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!
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.
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.