Finding homes for your clutter

A couple of Saturdays ago, you will remember, I asked for people to send in requests for blog posts for me to write about. Everyone who wrote in had wonderful ideas of which I have made a list and will most certainly address each and every one of them in the near future.

I received the following request from Nicole which I felt needed addressing sooner rather than later. Although I can’t comment on the intricacies of her specific area of residence, which is somewhere in France by the way, I can give you all some general ideas that would then have to be translated into actual possibilities in your specific areas. It is much easier for you to do the ground work and to investigate the local possibilities but perhaps my suggestions will give you a starting point.

Here is Nicole’s comment…
“As for me, decluttering is time consuming, so from time to time I just throw things away instead of selling or giving them. I am not well organised, and in France we are not used to garage sales, we have what we call “vide -greniers” for a whole village, so I may have to wait quite a while for it to take place. I’ve just moved and I do not know the local second-hand shops.
Any idea to hep me ?”

Firstly for those who don’t speak French vide-greniers = empty-attics. I kind of like the sound of that. Anyway back to the problem at hand. Below I have put together a list of ideas for ways to find responsible homes for your stuff. Basic ways that with a little imagination could be translated to an opportunity in just about any country in the Western World.

  • Freecycle.org (there a 116 results for places in France alone)
  • Put items out on the street. This is simple ~ make a sign with the word free on (in your own language of course) attach it to the item and put it out on the street. Be a responsible citizen and bring it back in in the evening, if it hasn’t already gone, so it doesn’t look like trash or get ruined by the weather. Put small items in a box.
  • Instigate a Free Box for your apartment block or in the foyer of a public housing building. Same concept as the idea above only indoors. Communal give away if you like. If there is no notice board leave give away /sell signs near the apartment mail boxes.
  • Thrift store and secondhand stores. This one is self explanatory and are usually found easily on the internet, your local phonebook or perhaps by asking local citizens.
  • Sell through ebay or similar or advertise locally through newspapers, local notice boards in shopping malls or your apartment block, or other  internet outlet.
  • Have a yard/garage sale ~ even if this isn’t normal for your area, it wasn’t normal anywhere once so why not start a trend. Just set up a table in front of your house or apartment block and see what happens. You may need to check local bylaws to make sure you aren’t breaking any rules. We wouldn’t want you to get arrested.
  • Set up a giveaway, sell or swap facebook page between your friends, family and neighbours.
  • Ask a long time local where there is an community charity nearby that could use your stuff.
  • Ask other locals if their are charity bins in the area.
  • Google or other search engine is a great way to find local opportunities to get rid of your stuff. Just Search for “donate (the item you are donating eg. books) and your town/city.
  • Check out your local government web site, they usually have a section on donating, recycling and local flea markets.
  • Also check out my Recycling /Donating Guide

I personally believe that no matter what I have if it is still in good condition there is someone out there that can use it. Throwing perfectly good things away is just not something I feel right about doing. I imagine I had a good time acquiring much of the things I an now decluttering, in many cases irresponsibly no doubt, so the least I can do is spend the time to find a new home for it once I am done with it. In fact I enjoy the challenge for the most part and feel quite a degree of achievement when I find homes for particularly difficult items. So use your imagination and do what you can to rehouse your stuff.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something you keep because it seems so useful yet you don’t really have a use for it.

Today’s Declutter Item

Here is an example of something it took me a while to find a home for. When my immersion blender died of old age I agonised for months over which one to replace it with and finally settled on a Kenwood. Unfortunately clever marketing made it so in order to get the accessories I wanted I was forced to buy the model that had far more accessories than I needed.  I advertised these extra accessories on ebay three times making the starting bid lower and lower every time until I finally hooked someone. I could have Freecycled them but that would have only guaranteed that they would be taken but not necessarily by someone who had a genuine use for them. I figured if they had to be paid for they would more likely find the right home.

Kenwood Mixer Accessories

Something I Am Grateful For Today

The many outlets I have discovered over the last two years that make passing my useful stuff on easily.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow


Continue reading with these posts:

  • What’s your clutter weakness Since today's mini mission is to analyse your clutter weakness I thought it would be good if I also made it the subject of the day. Perhaps in the comments you might like to admit your […]
  • Disposing of this weeks mission yields In a post a couple of weeks ago that asked a range of question about your clutter issues and my blog. One of the readers asked for more information on how to get rid of the clutter that […]
  • Reduce Reuse Recycle One of my golden rules for decluttering is... Don't waste it just because you don't want it. There is no doubt that during the course of decluttering your home you are going to have to […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. Having to re-home items is a good penance to pay for acquiring too much stuff, and hopefully a powerful reminder to stop us the next time we are about to bring home something new. I find it very annoying to re-home things. The thought of trying to sell it or logging it sheepishly to a thrift shop really works in helping me curb the desire to acquire.
    I really have to ask myself: “Will I be de-cluttering this soon or will this be an item to use and cherish for years /decades?”

