Declutter Challenge--and how to make sure your cast-offs don't end up in the landfill

August 27, 2022

I felt the need to declutter my sewing room again. It had been two years since the last declutter and organization and as we have since changed how we use this room, a clean out and reorganization was necessary. It has many functions and is alternately a sewing room, craft room (my knitting has another room), household repair shop, household storage room, and a shipping station (new!)

After determining how this room waS being used, the next thing was to declutter before any organization could happen. So let's talk about our clutter and where it goes when we remove it from our home. Part of the decluttering job should be making sure our used items fall into the right hands. The reality of our declutter mania is that many charities now get so much stuff that over half of our donated items end up in the landfill. They don't know what to do with a lot of it and don't have the manpower to give it the careful inspection it may need. Declutter experts will tell you to donate, don't bother selling, just get it out of the house! But I don't agree and think we have to be a bit more responsible with our cast offs. Selling is one certain way your items won't end up in the landfill. But if you don't want to sell, you can give some thought to where you donate to make sure your items will be used and not thrown out. I do have several outlets where I unload my unwanted items and avoid the landfill. They are:

Ebay: Generally I will list anything if I think I can get over $100.

OfferUp: An app where I sell items under $100 if I want to bother. If I don't want to bother I give to my:

Local Charity Shop: Anything that is useful, pretty, in good shape and I'm quite certain my charity shop can sell. They will look over each item and won't take anything that is unsellable.

Local Library: I donate all my unwanted books. I don't buy books anymore as I use the free Libby app to access my local library, including magazines, audiobooks, cookbooks, everything! Now when I get a book at Christmas or my birthday, it's a treasure to me.

My Friend: My friend has a friend who lives in a farming community nearby and has a "store" in her living room. She sells used items for low prices to low income families and she makes a little money doing it. Win win. You might want to ask around if anything like this is going on in your community. 

Church or other Community Sewing Circles:. There seems to be fewer and fewer of these groups but if you can find one, they usually do charity knitting and love just about any needlecraft you can give them. Call around and ask your friends.

Buy Nothing: Everything on this free app is free and I personally use it for specialty items. Example--I listed my quilting templates and someone was very happy to pick them up off my front porch. These might have ended up in the landfill if I had donated them because not a lot of people know what there are. This app enabled them to find the perfect home and we were two happy ladies. I have a friend who was worried that these items were being resold, but I'm cool with that. My goal is to avoid the landfill and if someone wants to take my free stuff and sell it, that's fine.

Local School: I give my unwanted craft supplies to my grandson's school. Everything is clean and in good shape and they are always happy to take it. Not long ago I gave them a bag of bits of yarn along with directions on how to make pom poms and tassels. The bag ended up going to the older children and everyone decorated their bookbags with colorful creations and then they made pom pom garlands and decorated their school room. Call the school first and ask to talk to the art teacher if they have one or just pop into the office. As long as your art and craft supplies are clean and usable, they will learn to love to see you come up the walk.

Garage Sale: Your goal here is to get rid of things and avoid the landfill, not so much to make money because you won't make a lot. First day, sell for cheap. Second day, cut the prices in half. The last hour, give away for free. No one is going to take anything from a garage sale to take to the landfill, so that is good news, and you may even make a little money. Anything leftover will have to be dealt with on an individual basis so that is why you want to sell it cheap in the first place, just so you won't have to do that.

Resale Shops: I've not had good luck with these but do have friends who swear by them. Bonus, you'll make a tiny bit of money.

Homeless Shelter/Emerging Households: Find organizations in your area who support shelters and people transitioning out of shelters and see what they are looking for. You may be a perfect match! We've had great success with this and in every case they have come to pick it up.

Pet Shelters: They will usually take your clean used bedding. Call first.

Facebook Marketplace: I'm just throwing this out there because so many people use it. I'm not on FB anymore but this may be the place for you.

Free Sign: If you live on a busy street try putting your items at the end of your driveway with a big FREE sign. I hear people have great success with this. No one is going to take your stuff and take it to the landfill, so if it's gone, you'll know it's getting used!

Trash: Obviously my last choice, but anything that is hopelessly unrepairable and no good to anyone has to be thrown out. This goes directly to the landfill, obviously.

Naturally it takes a bit of work to make sure your items will go to the right person and not end up in the landfill, but it's worth it.  Once I determine where my items are going, I bag them up and put them in the car right away. I put a sticky note on my dashboard to remind me that I have to make donation stops.

