the future, and just mark things ‘Free’ in a box. Congrats on a decluttering step!

  8. Hi! DC also has a really active “” community – I’ve picked up and given away some great things on there 🙂 I’m a 30something Arlingtonian who just found your blog and loves that someone else is looking at FI in this crazy town. Will definitely follow along!

  9. Congrats on the decluttering! I need to start doing that again soon. I got rid of a big box of stuff (which had also been sitting around for a while) right around my birthday. I did take the stuff to a thrift store, so hopefully it doesn’t get tossed. But I got a 30% off coupon, which was handy because I was looking for a couple of new shirts. All in all it worked out pretty well, I think. But any more stuff will probably go on either Freecycle or OfferUp.

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