    So, just find a way to do it some way other than trash it. It’s a great lesson.

    • That is a good question to ask yourself before buying something Cat’sMeow. As paying the penalty of acquiring stuff by having to find new homes is a good deterrent for future ill-advised shopping behaviour.

      • Sometimes I’ll hold something in my hand and ask, “How long until I declutter you?” That answer really guides me.

  2. I hope I’m not too late to place a request for help with recycling/clearing something. Here’s my problem: I am divorced. What I do with my wedding photos? While I am still excellent friends with my ex, I really don’t want to drag my wedding photo album around with me everywhere I go for the rest of my life. I’ve thought about just keeping a few of the photos and tossing the rest, but that feels disrespectful and pollutes the environment besides. Anyone have any advice?

    • Hi Keira, and a warm welcome to you from everyone here at 365 Less Things. If this were me I think I would choose the ones I want to keep, offer the rest to my ex and or other relatives who I think might like them (our children especially if we shared some) and just get rid of the rest.

      The history of the day will still be preserved in the few that you keep and the others that relatives have and that is enough I would think.

    • Hi – Keira, I had a friend who was in a similar situation – he got the negatives digitised so they weren’t lost entirely – then offered the originals back to the ex, she preferred a copy of the digital version, the respective parents each wanted a few, but after that they ditched them. By the time the albums surfaced in the packed up goods, they both had new partners so they felt it wasn’t really appropriate to have the actual wedding photos around. Otherwise they could be taken out of the album and put into an envelope.

    • Hi again, just checked in with another friend as to what she did. She kept a few of the nice ones of herself as obviously she was looking particularly lovely and she figured she’d never see herself looking young and radiant again.

    • I am divorced too, I would have liked to throw them away but, as I have two daughters and two grand-daughters, I think they might, one day, be willing to look at them. So, I asked my elder daughter to take and keep them, though it may seem like clutter in her huge house !

      • I did not have any children when I got divorced and I think that might make my answer different. I pulled out all the ones that were just him and his family and mailed them back to him and left the rest in the album, which is in a box. I chucked all the other photos we took when we were together, but I think to eradicate all the photos might be to imply that it never happened, which is did.

  3. I agree with you , Cat’s Meow. When I buy things for my kids, I feel like having to pay a lot to ship it is my penance. As for the post, those are great ideas. Where you take things depends on what your goal is. If you want money, then it would be worth it to look in the phone book and find out where the resale shops are. If you don’t care, find out where there is a church or homeless shelter to donate to. I definitely agree with Colleen that there is always a home out there that would like your stuff. It just depends on how much time you want to spend to find it. The best thing about getting rid of stuff is that it will help you to be wiser the next time around when you see how much money you could have had by not buying in the first place.

    • Hi Spendwisemom – I agree, I have been working on garage and ceiling storage lately, and has required quite a bit of physical effort and so by time I’ve hauled everything around etc etc, and then I have to turn around and re-house everything, its another round of effort or even several rounds of effort, if stuff needs to go in several different directions/locations. Penance. Yep won’t be doing that again.

    • I am glad you back me up on this Spendwisemom. It can certainly be a nuisance to find homes for some stuff but the harder it is the better the deterrent and the more satisfying it is when you do.

  4. Thanks, Colleen, for adding the daily Mini Mission to each day’s post. A handy reminder – saves me having to go back to check. Wendy

    • My pleasure Wendy B, it was a request from one of our readers last Saturday. It actually makes it easier for me to post the mini mission on facebook and twitter each day too so win win.

  5. Great guide.

    Can’t help but agree with “Throwing perfectly good things away is just not something I feel right about doing. I imagine I had a good time acquiring much of the things I an now decluttering, in many cases irresponsibly no doubt, so the least I can do is spend the time to find a new home for it once I am done with it.”

    My friends all keep offering me their off cast furniture. (I only need side tables, and their offers are everything but!) But it kills my soul knowing they want them out ASAP and won’t consider freecycle etc. Thankfully, I’m told (and I’ll believe it!) that someone took their furniture from the rubbish room. Better than it being trashed… (I could hardly fit it as all my furniture is ‘floating’ or to one side of the big room, as I get it painted professionally! Not really time for adding MORE furniture!)