Now back to my sewing room! I've decluttered (big pat on the back), and it's time to make my room work hard for me. It gets the most use with my sewing and crafting but I see more and more household repairs going on in here. When I came in to take these pictures there was a little chest sitting on the counter held together by a vise. I can only guess it had been glued and was left here to dry undisturbed. Since several people like to make use of this room, I try to have all the household repair stuff easily accessible. If you need something, it's probably here; batteries, all manner of glues and tapes, string, wire and wire cutters, extension cords, little nails and tacks and screws; if you can't find something you can ask me and I should be able to fix you up.

Now for the biggest change to this room, the shipping station. I'm now selling on Ebay; not often, but seems like every week or so I list something and over a few months I've sold about 20 items totaling a little over $3000. I'm pretty thrilled, not so much that I'm making money, even though I am happy about that, I'm more happy that I'm removing something from my household and letting someone else love and take care of it. I'm no Ebay expert but I'm happy to share my experience if you are interested. Please let me know in the comments section. But because of this selling, I needed a place to store my shipping supplies; my boxes and bubble wrap, all recycled, boxcutter, packing tape and a surface to pack up the things and a shelf or two to store the items I'm selling so I carved out two shelves for that purpose. Shipping is a pain, but at least I have all my supplies handy!

Now before you go--two new book recommendations! 

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt, 2022. Lonely people come together with help from a remarkably bright octopus named Marcellus, who is incidentally one of the narrators of the book. I simply adored this feel good book and can only imagine that anyone who reads my blog would love it too. 

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu, 2022. Ok, it's a weird one, there is a talking pig after all, but somehow it makes sense. This is a fantasy sci-fi, and while I usually hate that sort of thing, I loved this book. The earth and her inhabitants are coping with climate change and a pandemic. Each chapter shows how different countries and different groups of people during different time frames spanning thousands of years, handle the changes. I hope you read it and let me know what you think. The last page put a chill up my spine.

And because I was waiting for some new releases to be delivered to my Libby app, I decided to reread an oldie but goodie, A Man Called Ove by Fredric Backman. This came out a decade ago and if you haven't read it yet, it's time, and if you read it ten years ago, it's still fun the second time around!

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  1. Thanks, Kristin, this is timely information indeed. I would love more information about selling on eBay or similar, how you determine postage when presenting this charge to a prospective buyer, and so on. Love the idea of a shipping station. When we moved and eliminated in any way possible at least half our belongings, we suddenly - after the fact - received an email from a company called “Max” something who will sell your items for you. They require that you collect and take a picture of your items IN CATEGORIES and that makes them much easier to sell. I don’t know what is required beyond that because it was too late for us, but might be worth a look. Sorry I lost track of the whole name. Of course, the category idea works for everything. Those resale shops tend to only want high-end clothing in current demand. Otherwise, don’t bother. Just because it was a $200 blazer from J. Crew doesn’t mean anything if blazers are not in currently in style. They did accept a couple of my things so it might be worth your time to bring several items in. And lastly, we have found some amazing quality children’s toys (child-size kitchens, Barbie houses, etc.) from Goodwill so that might be a place to donate outgrown kid toys. Even well-off parents don’t like spending major bucks for such short-lived items. Now if I could just tell my daughter what to do with my yarn hoard when I kick the bucket….Chloe

    1. I'm with you on the resale shops wanting only certain brands, but I can't blame them as they know what will sell. I brought my mother's gorgeous and expensive clothes to a local resale shop and she took three blouses only. She really did own some beautiful clothes and I ended up giving them to an acquaintance who was thrilled. I definitely will make a post about my Ebay experience. Give me a week or two.

  2. Kristin, your decluttering posts always inspire me and usually spur me into action - after one of your posts last year, I sent 8 bags of decent clothing and 3 boxes of "good" books to the Epilepsy Foundation (who will come and pick it up for you). I would love to know more about your eBay process. I have been recently thinking that I could sell a few things rather than give away (as I start to worry about lack of funds in retirement!) But knowing how to price for shipping etc is an obstacle for me.

    1. Eight bags, now that is a good clean up! I will write an eBay post. It is nice to have some extra money and to lighten up the load in the house for sure!

  3. You are amazing. The room looks so neat and clean. Where do you keep the boxes, tape, bubble wrap, etc.? Congratulations on making $3,000 on eBay.

    1. Thank you! Selling on eBay was really a lark and I'm surprised it has gone so well. I just took two items to the PO yesterday. Ebay makes it really easy by giving you labels to print out. I'm amazed, they really have all the kinks worked out. I'll make a post on it soon. I cleared out a shelf (with all my decluttering it was easy) and store my shipping stuff behind closed doors!

    2. Oh, and next time you come over I'll show you my little set up. It's nothing really, just a little space.

  4. Would so like more info on eBay selling.


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