When I was younger I believe I could be classified as a hoarder. My hoarding tendencies were born of poverty and environmentalism. I am sure many of you can relate. To sum it up, you basically keep things just in case insert blank. You keep that metallic red jacket with a Queen Elizabeth collar your international engineer father brought back from China just in case you want to be a Chinese Queen Elizabeth for Halloween. You keep twelve tea cups in your cupboard just in case you want to throw tea party despite that fact you are 32-year old woman and haven’t thrown a tea party since you were nine. (Okay, I did throw a tea party two years ago, but you know what I mean.) You keep that purple stapler just in case your stylish clear one breaks. You hold onto eight pairs of broken sunglasses just in case you want to fix them one day.
I stopped being poor awhile ago, and with my buying power I was finally able to look at most of my unused things and say, “If for some reason I need this in the future, I can afford to buy it again.” Since then, I have been purging once a month for years, but this past year I have been ruthless and efficient. I now purge a bag’s worth every Sunday. I am systematically clearing every drawer, shelf and corner. This week it was my dishes, and of course a garment or two. It is still a bit difficult, but I stride forward, pushing aside the voice that says, “what if Nasa needs me to go into space. I will most certainly need a purple stapler in my rocket ship cubby.”
Since I have gotten so skilled at decluttering I have written many blogs on purging your closet. My favorite one is ‘How To Clean Out Your Closet‘. (I also recommend reading Chanel Dror’s 3 Easy Ways To Streamline Your Wardrobe.) My post is all about the questions you need to ask yourself when evaluating an item. The most important question to take away from it is: would I buy this today? If the answer is no, most likely it needs to go. Below are some other questions you need to ask yourself. If you hesitate to answer any of these, most likely it needs to go.
- Would I buy this today?
- When was the last time I used this? When was the last time I needed this?
- Will I need this item this year?
With the help of these questions, I find it is actually quite easy to identify the things that I don’t need. It’s the getting rid of these things that is the trouble. So many items are just too special for a donation station. Why? Because part of being a hoarder is love. We love our things. They are like children. We need to see it go to a good home. Good Will is like an orphanage. We just can’t do that for most of our castaways. Our crap needs a caring place to live with acres to run free and such. This hoarder’s guide to decluttering is not about HOW to let go, it’s about WHERE to let go.
There are a lot things we hold onto that we really don’t want to, but fear it will hurt the earth. For example: bags, hangers, printers, boxes and more. Thankfully there are solutions. Target has a place for you to toss your plastic bags. A lot of tailors and dry cleaners will take all kinds of hangers from plastic to wire. Just call your local one and ask if they want them. Most office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot will recycle your printers and electronics. If you do a lot of online ordering, throwing those perfect shipping boxes in the recycle bin seems crazy. Here is what I did about that…. I put an Ad on Craigslist to find a person with an Ebay or Etsy store that needs consistent shipping boxes. After a couple tries, I found a reliable person to pick up my boxes every month. I have been using her for a year. She gets free boxes for her online store, and I know I am doing my part for the environment.
Nothing makes you feel good about getting rid of something like money. If someone offered me $3 for my purple stapler, they could have it. I would grin, smooth out the three $1 bills and head to the burrito shop. Here are some ways to sell I am sure you are familiar with…
- Garage Sale – You know the drill. Now invite friends to co-host and make it a social thing.
- Consignment Clothing Shop – Google your local used clothing store. I like Buffalo Exchange for their ethics and efficiency. And 90% of their employees are crazy happy.
- Craigslist – I adore Craigslist. I have sold all my old furniture during my remodel on Craigslist and got decent prices for them all. I sold random things too like unopened teeth whiting strips and my CD collection. Only one buyer was a weirdo. The rest of the folks were very cool. Just be safe and have them come by when people are around and in the daylight. If you live in a condo or apartment, meet them at the front of the building. Don’t let them come into your home unless necessary.
- Antique Stores or Consignment Furniture Shops – If I am too lazy to set up an Ad on Craigslist, I sell furniture and knick-knacks at Consignment Classics in San Diego.
- Online Consignment Shop – The Real Real, Exchange Deluxe and Material World are just a few resources for selling your fashions.
- Ebay – You know this one. It is famous. But I find it is a hassle unless you are a veteran at selling on it. I much prefer the consignment route.
Be Santa Claus For Your Friends
If selling left with you a bunch of stuff, or selling just seemed like way too much work, have a giveaway party. Invite all your friends over, especially those on a budget, and let them take whatever they want. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your friends happy with something you gave them. I can still picture my friend’s face when I gave her a beautiful leather purse last week. The key to giving your friends things is to ensure they arrive empty handed. None of that clothing swap talk. You don’t need more stuff. Actually, they can bring stuff. They can bring Proseco, and a bag. Who am I kidding. You have bags. A true hoarder always has bags.
Find Your Cause
Maybe a thrift store can’t have your goodies, but there is a charity out there that will inspire you. You just need to find the cause that touches your heart and shuts down the voice that wants you to keep that purple stapler. The causes that strike a cord with me is the homeless, children and abused women. Research and hunt down your favorite causes. Listed below are some great ones that often list what they need from frying pans and writing utensils to beauty products and clothing…
Donate Your Formal Wear – Princess Project
Help Foster Kids – Just In Time
Donate Your Fur – Coats For Cubs
Help Homeless or Abused Women – Big Sister League
Donate Your Professional Wear – Dress For Success
Help The Homeless – San Diego Rescue Mission
Coats for the Homeless – One Warm Coat
Help Women Recover from Alcoholism – Turning Point
If you know of a charity that gives meaning to your donations, please let me know and I will add them to this list.