    • Hi Snosie,
      with freecycle it is so easy to get rid of stuff. It is such a shame people care so little that they can’t make that effort. Not to mention the fact that charities like Lifeline and Father O’Reilly’s will come and collect it as well. What a waste. I am glad someone took it from the rubbish room.

      • It made me SO angry the thought of it being trashed… I agree, if you go to the trouble of buying stuff, you should go to the trouble of disposing of it PROPERLY!!!

  6. I agree that sometimes it is important to find the” right home” for something .It could be for a number of reasons including respect for the item’s original owners. I recently listed some antique family medical books – beautifully illustrated and in excellent condition – but written in German. Somehow I had inherited them from my bi-lingual grandparents. We have medical people in the family who admired them but they felt that they would never be appreciated if they couldn’t be understood.I was delighted when I clicked on the one and only bidder to find that they had a long history of buying antique medical books ! Perfect ! I wasn’t selling these particular books on ebay to make money but rather to find the person that really wanted them and I succeeded .Any other means of letting them go would somehow have seemed disrespectful . But I have lots of different ways of “letting go ” and this is just one example. Lots of times I feel quite ok sending stuff to the Op Shop even if I could have sold it .

    • Well done Judith, you must have had the same thoughts about the fact that if someone was willing to pay for them they are more likely to look after them like I did for my Kenwood accessories. Your books were no doubt of way more importance though. I am glad they have gone to a good home.

  7. Great post, Colleen. This dilemma of finding suitable homes for items I no longer want is also one of the biggest tools in my decluttering arsenal. I’ve done it enough times now that I baulk at buying anything that I know will be difficult to declutter if I ever want to get rid of it!

    • Glad you agree Kim, it is just one of those responsibilities we should be prepared to face when we acquire stuff. Oh, the waste that goes on out there.

  8. Isn’t it great that after all the time spent acquiring and filling our homes, “oooh look at this thingy it’ll look great on the whatsit and I’ll get this joojmajig to sit on the watchamacallit” we now recite, “do I really need/want it” or “If I buy it and later it is not useful how do I get rid of it?” This blog really is brain changing!!

    This morning I had to purchase a new candle to burn and mark an anniversary, the lady in the shop said if I wanted that particular candle I would have to buy the holder as well, I argued that the shop sells the candles on their own (they were out of stock) but she wouldn’t let me buy the candle without a holder that I already had so off I went! Rather peeved to be honest. No candle but certainly no holder that I didn’t need another of! A couple of years ago I would have bought the lot just so I had the candle I wanted. (See Brain Change)

    I couldn’t even justify buying the set and passing on the holder to someone who probably has enough holders anyway. I’m glad I left the shop empty handed because elsewhere I managed to get three candles (which I will use) for the price of 1 in the other store, and I didn’t have to get a holder that I didn’t want or need! (Bargain) :0

    • Hi Dizzy. We have gone from thinking shopping is retail therapy to needing therapy because the retailers are making it so hard to buy just the one little thing we need. Go figure! Perhaps this decluttering gig doesn’t simplify our lives after all. Shhhhhhhhhh don’t tell anyone else I said that. 😆

  9. Hi Colleen,

    I have been meaning to say I love the ‘Fleur de Lis’ background. Is it significant to your family name/names or did you just like it? 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • No Dizzy it was just a pattern my hubby put on there because I wanted to distinguish the background without adding extra colour. He probably liked that one because it reminded him of our trips to Europe. He designs my blog page.

      As for your question “Is it significant to your family name/names…” it might interest you to read the following passage I just plucked from Wikipedia…
      “There is a widespread misconception, due in part to Victorian stationers’ marketing of engraved letterheads, that a crest and a coat of arms belong to everyone with the same family name; but usage by persons not descended from the original grantee constitutes usurpation. Bogus “family crests” continue to be sold to the gullible by heraldic “bucket shops”.”

  10. Thank you very much Colleen for your post and many thanks to everyone for the comments. All are very incentive. Meanwhile I understood that all the stuff is divorce related and this why I am so lazy about it !
    Now it’s up to me !

  11. Today we decluttered some more office supplies, which we had duplicates of. We’re now down to one drawer (the size of a shoebox), although the supplies in there will probably last for more than one year.

    We have three more drawers of the same size for paper craft, painting and calligraphy supplies though. But if I get down to the same box size for wool and fabric, I shall be happy. 🙂

    • That’s what it is all about, getting down to a quantity that you are happy with. My craft supplies take up a lot more space than yours do I am sure but I am almost satisfied with where I am at. At least for now. There are some things I have set aside to declutter but am just waiting to find the right homes for them. That will be a job for the very near future.

