Giving stuff away

It seems that these days I do a lot of talking about the benefits of decluttering but very little on ways to go about it. This is probably because I know I have a lot of readers who are well seasoned declutterers by now, and they know this stuff. But the fact also is that new readers find my blog all the time and may not be so informed about such things. So today I am going to mentions my favourite and most successful ways that I have managed to give away my stuff.

I am not going to write about selling stuff today only about giving it away, because quite frankly that is usually the quickest way to go about it. So here goes…

  • Thrift Shops ~ This is by far the method I have used most to reduce my clutter while at the same time helping others. Even before I started my “One thing a day” mission I had already been frequenting the thrift shop that I currently volunteer at. I did a little investigating to find a store near my home that would take a wide variety of stuff and it is the store that I gave and still give most of what I declutter. A simple lookup in the Yellow Pages online was how I found the store and it has been a God send to me. Prior to my volunteering there, I would put my daily decluttered item  in my transition point in the garage and when I had a car load to donate I would load it into my little hatchback and take it to the store. It was a joy to see it go and also to know I was helping both the charity, their shoppers who found these bargains, and also, through the charity, the trouble souls who without their suicide hotline might not be alive today. These days I just drop off the things I am decluttering on the day I go to do my shift. I have also made some lovely friends as a result. Thrift shops will often also pick up larger items such as furniture, mattresses etc.
  • ~ This is another great method for giving away your stuff. It is an online sharing site where people, with stuff to give away, list their items with a short description and location. People looking for these items can then send you and email to say they would like to be the recipient and you can then decide who to give the item/s to. You them give them your address to pick the item up from. You don’t even have to be there, just put the item on the stoop for them to collect when it is convenient.  It was rare that I didn’t get at least six people wishing to take the stuff I was giving away. One of the beauties of this site is that you can give away items that are broken. Simply describe the item and its condition and there are usually people out there who have the skill to repair and reuse these things. I gave away several broken items as well as perfectly good ones that for one reason or another I didn’t think suitable for the thrift shop. There are Freecycle groups all over the world. Perhaps there is one near you.
  • Curb Side  or the Feebie Box~  This method has also been very successful for me. In fact I used it just this week to give away some mini fluorescent light globes. (I have been switching to LEDs because they are better for the environment.) In this case it was a freebie box in the foyer but curb side is the same principle. You take the item you wish to give away and put it at the curb in front of your home. Or, as in my situation, in the foyer or other communal area of an apartment block, with a FREE sign on it. You could also take these items to your work place or community group. I have found that these items are claimed in very short time. I love to check on them just to see how fast they disappear. I put my light globes in the foyer at about 8am, when I knew there would be plenty of foot traffic down there, and they were gone when I went back down at around 10am. I am guessing they had been gone for a while at that point.
  • Friends or Family ~ There was a mass exodus of stuff from my home when my kids moved out. Even stuff I wasn’t really planning on giving away. They would tell me if there was something they wanted and, if it didn’t matter much to me or I wasn’t using it all the much, I would allow them to take it.  Also, most of my friends knew I was decluttering and if they had a need for something they would often ask ~ “You aren’t getting rid of INSERT ITEM HERE by any chance are you? And quite often I had just such and item I was happy to part with. Also I would ask friends and family if they wanted things if I thought they might be interested. *Vicki K has reminded me to tell you about utilising your cell phone camera to send photos, to family and friends, of items you are giving away. This is a quick and easy way to get a response to your enquiries. If people aren’t interested then you know you can swiftly dispatch the items to the thrift shop.
  • Targeting Specific Recipients ~ There are some items that you just know would be greatly appreciated by certain groups, for example ~ Schools can’t get enough free stationary or craft supplies. Animal shelters appreciate blankets, pillows and towels. Painters make great use of your old sheets. Playgroups will happily take your kids old toys. We even have a Bicycle Ecology Centre here in my city that takes old bikes and bike parts. They recondition bikes and either give them to those in need or sell them to fund the project. I think you get the idea. There a many places who have a specific need for you stuff and with a little imagination I am sure you can come up with some in your local area.

I think that covers my favourite ways to give away stuff. If you have a method other than these that have worked for you please tell us about it.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter or put away an item from your car, even it it is just a trash that is lying around in there.

Eco Tip for the Day

Food takes a lot of resources to produce so never let it go to waste. Have a few recipes handy that are great for using up left over bits and pieces, like curry, quiche or bubble & squeak.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

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

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Ooops! Sorry for the delayed start today. I thought I had scheduled this post to publish but apparently I had only saved it. Never mind, better late than never.

