Surprise, surprise: The Beard and I have moved again! No, it’s not like last time when we moved from our sweet little small town in Central PA to Philadelphia; we moved a massive three blocks away from our tiny apartment to an unbelievable two bedroom in a sweeter part of the neighborhood. We're pumped.
After signing the lease on our new place, it was go time to start packing and, inevitably, purging the items we simply do not want to move. Once or twice a year, I dedicate a rainy Sunday to go through all of my clothing/items/papers and figure out what can be donated and what shall stay. On top of that, I have a small milk crate next to our door that holds smaller donations until we collect enough to make a drop off.
There are a thousand ways to tackle a decluttering purge; perhaps the most famous is the KonMari method that applies a psychology of happiness to our clutter. Yes, I’m a fan of the KonMari method, but what this method of decluttering fails to explore is how to responsibly donate your items. We’ll get to that later.
With limited time to get my items packed, apartment cleaned, and keys handed over, I had to employ a more, erm, condensed method of decluttering. Below are the basic rules I follow during a short-term purge. If you answer any of these questions with a yes, it’s time to let go.
A go-to Decluttering Checklist
For clothing, accessories, and shoes:
Was it free from an event? Toss.
Have you been meaning to repair it for over six months? Bye-bye.
Do you know a friend or organization that would love it? It’s up for adoption.
Is it uncomfortable? Kobe that shit right into the basket.
Is it a Halloween costume? Into the sin bin ya go.
For miscellaneous items:
Does it fail in its intended purpose? Dunk it.
Is it broken beyond reasonable repair? Later, dude.
In terms of tech, have you already moved on to the latest and greatest? Responsibly recycle that shit.
Are you keeping it "just because?" Bye, Felicia.
Do you have a digital version? Campfire fuel.
Is it a non-identifying document? Doodle canvas.
Can you switch over to paperless billing? Make confetti.
Are there no actual signatures on it? Paper airplane material.
Of course, this quick method of decluttering is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. I never see a purge as an excuse to go out and replace what I donated; if anything, decluttering is a tough-love reminder of my consumption. Thankfully this time around, we only sent a few bags over to Goodwill - a vast improvement over the truckload of items we donated before we moved to Philly. For the items we donated (gently-used clothing, books, and newer photographic equipment), it made sense to hand it off to Goodwill, but it had me wondering if this was the most responsible method of donating.
How to donate responsibly
I’ve been guilty of decluttering without any real idea of where my donations will end up. Will my clothes actually grace the racks of my local thrift shop, or end up in a landfill because of a minor hole? During my quest to find out more about what happens to my donations, I learned that only 20% of clothing donations actually make it onto the thrift store rack.
Okay, so how do I donate responsibly?
Luckily for us who wear their clothes down to the last thread, most Goodwills and Salvation Armies participate in textile recycling through companies like USAgain, saving your gross weekend jeans and Dorito-stained leggings from a landfill. USAgain also provides convenient recycling bins across America, so your dirty hippy skirts from college can finally have a home. (Am I projecting?)
Tech items are a bit trickier, but not really. Instead of throwing old tech into the same Goodwill garbage bag as your clothing, take your items to your local Best Buy; their recycling program is free and includes all of those pesky cables for which you can’t seem to find a home.
Even with a bevy of options to offload your clutter, in my opinion, the most rewarding option is to give your clothing/items directly to someone you know who needs it. And no, I’m not talking about disaster relief agencies: I hate to break it to you, but that frowning kid standing in the midst of wreckage? Yeah, she doesn’t want your old SlipKnot hoodie. No - I mean a friend, a colleague, a neighbor, that weird dude your sister is dating, etc. Finding a home for a once-loved item will not only feel good for you, but for whoever is on the receiving end.
What approach do you take to decluttering? Do you dispose thoughtfully or set fire to a trashcan full of your unwanted stuff and walk away with a cool explosion in the background? Share your tips!