  12. I agree with Dizzy. This blog is brain changing. Now when I go grocery shopping, I’m starting to look at all the extra packaging and thinking how wasteful it all is and looking for alternatives. I’ve also been trying to eat better, more God-made food that doesn’t require any packaging! That’s the healthier way to go, for sure.

  13. Perfect list, Colleen. It looks like you thought of everything – international style.

    • Yes, very good list 🙂 . Also reminding us to google a bit helped me a lot. I just found this way that there was a charity shop (which is still very new concept here in Czech Republic) opened one week ago only two tram stops from my work! Thats perfect! I can get rid of not needed stuff and help my health at the same time by walking from there that two stops 😀

      • Hello Vera and welcome to you from everyone here at 365 Less Things. I don’t know that we have any other readers from the Czech Republic and if we do they comment often. I am glad that my advice has been a help to you. I find google to be so helpful when it comes to getting ideas on how to rehouse my stuff. So handy that the thrift store turned out to be so convenient to you and you get that bonus exercise also. Well done.

  14. I want to affirm what you have said about not feeling right throwing something away that is still useful. My spouse has been after me to throw away a number of things that have migrated into our house and filled up our garage from my mother’s house. I have been slow to remove them, although I have removed quite a load. Just this weekend I had to put a stop to throwing away a bunch of perfectly good things that she no longer uses, now that she’s in assisted living. I am feeling more supported and less like the crazy lady that saves everything. I’m not that lady. I get rid of stuff, I just don’t throw that much away. This strategy takes time. I am, however, encouraged to donate to more places. Can you address “fear of selling” at some point?

    • Hi Janet W,
      it what way do you mean fear of selling. Not being confident on how to go about it or being afraid of selling at too low a price. Please let me know more about how you are feeling on this subject.

      One thing I have to say about selling though is if it is too hard and you don’t need the money just let it go. Phone a local charity to come and pick it up. Clinging on to the stuff is not healthy and no amount of cash you get for it is worth the agony of having it around. You may think it all holds memories and is meaningful to your mum but it might just be a reluctance to move on from happier times. Perhaps your husband is concerned about that so don’t be too hard on him. Have a garage sale as that is quick and relatively easy to sell if you feel you need to. I agree though that the stuff shouldn’t just be thrown away.

  15. I would suggest that if you’re trying to find homes for things you set a time limit. I had a family member who could not discard things that still had use to them-she would say it was a sin to throw it out. So, she kept things she no longer had use for and if she saw a friend, relative or neighbor throwing out something she still thought was “good” she took it with the hopes of finding a home for them. Unfortunately she died before she found homes for everything. So if you feel the need to find a “good home” for something you no longer want, set time limits-perhaps a week or 10 days for a $20 doodad-maybe a month for something more valuable. If you haven’t found a home for it in that time, then donate it! and get it out of your home. Honestly there is much in our homes that no one might want and you could spend your lifetime trying to find someone to take something you don’t need or want.

    I would also suggest that we are still “hanging on” to something when we feel we “must” find good homes for things. After all, you don’t want it, and maybe you won’t find someone who will want it either! We all outgrow things and our tastes change, etc. Certainly, don’t toss everything in the landfill. If you enjoy ebay, freecycle, or yard sales, then do that. If you just want it out of the house then donate it to a charity.
    Recently someone mentioned that she wished she had done a better job of finding a home for something when she went to her thrift shop and saw that things that weren’t sold were now boxed up as box or bag “lots” and sold by the pound. I say “So what?”. It’s no longer mine and I have no say over what the thrift shop does. I can’t “control” what happens to donated doodads and I certainly don’t want to.

    Finally, re Colleens declutter item today-
    “I could have Freecycled them but that would have only guaranteed that they would be taken but not necessarily by someone who had a genuine use for them. I figured if they had to be paid for they would more likely find the right home.”
    Sure, paying for an item might make it more likely that it finds the “right home” for it. Not always though. We all have items that we have paid for that aren’t getting any love from us and plenty of purchases that we regret.

    I just think we make it more difficult for ourselves when we “over control” the whole decluttering process. If you enjoy the challenge of finding home for things then go for it, just don’t hang onto them for years waiting for that “perfect” home. It’s just stuff. Maybe it makes you feel better if you find that perfect home, but what if you don’t? Do you have to feel badly about it? Let it go. Life is hard enough.

    • Hi Amy in NY – that is a REALLY good point about setting a time limit. I am going to implement some sort of system asap.