  2. Thanks for sharing. This is a great review of several various ways to get rid of stuff.

  3. Colleen, this is a very good list of ways to give our clutter away. I’m so glad we have many places nearby to us where we can get rid of things. This post needs to go in your Guides.

  4. We left a couple of bikes curb side on trash day. They weren’t taking up space in the garage but the backyard and it showed. We weren’t using them – it had been years – and when we decide to, we’ll start over with new

    • Hi Gina. Can I assume that someone took them away. Curb side decluttering sure is the fastest way I know of to offload your stuff. Well done. I also decluttered my bike three years ago. I did take a couple of rides to help me decide whether I really wanted to declutter it or not. I was not inspired to ride by those tests, so I let it go. Now that I am in town close to lots of stuff I fancied the idea of riding again. So I am borrowing my future daughter-in-laws bike and have been riding it for a month now. I am loving it and will eventually buy a bike for myself. Circumstances do change but I do not regret letting my bike go when I did. One can’t predict the future and if we keep things for years just in case our homes would be in quite a cluttered mess.

      • Colleen – I have a friend who decided to get back into bicycling after being out of the saddle (literally) for a number of years. After much looking around – she is a frugal soul and we all expected her to find something off trademe – she surprised us all by getting one of those retro bicyles with a basket on the front, and she loves it. And because she loves it sooooo much, she rides it at every opportunity.

        • Hi Moni, the bike I am riding is retro too and has a basket. I bought the basket myself when I realised I would be riding it a lot. I have already got my money’s worth out of the basket. I ride around town and out to the thrift shop I volunteer at just about every wednesday. I love to ride and I feel about 19 again when I do, that is because that is the last time I rode on a regular basis. I will most likely buy a similar bike to the one I am using now when my future daughter-in-law wants hers back. I took her daughter riding along the harbour on Sunday. We had a lovely time together and she grew in confidence with her riding at the same time. She calls me Cranny because I am the crazy granny (my daughter devised that name with her). It is pretty right though as, like my mother, I am the kind of granny who loves being a childlike as the kids when we are together. Making them laugh is what it is all about with me.

          • Colleen – if your daughter in law isnt using it herself, it makes perfect sense to get use out of hers. My friend says the best part about hers is that you dont feel you have to have ‘pace’ or and it seems to be entirely appropriate to ride it like kid even though you are an adult. If I ever decide to take up biking, its what I’d get.
            How fun to take your grand daughter for bike rides! And I love the name Cranny!

          • Hi Moni, the name suits me well. I will be a grandmother like my mother is.

            The bike I use doesn’t even have gears. It is nice to ride and old fashioned simple bike again. Everywhere I ride is mostly flat so gears really aren’t necessary.

  5. I have successfully given things to three outlets: 1) family and friends , 2) various groups at church and 3) theater groups.

    My nieces and nephews are setting up their households, and I have been able to text them photos of furniture, a set of china, other household items to see if they have an interest. They have gladly received quite a few larger items that I am happy to give and relieved not to have to deal with further.

    I wanted to specifically mention texting photos of items. My nieces and nephews are setting up their households, and I have been able to text them photos of furniture, a set of china, other household items to see if they have an interest. They know instantly from the pic if they are interested and have gladly received quite a few larger items that I am happy to give and relieved not to have to deal with further.

    If I just pay attention to announcements for the various groups at church, there always seems to be a need. For example, craft items for kids clubs, fabric for the sewing group, children’s clothing for the moms group, small gift items for the womens’ retreat, food items for the food bank, and books for prison ministry are some of the items called for.

    Some of our clothing and accessories – with distinctive styles or great potential for alteration have gone to our local theater. I really get a kick out of seeing my old chain belts adorning the waist of some youthful pirate. An old prom dress was turned into a wedding gown. I had a huge long long length of fabric that they died brown and rippled between two players – to be the chocolate river in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

    • Hi Vicki K, I also text photos to my family and friends to see if they want something that I am giving away. I think I will add that to this post for future readers to see. This is a great way to get an answer quickly and easily. If they say no then it can go straight to the thrift shop.

      Paying attention to those community callouts is also a great idea. Paying attention to your local government web site is also a great way to keep abreast of recycling opportunities.

