How Do You Get Rid of Things?

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Earlier this week, I reviewed the books I read in April. One of them was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a book I really enjoyed. I would like to put more of Marie Kondo’s ideas into practice, but there is one thing stopping me.

What do you do with all the stuff you want to get rid of?

Marie suggests you put it all in trash bags, but she is vague after that. What you do with perfectly good clothing mixed up with used lotions and extra shampoo and knicknacks? I kept reading her book to find out what she suggested.

But she suggested nothing. She was not concerned about the stuff she purged. After reading the entire book, my best guess is that she puts all of it in a dumpster and forgets about it.

But when I look at my pile of “no longer wanted” stuff in our garage, I can’t imagine just heaving it all into a dumpster. There’s a pair of barely used Chacos (women’s size 9, do you want them?) and three pretty vases and two boxes of books and stacks and stacks of kids’ clothing.

There are two reasons I can’t just dump all this stuff.

The first is thrift. If I go through my closet and really, truly only keep items that “bring me joy,” there are going to be a lot of perfectly good jeans and dresses and shoes that go into trash bags. And the idea of throwing them into the dumpster isn’t just wasteful, it’s also sad. I bought all of these things in the past five years or so, and some of them brand new and for full price. Am I really going to throw them all away? Or take them to Goodwill and never recoup any of my financial investment?

So I don’t. I put them in the garage, and when I have a few minutes I photograph them and try to sell them on a local online yard sale site, or on eBay, or on Craigslist. I try and I am successful about 25% of the time. I make a few dollars. Is it worth the trouble?

A penny saved is a penny earned… right?

The other reason I can’t throw things out is that I value reusing and recycling things. Almost all of my children’s clothes were already used when I acquired them. Some of them have a lot of life left, and I’d rather encourage reusing and recycling in our culture and help people who also don’t want to buy new.

But then I stop and look at a lot of the secondhand things I am attempting to resell, and I wonder if it is worth selling some of these clothes. By the time my children have worn their secondhand clothing, even the nice brands are very worn. Is it fair to sell these things and not donate them? Is it worth the time and effort?

What do you think? What do you do? How do you recoup your initial investment, and how do you just let go of things?

I would love to live in a home where we use what we own and where we love everything in our house. I enjoy living simply and thoughtfully and thriftily. But besides the really obvious point of only buying what I absolutely love and absolutely need from here on out, how do I get there?


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38 Responses to How Do You Get Rid of Things?

  1. Meg May 7, 2015 at 9:39 am #

    I have made peace with Goodwill or Salvation Army or the like. The financial recoup is what you get on your taxes, which isn’t much, but neither is selling it, considering the effort that goes into it. Just knowing something worth while may be used by someone who did want it is a sort of satisfaction. I have put this book on hold and hope it helps me! :)

    • Becca May 7, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

      I think you’d enjoy it! It is hard to imagine parting with a lot of things that have great sentimental value, though, as I feel like a lot of the things in your house do for you and Dad.

  2. Molly May 7, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    Try local consignment — I think it works especially well for kid’s clothes if there’s a place nearby — or online consignment, like, which takes both kid’s and women’s clothing!

    • Becca May 7, 2015 at 11:50 pm #

      I need to do ThredUp! I need to order one of their bags and just stuff it full and send it back to them. I saw a woman in my neighborhood doing that the other day and it looked so… freeing.

  3. Catherine May 7, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    YARD SALE! Throughout the year, I’ll put on a shirt that just doesn’t fit right anymore or pants that don’t make me feel good. Those get tossed in the “yard sale” pile in our mud room. I’ll clean out the kitchen glasses and decide that we really don’t need 12 of the same pint glass from our favorite local brewery– it goes in the yard sale pile. Once a year or so, we have a yard sale where it’s an everything must go, make an offer kind of deal. The last yard sale we had, we made $550 (enough to buy that new flat screen tv we wanted!) Then, we donated all of the extras that didn’t get bought at the yard sale to our local domestic violence shelter, which takes clothing, toys, and furniture for the families who are staying in their shelters fleeing violent homes. Win-win there.

    • Becca May 7, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

      Yes, this sounds so good! Unfortunately the location of our house (down a long driveway with a lot of neighbors sharing it all day long) makes it almost impossible for us to have a yardsale. So I’ve just been getting rid of things bit by bit. I’d love to have the motivation to sell a whole bunch, though. Maybe I’ll just do it in my driveway anyway one day!

