Top 10 Ways to Get Rid of Stuff

It’s a whole new year, which means 12 more months of opportunities to simplify your life. Especially when having a kid usually means a giant influx of Stuff every holiday.

Our home is so small, and in such a constant state of DIY projects, that cleaning, moving, repairing, selling, sorting, and often moving it again is practically a full-time job. On the other hand, it keeps us very honest about what’s most important and encourages–well, forces–us to spend lots of time together. And, frankly, lots of time outside, which is one of our priorities.

As a landscape designer, I believe in the incredible power of spaces to change the way people feel and to encourage or discourage activities and behaviors. If you’re trying to keep up an exercise routine or yoga practice and have to move furniture every time you’re ready to start your sun salutations, it’s going to be harder to maintain the habit. The easier it is to find the right shoes in the morning, the more likely you’ll make it out the door to walk before work. If your fridge is clean and you don’t have to fight an army of half-empty condiments you don’t really like that much, the more likely you are to actually make yourself something than order a pizza. If you live in an area where that sort of thing is even possible. Out here you’re kind of stuck with whatever’s in the freezer.

The point is, getting organized makes you feel better, makes your life easier, and creates the space in your life for new things to happen. Around here, there are a lot of new things we’re hoping to make happen, so the first thing we did after the smoke cleared from the holiday was take the tree down and start moving the furniture.

Since I’ve made such a career about getting rid of stuff over the last year or so, I’ve had questions from neighbors and friends about how to do it. Sure, there’s a certain element of “just open up a drawer, and get started!” but like so many things, the devil is in the details. Now that you’ve paired down your closet and the rest of the usual suspects, what do you do with all of this? Here are some ideas.

1. Sell your stuff online. You’ll need a printer (for postage labels) and a small kitchen scale so you can weigh packages. If you’re only selling large items, your bathroom scale might work. You’ll also need to set up a Paypal account to receive money from eBay transactions, if you don’t already have one.

EBAY. Separate out anything of high value or with a brand name and sell it on eBay for some cash. Jewelry that is vintage, signed by a designer, or has precious metals or stones you can weigh sell well on eBay. Brand-name handbags and occasionally clothing can be worth reselling, although eBay is a little hyper-sensitive about thinking your vintage handbag is a knock-off. Sometimes they’ll make you take down the listing. Audio-visual gear in very good working condition and some types of electronics may be worthwhile, too. Anything still sealed in a box you haven’t opened since it was given to you last holiday season is probably also a good candidate. Unopened toys, cosmetics, that type of thing.

AMAZON. Sell back all those college textbooks you’re holding on to–and while you’re at it, that stack of paperbacks you’re never going to get around to reading–on Amazon. In some cases, Amazon will allow you to mail in the book and simply give you a gift card for a (really) small amount, but in most cases you’re better off selling the book yourself. Amazon is also a great place to unload your CD’s and DVD’s. Seriously, why do you still have those?

2. Have a garage sale, or participate/organize a local group garage sale or rummage sale. Or create a “virtual garage sale” where you post a group of items on Craigslist or other online service, to attract more attention. It’s a massive pain, but you make some cash and you will be totally surprised how much of your stuff people will give you money for. By the way, if someone makes an offer, accept it! The cash is a happy side benefit, but the real point is not to have to take it home! This is a great way to get rid of baby and little kid gear, or large furniture items.

3. Give your stuff away. Give appropriate books to schools, libraries, or charitable organizations. Figure out what your kid’s school might take. Map out the local charity organizations and get a list of what they accept and don’t accept. Give clothes and toys to your kid’s smaller friends, or to local charities. Give your great aunt Melba’s dining set that you never liked to Goodwill. Get comfortable asking people if they want something you have (like a piece of furniture, or baby gear.) Give things to friends regularly, until they start trying to avoid you. Let go.

4. Recycle your old electronics. The giant pile of things with random plugs and cords and unidentified adapters. Take the whole pile to a place that accepts electronics recycling. You’ll have to Google around a little bit until you find a place that accepts this stuff, and you may have to pay a fee by the pound. For cellphones, search for charities that accept old cellphones, so you don’t have to pay a fee.

5. When all else fails, throw it away. Yes, it hurts. It seems like such a shame. But sometimes it just has to go! If you can’t sell it, and charities won’t accept it, and you can’t give it away, put it on the curb with a “free” sign, or put it in the bin. Get that burdensome stuff out of your life and make some space for good things to come in. Go ahead, get started with some of those condiments.

More ideas for unloading stuff? Chime in!

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