  6. There is also the joy of being generous when you give things away.

  7. Hi Colleen! As I have said many times, giving stuff away is my favored method of decluttering. It is also the easier one. I find that people are very receptive to getting things for free (sometimes not even needing that thing, sadly…), but they are unwilling to buy the same item. To avoid cluttering someone else’s home I always ask if the person wants such and such item, before offering the item or even taking it to the person’s home. If yes, of it goes, if no, I find someone who wants it or some charity place that can pass the item along. It is very liberating getting things out of your house and gone to good use in someone else’s house.

    • Hi Andréia, as we both know, the faster the items leaves the home the less likely it is we will change our minds and leave it to clutter up the place. I agree also, it is best to ask first if people want things and to say there is no pressure to accept them.

  8. I, too, am a big proponent of giving things away. No better time than the present to pass your goodies along as opposed to stock piling them for a yard/garage sale, trip to a flea market or e-bay. Out of sight, out of mind. Knowing the joy you are passing along to someone who genuinely needs or loves the item and/or the charitable organization whose programs benefit from the sale of your items, is worth its weight in gold.

  9. I have found that it is helpful to find a thrift shop that supports a cause you are passionate about. Mine is one that supports animal rescue groups and I feel really good about giving them things to sell.

  10. I e-mail my kids to see if there are things they want that I no longer use or need. Why wait until you are dead and have potential disagreements over your stuff. For things I am keeping, I am putting names on them for who gets them some day in the distant future. I had a friend who’s mom passed away and she left names on things and my friend said it was so easy to divide things up. My husband hasn’t retired, and still has a good 10-15 years, but if I keep decluttering the way I am, there won’t be much left to divide.

    • Smart thinking Marianne. My mother started giving away the items in her china cabinet some time ago. She said she would rather have the joy of giving them to her children and grandchildren now while she is still alive. And of course that has the added benefit, as you say, of those left behind having to deal with it. Good for you.

  11. I have recently given kitchen items to my niece who is getting married in the fall, instead of to the thrift store where they were headed until I asked her! Our town dump has a “give and take” shop where items are viewed by residents and can be taken as a first come, first served basis. Things that I don’t think the thrift shop would want, go there. Some damaged, broken or slightly stained go there. If they don’t get taken, they are then thrown away, but I feel better that they might be useful to someone before that happens. I gave away multiples of photos to 3 of my nieces, 2 of which came from divorced homes and I thought they’d like pictures of their parents young, happy and in love. I donate to my church and craft guild when they do an auction for fund raising. It is a win-win for me, I get rid of things from my home and don’t feel the need to bid to help them make money, so nothing comes back into my home. I leave the bidding to less enlightened clutter gatherers! 🙂

    • Hi Kim, I did the same with lots of things in my home when my two children moved out. I love the idea of the give and take shop at the dump. I wish our dump had something like that. I like all your methods of decluttering. Well done.

  12. I learnt about Freecycle here at 365 Less Things back a couple of years ago and it has been a huge help on my decluttering jouney. Initially my husband wasnt keen on the idea but he quickly warmed to the idea. Several of our friends and family are now also members and it has been fun listening to how they have listed weird and wonderful items. I dont really have much to offer on freecycle these days but I do keep an eye on the requests list because you just never know what you might see that will give you the nudge to finally let go of an item. I have kept a couple of specific contacts in an inbox folder – one is a coordinator for a local community service that assists displaced families in the community ie house burns down with no insurance, women’s refuge, the list of circumstances goes on and on. Of course, my son is the first obvious person to offer things to these days.
    This has just reminded me that we have been talking about getting rid on the basketball hoop attached to the front of the house, I will take a photo on my way out the door this morning.

    • Hi Moni, Freecycle is a great way to get rid of things. It can also be a great way to get things. My daughter needed a TV cabinet so I just kept an eye out on freecycle and picked her up just the kind she wanted. The people were concerned that it wouldn’t fit in my car so they offered to drop it off at my place the next time they were in town. How generous is that. As it turned out it did easily fit in my car and that is how I got it to my daughters house.

  13. Isn’t it amazing how things that we no longer want can be just what someone else is looking for! When we cleaned out the garage last year we got rid of so much old stuff that one of the tall shelf units was redundant. It was old and battered, a bit rusty in places and the bottom shelf was sagging, but our neighbor came over and asked if he could take it. He said it would be perfect for his cabin. Needless to say, we were all very pleased.

    I didn’t know Freecycle has a list of requested items, I shall take a look at that.

