How to Let Go of "Perfectly Good" Clutter

I was working with an awesome client of mine who had spent a lot of time decluttering and organizing before we started working together.

One of the biggest pains for her was her mudroom. It was crowded (actually, her word was “constipated”) with all kinds of stuff that she had decided to get rid of - but she was at a loss of how to literally remove this “perfectly good” clutter from her space.

Like so many of my clients, she’s very concerned about the environment. It didn’t feel right for her to just throw so much usable stuff in the trash and call it a day.

When I first looked into organizing professionally, I became fully aware of the extent of our society's trash problem. Wrapping my head around this absolutely devastated me. It honestly took me a long time to feel like I could take up space as a person again.

I had to learn to accept this widespread issue and overcome this guilt and shame I had around trash. However, what I took away from this situation, is an understanding of our options for decluttering responsibly.

If you’re working on decluttering and feel like environmental concerns are making it hard for you to finish the job, read on for your best options.

Donate.

This one is obvious, but it deserves mentioning. Any clothes, shoes, housewares, furniture, and books that are in reasonably sellable condition are worth donating. If it’s “perfectly good,” chances are it can be donated, and it’s so much more efficient to direct as much stuff as you can in this direction. Check out the lists offered here, here and here.

The trick is actually getting to the donation center. How many of us have driven around for months with bags of donations in the trunk? I’m guilty. Now I make sure to actually put this errand on my to-do list and do it purposefully. Some donation centers offer a free pick up, too, though you may need to wait for your appointment.

Share.

Perfectly good things that can’t be donated can always be shared. I don’t mean guilting people you know into taking your stuff - that’s a whole other post.

There’s Freecycle, there’s the list of free stuff on Craigslist, local swap groups on Facebook, and some communities even have swap shops! Here in Northampton, we have the Recenter, where residents can freely give and take second hand goods.

You can also think about who genuinely really needs what you have. I once gave a ton of my extra writing utensils to a school, and a fellow freecycle user tipped me off that I could bring my extra safety pins to the senior center where a lot of the members do quilting.

Resell.

This honestly isn’t my favorite option because resale takes time and energy that’s only worth spending in special cases. I think if you really want to resell, the best option for a lot of stuff is to have a yard sale, and then plan for a trip to a donation center right after to give away anything that wasn’t sold.

For bigger ticket items, like furniture, I like to use Craigslist. I am not a fan of Ebay unless you are familiar with it - I have actually lost money once listing an item that didn’t sell because I had no idea what I was doing. Burn!

For items that can’t be sold but can be recycled or composted, please do so if you can! Check with your local DPW to see what’s available to recycle in your community.

Sadly, at the end of all of this, there may still be some items that have nowhere to go but the trash, and that’s okay. To ease the pain, think of all of the stuff you did get to save from the landfill by maximizing the above options.

Also consider that decluttering is the first step toward consumer clarity, which reduces the need to manufacture new stuff. And of course, don’t forget to pay it forward and take your shopping list to the second hand market once in awhile!

With Love & Gratitude,

Anna Brunelle