There are daffodils blooming in my front yard, the foothills are green, the sun is shining, and Spring appears to be here. Just like the flowers and sun, with Spring comes Spring cleaning. You may be feeling more motivated to declutter and find things to get rid of, or you may have been collecting stuff throughout the Winter that you have been planning to purge. But, in the age of COVID-19 and the possible closures of donation centers, what are your options for donating responsibly?
Responsibly Donate Your Clutter
The question of what to do with the items you no longer want or use often stops people from decluttering before they even get started. Some get overwhelmed with guilt and thoughts of the best ways to remedy their wrongs. It’s tough to face purchasing errors, buyer’s remorse, lack of judgment, or poor spending choices. But ignoring it won’t make it go away.
Selling your clutter is a good option for some people, but for others, it takes too much time and energy. While it also takes some effort to responsibly donate your clutter, it is less time intensive than selling.
The goal here is to feel good about how you choose to donate your decluttered stuff. No one can change past purchases or behaviors, so overanalyzing them or getting stuck feeling guilty won’t help the situation. You don’t need to pay an eternal penance by keeping all the clutter in your home for all of your days.
Focus forward because the future is something you can change. The past you cannot. The MOST important thing you can do is change your habits and behaviors going forward.
The Best Ways to Responsibly Donate Your Clutter:
Give to a friend or family member
If you have some items you no longer want, but are still in good usable shape take a few pictures and text them to friends or family members you think might be interested. Don’t be offended if they don’t want them.
The goal here is to bless others, so there is no guilting friends or family into taking things. Don’t let your clutter become their clutter. If they pass, simply move on to a different option for responsibly donating your clutter.
Notify a local group that you’re part of
Another great option is to notify a group that you are in of what you will be passing along. Some examples of this would be church groups, school groups, or moms groups (like Moms Club).
This is a great way to pass along your unwanted items to someone who can put them to use. It may also have the added benefit of getting to know someone in your group you hadn’t known as well previously.
Post in your local market groups
Find your local Buy Nothing group. Gifting to people in your local area is a great way to benefit others as well as build community. While it does take extra time, it can be worth the effort in being able to make personal connections. This is especially true for sentimental items that may be more difficult to let go of.
If you don’t want to join a local Buy Nothing group, you could list the item for free on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or Freecycle. Some people who live in busier areas simply put items on their curb with a free sign on it. That’s fine too as long as the item won’t get ruined outdoors and it isn’t likely to be destroyed by passers-by.
Find a local organization who can use those items
Another great way to responsibly donate your clutter is to check around and see if any local organizations can use some of your donations. Places like rescue missions, shelters, animal rescues, and other local resources may be in need of some of the items you are passing along.
Ask around with friends and make some phone calls to see how your decluttered items could help some nonprofit groups in your community. It’s a great feeling knowing that you are helping people while also decluttering your home.
Donate to a local agency/group you support
Options 1-4 all piecemeal the items you are letting go of. If you’ve decluttered your entire home, chances are you have lots of different kinds of items you are passing along and it would be a challenge to give away each and every thing to different people or groups that wanted them.
Although I think options 1-4 are ideal in giving the items to the end user or organization, I also understand that isn’t an option for everyone or every time you declutter. The next most responsible way to donate your clutter is to donate the remaining items you have to a local organization that will try to resell the items.
Do your research
It’s easy to drop off everything at the local popular donation center and think that we are doing good. It’s better than throwing items in the trash because it gives them a chance at being purchased and helping the organization.
However, not all organizations are created equal in how they help people. Also, they aren’t all run the same. I did some research in my area. I found out that the most popular place to donate to is putting those donations in their stores for one month. Items that aren’t purchased move on to the outlet.
At the outlet, they get one last chance. People paw through the dumpsters of merchandise looking for a deal. For some types of items, if they don’t get snatched up, they are immediately put in a large trash compactor in the back.
I don’t totally blame the donation centers that do this. They are having to figure out what to do with huge amounts of donations. Particularly after a popular show like Tidying Up with Marie Kondo comes out and people look for all the items not sparking joy in their homes.
I’m not saying don’t donate. Just spend a little time to do some research to see where your things may be more likely to get used and not end up in a landfill.
Not everything is donatable. There are some items that you may want to simply recycle. Many cities have gotten more stringent with recycling rules, so make sure you are aware of them. If you are getting rid of any electronics, many cities have electronic drives where people drop off their devices to be donated, recycled, and distributed responsibly. Check with your city to see if this is an option for you.
There are more upcyclers and furniture rehabbers these days who take on projects, so it’s good to check with people and groups before throwing things like broken furniture in the trash.
However, there still are some things that aren’t donatable or recyclable and need to be thrown away. Certain types of items like lightbulbs, batteries, and chemicals have specific rules for disposal so make sure to pay attention to these.
It’s common to not want to face the cost of consumerism and the real environmental impacts it has. If we’re wasteful and lazy and just throw everything in the trash, we won’t have learned the lesson or been responsible in any way.
In that instance, we’re doubling irresponsibility. We’ve made a poor purchase choice and added on to it a poor choice with what to do with the clutter. Throwing away perfectly usable items that could really bless someone else is wasteful.
There are consequences for our actions. When we realize and acknowledge past mistakes it helps us prevent repeating them in the future. Part of what helps me keep things decluttered is having faced the excess created by past purchasing choices.
I do realize that responsibly donating does take more time and effort. Often the best paths we choose in life aren’t the easiest ones. Don’t let this overwhelm you or keep you hanging on to your clutter indefinitely. Set a deadline. Choose some of the ways to responsibly donate your clutter and feel good blessing and giving to your community.
Moving forward, you can make different choices as you figure out how to live simply in a consumer culture. Take the time to think through purchases before you make them. Then, take the time to donate responsibly when the items no longer serve you.