  4. Abi May 7, 2015 at 11:16 am #

    I usually donate to Goodwill just because it’s so convenient. There are tons of drop-off locations in our area. (And girl, you know I LOVE to shop there!) However, I really like the idea that Catherine suggests…there is definitely a domestic violence shelter here that would happily take this stuff off my hands… or the refugee services through our church would be another good option! Thanks for the tip!
    I find myself holding on to the kids’ clothes *just in case* we have a baby #3, or #4, etc. Most of their clothes are second-hand as well, so I run into the same conundrum you have listed whenever I think about passing them along. But I am quickly running out of storage space and should probably pare down the selection for future kiddos.
    I have heard of moms’ groups doing “swaps” and think that could be a good idea if you can find one. Everybody brings the kids’ stuff they don’t want and trades to get something else they might want or need. Probably pretty hit-or-miss though, and you end up acquiring more stuff, which I guess would be counter-productive in this case.
    I like that you are thinking about this and bringing it up for discussion. Can’t wait to read other ideas! Hugs from VA!

    • Becca May 7, 2015 at 11:52 pm #

      Hmm, I bet a lot of ladies here would enjoy doing a swap. I’m a part of a couple of moms groups (MOPS, MOMS Club) where ladies are always looking for good deals and good hand-me-downs. Might be worth organizing a swap sometime, I think.

      Love you. :)

  5. Joy @ Jumbled Up Joy May 7, 2015 at 11:25 am #

    Believe me, I’m right there with you when it comes to thriftiness. I don’t like to get rid of things I’ve only worn a few times… but keeping them when I know I don’t like them either has really stopped appealing to me, too. I’ve never tried selling on eBay or Craigslist, but I did use Twice Clothing. Everyone is very enthusiastic about ThredUp. I have bought from there and not been as happy with my purchases as I was with those from Twice, and when I was going to sell some items, they wouldn’t take donations/ sales from Hawaii. (Grrr…) That may have changed, but they lost me. Still, I would recommend one of those. ThredUp sells kids’ stuff, and last I checked Twice did not. I don’t like consigning locally unless they give you money up front, because it just becomes one of those things lingering in my mind, like, “Did they sell? Are they going to get my money to me?…” I know a lot of people here use online “yard sales” and our neighborhood even has a lot of consigning going on. I’ve yet to try it, though.

    I guess for me, in spite of my thriftiness, I’ve gotten to where I’m (usually) okay with donating — even happy to do it. I feel like it’s part of me giving back. If I’m feeling super guilty about it, I take note… and it’s made me a much more conscientious shopper. If you can, try to find a face — even in your mind — about who you’re donating to. I’m not crazy about donating to Goodwill because it’s not my favorite charity, but there’s one just down the street that makes it super convenient for me. I was shopping there, and started chatting with the cashier and realized what the job meant to her — and it got easier to donate there. If I’m donating to a domestic violence shelter or something, it’s super easy for me.

    What’s hard is when charities make stipulations about donations — for instance saying something has to be basically perfect for them to take it. Such was the case with several when I lived in WA. It was very frustrating.

    Anyway, I hope that helps. Here are a couple links that might be helpful:

  6. Alica May 7, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    Oh, how I wish I could live that way too! I remember when my kids were little, I’d go to yard sales and buy second hand clothing…but then I still ended up with way too many clothes because they were all so cute! I passed even our middle school aged kids clothing on to neighbors and friends for a while, but now most of the stuff goes to Goodwill. We never make much money on yard sales, because we don’t live in a development.
    (wish I lived closer, because those size 9 Chacos would fit me just fine! :) )

    • Becca May 7, 2015 at 11:54 pm #

      Yes, this sounds like my problem too… overbuying the cute, used stuff!

      Would you really like the Chacos? I can send them to you! I would love to think of you enjoying them all summer around the cows. Send me your address and I’ll put them in the mail!

  7. Beth May 7, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    I have the exact same dilemma—wanting to reduce and simplify, but not being able to bring myself to just throw or give away things that might be useful to someone else or have value. My current favorite solution is my local consignment shop! The monetary return isn’t as much as a yard sale, but it’s easy, I don’t have to bother with pricing or give up a weekend, and I get an average of 20$ a box (obviously depending on its contents, usually children’s clothing). I also put things that aren’t good enough for the consignment store (like clothing with plenty of wear left but a minor stain on it) into another box and drop those off at a local charity thrift store. They have a free room where needy people can come “shopping”. If the item doesn’t qualify for either of these places, I usually figure I’m justified in throwing it away! :) All that said, you make the most money at yard sales—and I’ve have great success—and a lot of fun!—doing joint sales with family and friends!

    • Becca May 7, 2015 at 11:56 pm #

      Yes, maybe I could do a joint sale with a friend sometime… because our house doesn’t work well for yard sales (down a long driveway that gets used by a lot of neighbors, hard to find). I would have to lug all the stuff to her sale, though, and that would probably help me hate it enough to get rid of all the leftovers!

  8. Amy @ Sunlit Pages May 7, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    Sometimes I’ll ask family or friends if they want any of it, but usually I just take it to Goodwill. Neither of those things actually helps me get any of my money back, but I feel like I’m helping others in both cases. And sometimes the ambiguity of Goodwill helps–I don’t know who will end up with my things, but I can imagine that it will end up in the hands of someone who can truly use and needs it. Not a perfect solution, but it works for me.

