I’ve known the magic of Marie Kondo for a long time (I blogged about her book way back in 2014, for goodness sake!) and like many of you I have been enthralled with her new Netflix Series ‘Tidying Up’ since it debuted at the beginning of the month.
Her book was something that helped me understand excess and made me aware of my own consumerism. 2014 was the year I started parsing down my closet, and eventually that led us to sell our 2200 square foot home, downsize to 1100 square feet, and then pack our life up into boxes and move across the ocean to a 725 square foot flat in Copenhagen. I talked about our downsize more in Episode 008 of the Plan Podcast, so check that out if you’re interested in hearing more about our personal experience.
When we did our major downsize two years ago I knew that it was going to produce a lot of unwanted items. To be honest thinking about it gave me anxiety and prevented me from starting a few times. What finally got me off my butt and motivated to downsize was doing the research and realizing that there were ways to be more conscious when it came to decluttering and downsizing other than throwing things in the garbage or offloading them at your nearest donation center.
Don’t get me wrong, donation centers are wonderful. If you are limited on time or resources please take your items to a donation center rather than letting this paralyze you from moving forward with cleaning or organizing. Most donation centers have programs to ensure items you bring there end up in the proper spot (as far as garbage, recycling, or landfill goes) but if you have some extra time and the desire to help your items find their way to someone who needs them, my tips below might help:
1. Posting items for free on for-sale sites, where they can more easily go directly to people who need them.
2. Donating items to nonprofits that assist people with a specific need (men or women trying to find jobs and in need of clothing, domestic abuse survivors, refugee resettlement programs).
3. Programs that reuse your items for a good cause (remaking wedding dresses into burial gowns for stillborn babies, programs that offer cheap or free prom dresses etc).
4. Seeking people in your community who need donated items following a tragedy such as a house fire or flood. You can often find these by searching Facebook or crowdfunding sites.
5. Donating old towels/blankets to animal shelters. They use these for baths, clean-up, bedding and welping.
6. Donating books/toys/games and *some* electronics to libraries, daycares, low-income housing programs, crisis nurseries, children’s homes, or literacy programs.
7. Gifting clothing/personal care items to someone you know who is transitioning or experimenting with their gender. Sometimes shopping is an uncomfortable experience and they might be happy to give your stuff a new home.
8. Donating cold-weather gear (coats, boots, gloves, hats) to schools and shelters, who often create a bank of winter items.
9. Donating old tupperware and food storage containers to soup kitchens, food pantries, housing programs.
10. Donating craft or art supplies to libraries and after-school programs.
11. Donate bikes, musical instruments, cell phones and computers to services that refurbish and donate them, or sell them to make money that they then donate to benefit those in need.
12. Host a swap party with your friends (everyone brings their items, receives a voucher for the estimated value, and then can “shop).
13. Properly dispose of or donate your nail polish. A nearby nursing home that I had previously volunteered with as a “nail painter” (best job I ever had) was happy to take a bunch of my unwanted nail polish. Perhaps there’s a service in your community that would use yours? Otherwise, the bottles should be left open so that the paint dries entirely before going into the trash.
14. Create a private Facebook Group to sell your items. This can be especially helpful when you’re parting with clothes. Since I’m short and most of my clothes have been tailored, this helped me create a community of women who wear similar clothing/shoe sizes.
15. Research brands with recycling programs. Crayola takes old markers and recycles the plastic. H&M has a donation box in every store for unwanted clothing. Madewell recyles old denim. Most of these brands give you a voucher or discount code in exchange for your donation.
Note that most organizations and services provide very clear guidelines for what they NEED and when/how they accept donations. They can usually be found on their website. Don’t take advantage of them or overwhelm these organizations with items that are not clearly specified as a need.
Some organizations will come directly to your home to collect items from you, including large items like furniture.
Hope that these tips can help you think more about how you can tidy up your home while helping others, and the planet. Happy organizing!