how to get rid of stuff

Saturday, November 29, 2014

It's shocking how quick & easy it is to buy something,
and how awfully difficult it is to get rid of anything.

I've found that the biggest hurdles to feeling comfortable participating in the second-hand economy are lack of information and lack of habit. So let's get rid of these first obstacles right now with a little how-to guide.

0. Know that getting rid of objects will likely make you a little bit of money, be it in cash or tax-deductions (most donations are tax-deductible). It will also free up storage space in your life, physically and mentally, which is great.

1. Dedicate a place for all the objects you feel are irrelevant in your life (depending on size, it can be a bag, a box or a corner in a room).

2. Pile up these objects there until their volume or quantity calls for action.

3. Meanwhile, do the research part (a one-time ordeal):

     - do a web search to locate the closest thrift stores that accepts donations.
The most well-known in the US are Goodwill and The Salvation Army, but your city might also have a local chain of thrift stores. Some of these chains offer pick-up services, either for free or a small fee, if you schedule it enough in advance - which is great if you cannot do the drop-off yourself!

     - also keep an eye out for donation boxes when you're in town. Sometimes they are located close to supermarkets, which is convenient on your way to grocery shopping. They usually are made for clothes, shoes or books (make sure to check beforehand).
     - also check-out your city's website, or call city hall to learn about their donations / recycling programs (for example, our town has a page that links to all the local places that accept book donations)

     - additionally, you can register at your local Freecycle chapter. It's a non-profit network of people who give stuff out for free. Super easy, basically a list of OFFER / WANTED from folks in the same town.

     - if there are universities near you, chances are they have a student furniture exchange program or a swap fest at the beginning & end of the academic year. Call the schools or look online for such possibilities.

     - last but not least, you might wish to sell some of your objects, in which case your first 2 options would probably be your local craiglist and then ebay. (note: craigslist also has a free category). Oh, and of course local vintage stores for clothing & accessories. And lastly, your very own garage sale if you feel so enclined.

4. Decide which of these options are the most convenient and/or interesting to you.

5. Get your objects ready, i.e. put them in the state of cleanliness in which YOU would like to receive them.

6. ACT !!! Do the drop-off / set up your meetings / go bargain at the vintage store / set up that selling table in your driveway. On your way to work, or as a weekend routine, or however it pleases you. As long as it gets DONE.

7. Rejoice for the good deed done, and also know that this effort will eventually dwindle and stop if you reach your own equilibrium at home - i.e. at some point, hopefully, you won't need to declutter anymore (I'm not there yet). The good news is, getting rid of stuff the right way is work - which makes you think real hard next time you consider an impulse purchase.

8. Now that you know all the tricks, it becomes easy as pie to shop second-hand yourself for future needs.

Note: tax-deductions linked to donations are not based on their retail price, but on their current value as objects. (ie: a very expensive pair of shoes might be valued just a little bit more than a cheap pair of shoes) The amounts might seem surprisingly low, which can be disappointing but also a good reminder of how relative the value of things is. (hey, all of them are shoes - actually I don't totally agree with that, but that's a long conversation for later).

UPDATE: Building materials get re-used too! A lot of places have centers where you / your contractor can drop off materials and fixtures in good working order (old kitchen tiles, washbasins, etc). Just search "building material recycling center" + the name of your city on the web to locate the closest one.