  14. Great summary, Colleen. My preferred way to give away things is to a charity which comes right to the door for pickup about every six weeks. That seems to be just enough time between pickups to accumulate a bag or two of donations. The items are taken to a central city in our province for resale and the proceeds go to the charity. Sometimes I’m tempted to save everything for a spring yard sale, then I remind myself of how little got sold in previous sales, and how it mostly ended up donated anyway. I like the idea of a sale better than the reality.

    We also have an annual book sale in our community, and if I have books to get rid of in the months leading up to it, I save them for that – otherwise, the books get donated as above.

    • Hi Jo H, I used to love that in the US when I lived there but to my knowledge there is no such thing here. There has to be furniture involved before you can even book a pick up from a charity here. They will then take your smalls as well. However I have never minded the short drive to the thrift shop here.

      The charity I work for has a big book sale once a year too. However I don’t have any books left to donate. I never really had many in the first place. I have always been a library goer.

  15. I mostly bring my stuff to the thrift shop unless I can find someone in the area who wants it. We live 80 miles from the one I take it to so it sometimes has to sit here for a while. I have a question for you Colleen, how do you gauge if you should bring to the thrift store or just toss it out? So many times I think I probably should just toss it out so they don’t have too but, then I think maybe someone will buy it. For example, I have a watch now I’m getting rid of. The watch is bad but the band is good. Do I toss it or send it to the thrift store?

    • Cheryl, your example of the watch is something great for freecycle as long as you describe clearly that the watch is not working but the band is still in great shape. You might find someone loves the band or even someone knows how to repair watches or just wants to enjoy learning how to take them apart to study the insides…lots of children would enjoy this with guidance.

    • Hi Cheryl, that is an interesting question. We sell lots of watches at the thrift store I volunteer at. Mostly the batteries have just gone flat. We used to have a batch of batteries to replace them with so that people could see that the watch was still useful. However if the watch won’t work I usually just throw it out unless it has a good band which I will detach from the watch and sell AS IS. There are plenty of people out there looking for a new band.

  16. Most items we donate to our favorite thrift shop. Their prices are lower than Goodwill or Salvation Army so people who really need something have a good place to shop. Also they do not get as many donations so they really appreciate any they get. We put a bag in the car once it is full, and go by after accumulating several bags.
    We sometimes take books to the library for their sales–especially if it is a book the thrift store might not sell..
    I am trying to think of possessions kind of like thinking of clothing and cost per wear. If we have had something for several years and used it a reasonable number of times, then we probably have negative cost per use by now–for example a couch used daily, a mixer used weekly, etc., so it is easier to just donate than try to find a buyer. I occasionally take small items to a church consignment shop–like Christmas or other seasonal items–mostly decorative type things since they do not sell clothing or toys. They will let you donate what they did not sell, so whether it is sold or donated, for me it is gone.

    • Hi Nana, I understand your cost per use. I must admit it is easier to not be bothered with trying to sell something when you feel you have got your money’s worth out of it. However don’t let that same equation deter you from getting rid of something that you feel you haven’t got your money’s worth out of. Consider it a lesson in economics and just let it go. Sell it by all means but don’t hold on to it out of guilt.

      I love the consignment store concept. I used to have access to such an outlet years ago but am not aware of any around here these days. It sure is easier than dealing with the selling yourself.

  17. This is great! I often find that giving away is the best way for me to declutter. I keep an ongoing bag in the hall closet for donate items, but the faster things go, the better. I’ve found that when offering items to friends and family, I need to have a clear deadline, otherwise someone might take too long to respond or worse say they want it and months or years go by before they remember to take it home with them-especially large pieces you can’t just hand them as they leave. So it’s helpful to make the offer and say that you are donating these items on Saturday afternoon and for them to come take anything they want before then. I once kindly agreed to keep a large piece of furniture-which partially blocked my hallway for several days as the person made a new excuse each day for the delay.

    • Angela – I’ve also run into this problem before. Ive had requests from Freecycle lined up for something, then a relative had said they’d like it, so I declined everyone from freecycle but then relative has no short term plans to collect it. I do think family should have first option but in future I will say (item) is going on freecycle to be collected by Saturday, if you want first dibbs, are you interested and would you be in the area on the weekend?

    • Hi Angela, I think giving a pick up deadline is a good idea. When people understand that they will miss out if not collected by a certain time they are much more likely to meet that deadline and not take advantage of your generosity.