    • Great idea !
      I will apply it, it is time for me to begin with a clean slate so june vaccation will be my deadline .

    • There are very few items that I spend an inordinate amount of time finding homes for. Most of my stuff goes straight out the door on Wednesday when I go to do my shift at the thrift store. There a just a handful of items every now and again that I make some extra effort on. I wouldn’t call that over control and at no point did I mention that I had to find the perfect home for my stuff. There has just been the odd time where I have given stuff away on Freecycle that I thought would just end up hoarded in someone else’s home. I hope that it didn’t come off sounding like I expect my readers to agonise over every little thing they are getting rid of. That surely was not my intention.

      Although I agree in essence with what you are saying here it is sounding a little too “easy come easy go” to me, which is what got many of us in this mess in the first place. I could easily put something aside for a week make little effort to find a home for it and then chuck it in the bin but that would not sit well with me. The clutter build up slowly, I am happy getting rid of it slowly and taking the time to do that responsibly is the least I can do.

      • Sorry, Colleen, didn’t mean to sound critical. Comments don’t always come off the same way as when one is sitting around chatting. I think this is a “hot button” issue for me since I have seen what happens when people hang onto things because they haven’t found the right home for it. Years go by and nothing gets “decluttered”. I didn’t mean to suggest that you want us to find the perfect home for things-just that I have seen what happens when people take too long to re house things that they feel they need to find a good home for.

        I also come at this from a different perspective. While some are just beginning to fear what they will have to deal with when emptying a home/apartment when parents and relatives die or move to assisted living, I have already done this. After doing your best to donate, sell, give away and toss-you may still have a lot left. At that point, if you are under a deadline, you will have to pay the junk hauler to take it all away. This is so ironic since your relative saved this stuff since it was “still good” and “someone might be able to use it” and you are having to pay to haul it away! So, yes I try to de clutter more quickly but am not always successful! Still I would rather donate it now rather than have my kids deal with it later….and I better get moving since I haven’t de cluttered anything today! Also your mini mission for today is a hard one! – “Declutter something you have kept for sentimental reasons.” and I expect it’s a hard one for many people!

        • You are right Amy a cyberspace chat is not quite the same as face to face. And you are also right this is, well I wouldn’t say hot button issue but I am passionate about people doing their best to declutter their items responsibly. We didn’t hesitate to acquire them in the first place so I think it is our duty to make the effort to try to find ways to donate, sell or give away than to toss perfectly good things in the bin.

          I know that the charity I work for will attempt to sell just about anything unless there is some sort of health and safety issue preventing them from that. Must of my stuff goes to this charity and I have had the odd thing that is better suited to Freecycle or selling on ebay so that is what I do even though it takes more effort. Some things I sell just to recoup some cash too I must admit.

          As for deceased estates. I have fortunately not had any experience with dealing with this situation. Out of curiosity I asked my father what happen when his mother died and he and Mum had to take care of her household items. He said Mum held and estate sale. When that was done she called a secondhand dealer to come and make an offer on the remainder of the items. Oh, and she kept some beautiful crystal in china. I specifically asked my father how much stuff went to landfill. To put this into perspective, my parents did this over one weekend if I remember correctly. My grandmother had a three bedroom home with two large outbuildings, one full of my grandad’s tools and things, who had been dead for about eight years and the other still contained furniture and equipment from the bakery they use to own. My parents had two business to run at the time this happened. Dad said what went to landfill wasn’t enough to fill a small box trailer.

  16. Very comprehensive list, Colleen. I am glad to have everything in this one post so I can refer back to it easily!

  17. I’m not receiving your blog automatically so trying to figure out what my ISP did to block it. Grrrr! Anyway, I just wanted to say that I am really glad that we have so many places to try for getting rid of our decluttered items. I hate to trash anything if I can help it.

  18. Well, there I was reading this article and felt inspired to post something on Freecycle and halfway thru, there was a knock on the door. A neighbour-friend in a tizz because she needed a small plastic bottle to transport holy oil tomorrow and had just broken hers. She came to me on the off-chance ahead of making a special trip to a late night pharmacy. I was able to offer her the choice of my small bottles saved to decant travel toiletries into and she took two. I cheerfully said I don’t need them back, so there is a tiny bit more space on the premises. I sometimes think de-cluttering is like magic; when you start it, things start to happen. 😉

  19. Hi all,

    I may be wrong but was it Rachel Hunter that famously quoted –

    “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen” it was originally advertising the profound properties of Pantene Shampoo but I think it became a catch-phrase for everything that will take time but it’ll be great in the end, just like de-cluttering responsibly. 🙂 🙂 🙂