This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com.
This Saturday (May 14th) is Give Your Stuff Away Day, a worldwide celebration of getting rid of clutter. People all over the world will be gathering up their unwanted possessions and taking them to the curb, where they hope neighbors and passersby will adopt their stuff.
As the event organizers say:
Because of all the shopping we've done, many of us now own lots of great stuff we never use anymore. And for some reason, we don't sell or give it away. Lots of valuable stuff — just wasting away. Let's take all this stuff and over one weekend, make it available to others for free.
That doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to put all of my Stuff out on the curb come Saturday. There are plenty of great uses for Stuff you no longer need. Before you lug it out to your curb, consider doing one of these things with your unwanted items:
One of the main reasons to consider not giving your Stuff away is that you can often turn your clutter into cash. J.D. made a lot of money selling Stuff over the past several years. He used money from those sales to help himself get out of debt.
Small amounts add up. I helped run a yard sale for my daughter's preschool last weekend. They were selling Stuff at deep discounts. People were welcome to fill a bag of clothes for a dollar. Even at those bargain prices, the school raked in several hundred dollars over the course of the day.
Selling your Stuff can be a great way to reduce clutter around your home and pull in some extra income.
There's just one problem with selling Stuff: It takes work. It's work to organize and host a yard sale. It's work to photograph the used items you want to sale and list them on Craigslist or eBay. It's work to package up your old books, DVDs, and sports equipment and send them to a buyer.
You can earn some decent money getting rid of your old things, but it's not free money. You still have to work for it.
Maybe you rock at that kind of work. You might really enjoy choosing what you want to sell, making up the ads for it, and sending out little packages to people who want your old Buffy DVDs and business clothes.
Or maybe, like me, the idea of having to lug all your excess Stuff down to the post office and mail it to buyers makes you want to gouge your eyes out. I've sold clothes to consignment shops and held the occasional small yard sale, but selling stuff isn't a big part of my income.
Some things it's worth the time and effort to sell, but some things won't be worth the work involved. For each person, the bar for that is different. J.D.'s great at selling stuff. (And he tells me has a bunch more he plans to sell in the near future.) I'm more inclined to give my Stuff away. It gets the clutter out of my house, and I find that the goodwill comes back to me many times over.
There's only one way to find out whether or not selling your unwanted Stuff will work for you: Try it! Plan a yard sale, list a few nice things for sale on eBay, or take your old clothes to a consignment shop. See what happens. If you box everything up and then it sits in your garage for six months, odds are you're not going to sell it.
A middle ground between selling and gifting your excess possessions is swapping them. You can swap everything from books to clothes to soups!
When you swap Stuff, you may not wind up with less total Stuff, but you're exchanging unused clutter for things you'll really use and enjoy. This works especially well for things like paperback books and fancy party dresses; stuff you'll use once and then have little need for again.
I've written before about how to organize your own clothing swaps. Similar guidelines work for setting up swap parties for other things. In addition to clothing swaps, I've been to seedling swaps, soup swaps, and toy swaps. You can also look for larger swap events being organized in your area. I've seen swaps hosted at local universities and community centers.
Online, there are a number of great websites devoted to swapping, where you can either swap directly with other people via the website, or get instructions on how to arrange a local swap with your friends and neighbors. I prefer local swaps because of my above-mentioned aversion to mailing stuff. A local swap really plays to my strengths: I'm great at organizing people around a fun activity, but not awesome at following through with mailing packages. Friends of mine really enjoy swap sites though, because they get greater variety. They can usually find the specific thing they're looking for.
Here are a few good websites for swapping:
- Paperbackswap — This is the site for swapping books.
- Swapstyle — A large site for swapping clothes and accessories.
- ThredUp — A site for swapping kids' clothes and toys.
- SoupSwap — You can't actually swap soups on this site, but they will teach you how to host a cool soup swap of your own.
Let's say you really want to give your Stuff away. You've resigned yourself to the fact that you're not going to put in the effort to host a yard sale, or done the math and figured out that your time is worth more than the hours you'd spend on it. Swapping may seem like a lot of work, too, or just not your scene. You don't want an exciting new Stuff-related hobby. You just want this old junk out of your house.
Before you haul your Stuff to the curb, consider donating it to an established charity. Goodwill, Planet Aid, The Salvation Army and many other charities accept donations of goods ranging from clothes to cars. They'll take just about anything you have to give. They'll give you something in return, too. Something you can't get from your sidewalk. They'll give you a receipt. That donation receipt is worth money, if you itemize your tax deductions. You can take a charitable deduction for the value of your donations.
Give It Away!
If you're not going to sell, swap, or donate the things you want to get rid of, then by all means you should participate in Give Your Stuff Away Day. Get that clutter out of your house by any means necessary. Clutter doesn't just take up space; it costs you money. It makes it harder to find things you already own, forcing you to buy duplicates of simple household items. It increases the risk of injury in your home due to falls or other mishaps. It sucks up time and energy that could go into other things. Let it go and live a cleaner, happier life.