Decluttering–it’s all the rage, the subject of classes, TV shows, and bestselling books. I have lost track of the number of times I pledged to once and for all dispatch all the books I will never read, clothes I will never wear, old financial records I don’t need to save anymore. The odd piece of furniture, old tools, handbags and costume jewelry and general household detritus.
But, for all I wish I could regain control of my space, I always seem to fall short of the mark. Toward the end of last year, I had made some dents, cleaning out a couple of bookcases, organizing the armoire in my bedroom, and freeing up drawer space in the spare bedroom. In the process, I found things I had forgotten I had. For instance, the half-dozen pairs of sunglasses, including a very nice pair of Smiths that have to be at least 25 years old. I bought them because hey, we have the same name. Also, the frames are purple. I love purple.
I know that one rule of thumb for this process is that if you haven’t used or worn something in the previous year or two, you should get rid of it. I can’t always agree with that. Sometimes you do lose track of things that you really liked or that went out of style and then came back in, which is my way of saying that I will be keeping the sunglasses.
That said, the one thing that has always stopped these clean-out sessions in their tracks wasn’t that I didn’t want to get rid of things after all, but that I didn’t know how best to get rid of them. I don’t want to deal with the hassle of a garage sale, and simply tossing the stuff in the trash is wasteful and in the case of some electronics and household chemicals, ill-advised if not illegal. So I talked to friends, then poked around online, and found that I have more options than I thought. Not all of them are free, but they’re out there.
The Give Back Box is a free service that allows you to use an old Amazon shipping box or other cardboard box to send clothing or household goods to Goodwill. The US Internal Revenue Service Publication 526, Charitable Contributions and Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property, contain guidelines for defining charitable contributions and in general how to estimate value. Goodwill has also put together guidelines for calculating the worth of donated items. In addition, this Donation Calculator references valuations from several charities (the online spreadsheet showed up in Firefox, but not in Safari). Some Habitat for Humanity websites also have guidelines for estimating the value of donations of appliances, building materials, and tools.
For me, that means spreadsheets and photographs for tax purposes. Yea, spreadsheets.
When it comes to clothing, I always forget about resale/consignment shops, which are a good option for my old office clothes and dressy coats I haven’t worn in years.
Old VCR tapes are currently one of the banes of my existence. Some resale shops may take the old movies, but I doubt they would want the scores of History Channel WWII programs that my dad recorded. Companies like GreenDisk can recycle the tapes, along with electronics such as laptops etc, though the service is not free. Local municipal agencies–in my case, the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, accept all sorts of household waste, including chemical and electronic. My local OfficeMax accepted an old printer of mine for recycling, and they also give credit for returned ink cartridges if you make in-store purchases. Check the website for details.
Lots of places accept donated books. My local library. Goodwill. A number of online charities.
So, with some work, I hope to finally, FINALLY, get rid of the junk. I will try to recycle most of the things I no longer want, and minimize the garbage destined for the landfill.
How about you? I know there are any number of recycling and donation options I’ve missed, so if you have favorites, please do post them.