    • Becca May 7, 2015 at 11:56 pm #

      I like the way you seem to peacefully let go of things. :)

  9. Monika May 7, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    There is a great place I donated tons of stuff to at Miramar. There were two ladies who started a food pantry to help the young marine families and I started dropping things off with them the first time we were stationed in San Diego after reading an article about them in the newspaper. Then when we returned 4 years later it became a much bigger organized location. I even donated a queen size bed and it went to a young marine needing furniture. I loved giving things there because they made sure it went to families in need. I don’t know if they are still taking donations because the base also has Navy Relief and you would need to call first to save yourself a wasted trip but I think you would feel really good about where your “stuff” was going. I found it was easy to get rid of things when I new they were going to someone who could really use them. I also really liked helping military families.

    • Becca May 7, 2015 at 11:58 pm #

      Yes, this reminds me of MOM (military ministry) that a lot of people in our church are involved with! I should see if they would need things. I think they are located over the bridge in downtown SD. My church also has a little thrift shop that is just a few blocks from me, so I definitely don’t have an excuse about going any distance to get rid of things… ;)

  10. Jenna May 7, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    I am so glad that you posted about this, because I had the exact same question! As I’m getting ready to move, I have a pile of things that don’t “bring me joy,” but then what? And is the chance of making a small amount of money at a yard sale or on ebay worth the “emotional currency” it will cost to get that together?

    In theory, if we really really followed Marie Kondo’s life advice, we should only have this horrible feeling once–in that initial tidying–and then after that, you will be so careful about what you bring into your space that you won’t have brand new things that don’t bring you joy. But I don’t think that’s reality for most of us. At this point, it’s probably Goodwill every once in a while for me, as the middle ground between full return on investment and the trashbin.

    (and about those chacos….)

    • Becca May 8, 2015 at 12:00 am #

      It gets so much worse when there are kids and a husband, too, Jenna, even a husband who doesn’t buy much but who almost NEVER throws anything away. :( I would only sell what you have time for and let the rest go.

      As I am reading all these comments, I am realizing how much I “treasure” my trash. I need to have the right perspective — this object is something that has been well-used and loved by me, something that I have gotten my money’s worth out of, and something I need to let go of now.

      It sounds so freeing, if only I could do it…

  11. Shelby May 7, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    Oh man, same same same story here. I purge and it feels so good, and then I look at the pile and think, “what did I just get myself into?” I too have had to make peace with Goodwill for much of it, but I do believe that they serve the community through their selling secondhand and through the jobs they help provide. So in that way I feel like its worth it.

    I’ve also had to make peace with selling things at a lower price than I want, with the hope that by keeping the thing cheap, I not only benefit from getting rid of it sooner, but the person who buys it will hopefully feel excited or blessed by the opportunity to find something they were looking for at a price that they could afford or helped in some way. Not that it necessarily is always the reality, but I hope and pray that it can be more often than not.

    I would love to hear what ideas you come up with, Becca!

    • Becca May 8, 2015 at 12:01 am #

      Ugh, I always set my price point too high just in hopes that someone will really need or want the thing and buy it from me at that price! Or I always start high and then plan to come down… and then don’t because I get distracted or discouraged. I think you’re right about setting the price point low and just being rid of the thing. :)

  12. Lizzie May 7, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    Hi Becca!
    Keeping only meaningful or useful things (ir better yet, meaningful AND useful things) is my favourite. I find it so freeing to make space in my life and home.

    For the very good condition adult clothing that I no longer need (erm, hello pre baby #1 jeans!) I take them to a consignment shop. They donate what they can’t sell, so I make a few dollars, but I don’t invite the other stuff back into my house once I’ve decided to part with it. All my other items I donate. The money I might make goes towards my clothing budget.
    For children’s clothes and items, I keep the special/hard to replace items, sell any excellent good used items on my local mom’s group, and donate the rest. If I know a mom with children younger than mine I pass on the clothes to them.

    large items (like exercise equipment) go up on craigslist for a time, then are donated if they don’t sell.
    Everything else goes to my local second hand store, St. Vincent de Paul.

    • Becca May 8, 2015 at 12:02 am #

      You have such a great system, Lizzie! I am mostly doing the same thing, minus the consignment shop (I’ve been trying eBay instead). The sad thing is that there aren’t very many consignment shops around here, and they aren’t very good. They are so much higher quality on the East Coast, I think, than out here in southern California. Oh well, I’ll see what I get sometime for dropping off a box of things!

  13. Gretchen May 7, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    I try to let the verse “Freely you have received, freely give” drive me, especially when I’m dealing with excessive children’s clothing. I could try to resell more of it, but so much has come to us second-hand and we have lots of church friends with little ones that it just doesn’t make much sense.

