What to do with all your clutter: Pt. 1 Donate it!

A Series On Getting Your Clutter Out Of The House

One of the most difficult aspects of clearing away clutter and excess is actually, physically getting it out of the house. Sure, cleaning up closets and counters feels great and makes you breathe a sigh of relief when it's finished, but if you're just boxing up all the junk and sticking it in the garage or attic, that's not really "decluttering," is it? It's playing musical chairs with items you don't need.

What should I do with it all after I box it up?

But that doesn't mean it's easy to actually get rid of your extraneous things. It's hard. Attachment issues aside, the simple act of removing the items is sometimes confusing and challenging. In fact, it's one of the questions we hear most often about decluttering. “Well, what should I do with it all after I box it up?”

It’s a valid concern, and one to which there are several possible answers. You can donate items to charity if they are things that people in need may find useful. You can sell some of the stuff if it has value. Or you can recycle/throw it away if it doesn’t (always recycle if possible!).

There are a ton of services out there to make the process easier, regardless of which process you decide to go with. Keep in mind that a thorough, spring decluttering process will usually require some combination of selling/donating/recycling. It’s unlikely any one will be completely sufficient for a large job.

We will be breaking down each process with individual blog posts, starting today with donations. 

Your Donation Guide

So, what should you donate? This can be a difficult question to answer, and it depends on where you are planning to donate your items. A place like Goodwill or the Salvation Army is a good choice for certain items like lightly worn clothes, houseware items or furniture pieces. The benefit of these types of donation places is that they help your items stay in the local community, helping out your needy neighbors instead of being shipped across the country.

Items like coats and shoes can be an excellent opportunity to help the local homeless community. Getting in touch with local shelters or Veterans Hospitals is a great place to start. It is always best to contact these places directly. There are a ton of scams online. And even some legitimate sites who'll accept your items but -again- ship them far away. Remember. It's best to stay local!

If you have musical instruments you want to donate, contacting mom and pop music stores or local public radio stations is a great bet. Most cities have programs to help underprivileged children discover the joy of music, who otherwise would never be able to afford it. 

Again we want to stress the importance of giving locally whenever possible. Make some phone calls and see who serves your local community. However, there are plenty of trustworthy national and international organizations you can donate to.

Here is a brief list of trustworthy organizations:

GoodwillSalvation ArmyVolunteers of America, and Vietnam Veterans of America are great places to donate household items, clothes, furniture, or small appliances. Another benefit is that you can schedule home pickups, so you don't have to worry about transporting larger items by yourself. 

Operation Give is another excellent way to donate gently used or new items, such as children's' toys, games, sports equipment, and/or school supplies. These items go to support deployed servicemembers and their families, which is why, ideally, most of the items should be new or very gently used. 

The Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits is an organization that attempts to provide job training and professional attire for people trying to pull themselves out of poverty and better their lives and careers. This is a great option for old suits, business clothes, and shoes, for both men and women. 

Trimming down that book collection? Instead of selling them or tossing them away, consider donating them to the Global Literacy Project

Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation seeks to keep music alive in schools with under-funded music programs. Consider giving them your working instruments. If your instrument doesn't meet their standards, they will sell it on eBay and use 100% of the proceeds to support their mission. So either way, you'll be helping out.