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Downsize or Declutter – What to Do with Your Stuff?


Whether you are downsizing, decluttering, or making a long-distance relocation, moving is packed with emotions. Decisions need to be made about which belongings you will be keeping and which you’ll be letting go.

These decisions may prove to be much more emotional than you’re anticipating. Once faced with losing a familiar item forever, many of us cling to things we know, intellectually, we don’t use or need. The key is to try to be as clinical as possible when evaluating each item and having a clear plan in place for what to do with the discards. For instance, if you know letting go might benefit others or some money might be made, it can ease the pain of the process.

If you are preparing to make a big move to a smaller place or the walls of your current place are closing in, put a plan in place to move those unneeded items out.

Make a Plan

Many people find that sorting through your life’s possessions with another person, whether it is a friend, relative, or a consultant, helps clarify each decision. If you can’t convince an impartial partner why you need to keep something, chances are you don’t have a great reason.

This can be especially difficult for someone who has lived in their home for a long time and has years of memories. Raising a family, for instance, usually yields a houseful of items that hold special memories, but how often do you take them out and look at them? Perhaps you can take photos of those report cards and third-grade art projects, to make letting go a little easier.

When you’re ready to start sorting, make four separate categories for the items you are not going to keep: give to friends or family, sell, donate, or discard. Be ruthless and remember, selling and donating can still take time and energy. Even giving to friends or family can be labor intensive if items are large, such as furniture.

You’ve Decided What Goes, Now What?

If you’ve classified some of your items as heirlooms, why not give them to the recipient now? They will then be able to use and enjoy it sooner and longer and you will also experience seeing them enjoy it.

For your other useable items, there are online alternatives to the weekend yard sale that can help you clear your stuff out faster and may earn you some money in return.

Below are three possibilities that can make selling easier and more profitable than a yard sale or listing on a social media platform or app such as Facebook Marketplace, 5 Miles or Nextdoor.

  • thredUP – This organization pays you for bundles of gently used clothes. The company even sends the packaging material to you.
  • Everything but the House – This company is an online estate sale/auction for antiques or art. Depending on your location, the company will send a representative to photograph and list your items for you. Your sale is then promoted to buyers nationwide. Arranging delivery of the purchased items is part of the service.
  • Amazon Trade In – Turn in goods such as: books, games, gaming equipment, cameras, and other electronics. You will receive payment in Amazon gift cards.

There are many additional sites that buy books, DVDs, games, electronic equipment, and even records in bulk, making them good alternatives to a yard sale.

Arranging Pick-ups and Drop-offs

Now that you’ve sold what you can, it’s time to get rid of the rest. When donating, there are several national and local organizations to choose from. Many will arrange a home pickup for clothes and small household items. Here are a few:

Local libraries and schools often welcome donations of books, DVDs, games, and musical instruments. Community shelters and activity centers are also possibilities for donations of artwork, extra kitchen and bedding supplies, tools, and even furniture.

For the items that need to be tossed, check for recycling drives. Many towns have specific days set aside for the disposal of items, including those from medicine cabinets, electronics, paints, and larger items. Services like Task Rabbit can help get items to their final destinations by running your boxes to the recycling center, library, or other donation site for you.

If you’ve exhausted all these resources or just don’t have the time, 1-800-GOT-JUNK will come haul away any clutter you have, no matter what the size. They will donate and recycle what they can and it you will need to pay for the service, but in a matter of hours, all that residual clutter will be gone.

Whether you’re going to a new place or staying put, a purging of “stuff” can help lighten the load, both physically and emotionally, giving you more room to breathe.

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