    Our church email list often becomes a free-cycle of sorts, and it’s just nice to have someone quickly claim an item that I didn’t know what to do with. Besides that, my giveaway basket in the closet usually gets lugged to Good Will once it’s full, unless someone is having a charity garage sale or the like. Still have a J Crew bridesmaid dress hanging in my closet that I can’t bear to let go of for nothing, though, so I feel your pain!

    • Becca May 8, 2015 at 12:03 am #

      This all sounds so familiar, and also so inspiring! I will try to keep the “freely you have received, freely give” verse in mind more. I need to remember that.

  14. Amanda S. May 7, 2015 at 5:52 pm #

    My five year old chacos are finally starting to wear down! Could I pay you to ship them to me?!

    • Becca May 8, 2015 at 12:04 am #

      Amanda, Alica asked earlier so let me see if she wants them and sends me her address. If not, I’ll send them to you! I’d love to think of a friend enjoying them. :) I wore them only a couple of times because they are the thin double-strap version with the toe strap too, and I could just never get them comfortable on my feet. I tried my best, but I think they are meant for someone else!

      • Amanda May 10, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

        Awesome! I hope she enjoys them! Chacos are awesome!

  15. Pita May 8, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    I really enjoyed this book and it did alter my thinking about clearing clutter. While I doubt I will ever empty out my handbag on a daily basis, i do thank it for its service! I recently sorted out a whole bag of ‘gift with purchase’ cosmetics and gifted them to friends based on their colour and skin preferences and it worked so well – I got rid of some stuff and they loved a little thoughtful gift. I mostly give unwanted things straight to the charity shop to get them out of the house and try to focus on the joy someone will get when they are shopping and find something they are going to love.

    • Becca May 14, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

      You are better at this than me — by far! But I am glad you also can’t imagine emptying your handbag every time you walk into your house. ;)

  16. Kim May 8, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

    I’m working on taking the approach of while I bought it and often paid too much for it, I’ve either used it or not and don’t need or want it now. I’ve been fortunate, I might as well pass it on to others. So instead of letting stuff sit forever as I try to sell it piecemeal, I try to sort for kids – local charity that focuses on mothers and babies and non-kids – goodwill. And that’s it. Every now and then there’s something that seems much nicer and I set it aside, but as often as not, it doesn’t sell on our local mom’s list (wrong season, badly chosen price, etc). The tax write-off for donation is less, but not that much less than I end up getting in cash from consigning and selling and things are out SO much faster. And then there’s the added bonus of at least being able to hope it went to someone who needed it.

    • Becca May 14, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

      You have a healthy approach, I think. The book talks about saying “thank you” to your clothes and belongings as you let them go. I feel like that is the right approach to have when you are ready to say goodbye to something — you just say “thanks for the service!” and pass it on to someone else who might need it!

  17. Andrea @ TLWH May 9, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    I’m facing this same problem as I sort through boxes and boxes of baby clothes. I plan on selling at a local consignment sale (they probably have them in your area too), but I never know what is too much as far as price goes. I just don’t feel like I’m being thrifty if I just donate it to a thrift store (since they will just turn around and sell it for the price I could probably sell it for), and consignment stores give you pennies for what they turn around and sell with an almost the price of new tag on it. We’ve worked hard to clear out all the clutter in our home over the last year or so, but kids stuff is what stumps me.

    • Becca May 14, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

      I know, I have a basket of it sitting in my bedroom right now that I am trying to sell… before I lump it all together and donate it. ;(

  18. Karen May 10, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Check with your local fire department. Some of them store items that can be given to families that have experienced a fire. You won’t make any money but you get a great feeling knowing that you are helping a family that may have lost everything in a fire.

    • Becca May 14, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

      Wow, great idea! We LOVE our local fire department.

  19. Violet May 15, 2015 at 8:46 am #

    My brother-in-law was just telling me recently about a new way he’s come to view thrift stores…that you could essentially think of them as a storage closet–you donate things you don’t need right now, and if you need the same thing down the line, you buy a similar item from a thrift store again, and think of the price as basically a storage fee. Since we pay for the places we live, we’re essentially paying to store stuff either way…and if there’s a better use for space you have in your house, it might be financially worth it. This of course doesn’t work well with things that have important sentimental value, as they won’t be sitting in the thrift store waiting for you in particular, but I thought it was an interesting way to think about belongings that we have just for utility, especially the “but what if I need them down the line?” items. Don’t ask me yet how I’ve managed to apply this practically, though–so hard! :)

    • Becca June 24, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

      I have heard of this theory before and I really like it! For appliances like crock pots or for dishes that you might only need for HUGE gatherings and the not need again for years, I think this is a great and very freeing strategy.

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