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On How (& Where) to Donate Your Stuff

I’ve previously written about donating my compost to a local collection agency called CSWD (Chittenden Solid Waste District).  With an out-of-state move coming up for Sawyer and I, we are trying to be rid of more than just compost and we wanted to be as mindful as possible as we choose what to discard and what to keep.  Although we will be moving into a larger apartment when we live in Philadelphia, bringing the clutter collected over our lives in Burlington certainly wouldn’t give us the fresh, new start that we desire.

Next weekend, Sawyer and I will be hosting a Going Away Party (GAP) with a handful of friends.  Not only is this an occasion to eat well and drink better, to experience a tiny bit of sorrow sprinkled in amongst the celebrations, but it’s also a time to share, share, share!  With our busy schedules only getting busier as our move-out date approaches (our new move-out date only leaves us with 36 more days in Vermont), next weekend may be the last time we see some of our friends here in Vermont.  So when I say share, I mean allocate – those unused belongings sitting in Sunrise Spot taking up precious space have been packed away into cardboard boxes awaiting July 16th when they’ll be brought out and given away to friends and family who will love them much more than we have.

When I started weeding out the things we no longer use in Sunrise Spot, I sorted the items into three different categories: trash, redundancies, and unnecessaries (I used helpful tips from Erin Boyle’s wonderful book Simple Matters to guide me through this process, and I highly recommend it as an ally when beginning your own simplifying journey).  The trash I have simply gotten rid of – composting being the best alternative, but sometimes having to utilize the local dump for some of the non-biodegradable items.  Switching to a more thoughtful and earth-conscious lifestyle has its ups-and-downs, but it’s a relief to know I won’t be visiting the dump with so much waste again anytime soon.  I was able to give some of that trash away as “scraps”, such as recycling my old cell phone that I had kept in a basket for a reason even unbeknownst to myself or allowing the Best Buy nerds to dismantle my old laptop for parts.  In reference to electronics, most cities have electronics recycling programs as many electronics have materials like lead, mercury, and cadmium that are toxic and shouldn’t go into our landfills.  If you’d like to look up how to best get rid of your particular electronics, I’d recommend utilizing the recycling guide that Earth911 provides for free, which I’ve found helpful and informative in my own experience.

For the last two categories – redundancies and unnecessaries – I’ve compiled a bulleted list at least four pages long of things I’ll be giving away on the 16th.  The items range from clothing to kitchen utensils to decor to large furniture and beyond.  I’m as excited as anyone to see where these items end up going in their new lives.  Many of the things I’m giving away are things that replicate items I already have and use more often than others.  For example, I have a beautiful set of handmade stoneware bowls by local potter Jeremy Ayers that have replaced my simple white bowls imported from China that I bought for my first apartment with ten dollars tops.  Those simple white bowls are beautiful, and I have no doubt that one of my friends will get many years of wear out of them before they’re replaced.  There is just no reason to have eight bowls lying around when I’m only using the ones I love.  Thus, I call these items redundancies.  They were my once-loved items that I worked hard for and enjoyed for some time but have been replaced by newer and more beautiful versions.

Now that I’ve changed my relationship with stuff, rooting out what is unnecessary, redundant, or simply an overflow trash has become much easier.  It has begun with pulling the weed out by the root; if I don’t bring stuff into my home, I won’t need to dispose of it.  This is the act of gatekeeping.  While standing guard seems easy when it comes to larger purchases, I’ve also gotten quite good at rooting out junk mail and recycling it before it even comes into the apartment.  Every inch of space you have in a tiny apartment or even a larger house is sacred and you shouldn’t have to feel suffocated by stuff.  A well-versed gatekeeper is the most important part of keeping your space free of clutter.

Now, there are things that I’ve put into my boxes labeled for the GAP party that most likely won’t be taken away by friends or family.  Among those items are my books.  As an English major, I am a self-professed bibliophile.  I have been gathering books for years and years.  I have bins upon bins loaded with books.  These bins will be at the GAP party to be picked through, but when the party is over and the sun rises on the 17th, I know for certain I’ll still have a couple bins of books to get rid of.  I have made an appointment with the local library in Burlington, Fletcher Free Library, to donate those remaining books.  Any books that they won’t take, I’ll gift to charitable organizations such as Salvation Army or Goodwill.

Some of the clothing I’ve boxed up for the 16th most likely won’t be taken home, either.  Items that are still in good shape can be donated to threat stores, Salvation Army, Goodwill, or the local women’s shelter.

Taking action to rid yourself to stuff is a huge task to begin and it can seem incredibly overwhelming.  I certainly had my doubts when I began my own journey, but I can attest to the gratification earned once all that clutter has been cleared away to allow for more open space to do the activities you enjoy and utilize your space deliberately rather than reactively.  Your home is under your control, despite feeling the opposite at times.  If you are undertaking this journey with me and are beginning to minimize your belongings, remember this simple fact: you are in control of your surroundings, not the other way around.

I’d love to hear some stories from you about your experiences with donation, getting rid of clutter, and/or experiencing your space without as much stuff in it as before.  Feel free to share with me!

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