rearrangement to downsize the stuff

Too Much Stuff? 4 Ways To Downsize The Stuff in Your World.

January 19, 2021
downsizing home with family

“The truth is most of us don’t have an organization problem, we have an own-too-much-stuff problem.”

Zoe Kim

According to Neighbor.com, in the United States there is a total of 1.7 billion square feet of rental storage space at places like CubeSmart, Public Storage, and UHaul – that’s 1.7 billion – with a “B.” That’s 5.1 square feet of storage for EVERY person in America. And 92% of all that rentable space is full. You know why? Because most of us have way too much stuff – we run out of places to put it. If this applies to you (and you know who you are) maybe 2021 is the year – the year you’re going to finally say enough stuff already? And rather than getting yourself some of this 1.7 billion square feet, how about considering the following options for your excess:

downsize and simplify your life

1. Give Away Items To Family and Friends Who Will Appreciate Them – And Really Need Them – Not Just People Who You Wish Would Need or Appreciate Them.

The “A” answer to getting rid of unwanted stuff may seem obvious: give the stuff to your kids or other friends or relatives who “need it.” But wait a hot second here – let’s make sure before you do this that they really do need the item in question or that they truly want it. It’s no fair to lighten your burden by giving someone else one. Marie Kondo, the goddess of the organization behind The Japanese Art of Tidying, agrees: she says it’s not fair to create a problem for someone else, by giving them your cast-offs that you just can’t bear to sell or trash. In my business, I see it all the time. Customers say to me, on the daily, “I tried to give this to (fill in any friend or relative name here) but they didn’t want it.” Listen to your people here, my friends. Give them what they want, like Grammy Kathleen’s ring or Papa Newport’s shillelagh, not what you have guilted them into wanting. And if it’s a family heirloom that you can’t bear to see leave the lineage, maybe it’s something you hang on to? At least for now…

Downsize Furniture
Photo by Martin Péchy on Unsplash

2. Consign Things of Value.

OK, so full disclosure here, this is always going to be my favorite one. Having owned a home consignment store (Consignments Ltd.) for the last 15 years, I have a huge self-interest in this form of downsizing. But I have to tell you, there are so many people that still don’t go this route with their unwanted stuff. I have customers who edit their world regularly, and they make seriously good money doing so. Things that have useful value left, like that 5-year-old couch that doesn’t fit in your new living room, can be turned back into cash by consignment shops with high traffic and a great customer base. Most home consignment shops will pay you 50% of what an item sells for and will give you 60-90 days to sell the items. Clothing consignment shops work in a similar way, but often take a higher percentage of the sale. Most shops have websites where you can check out their consignment policies- like do they require appointments (most do) or what they take and in what season. It’s pretty easy to find a shop to work with but ask around because you want a good one (and a few reviews on the internet are not the only thing to base your decision on). Talk to your friends in your area and they will tell you who is good and who consistently makes money for their customers. My shop sells about 93% of everything that comes in. This is the kind of shop you’re looking for – not those quaint, out-of-the-way shops with a low turnover of inventory.

Consign non-useful things
Photo by Martin Pechy

3. Donate Useful Things.

What do I mean by useful things? Well, things that the charity can sell and actually make money on for their cause. You can donate all kinds of household items and clothing to the thrift shops associated with your favorite charities (like Good Will, Habitat for Humanity, or your local food pantry or place of worship). But please, people, do this with care and thoughtfulness. These charities do not need to dump (and therefore pay for disposal) your unsellable items. When I first went back to work after my kids were born, I worked for a fantastic local thrift store, The Jonnycake Center, in Peace Dale, RI. This store helps to fund the heroic work of the center, whose main goal is to feed people through their food pantry (and if you’re local you should definitely check it out). But from my days with the Jonnycake I can tell you that people often donate absolute junk. To me, this is a crying shame because not only is it not in the spirit of giving, but it also puts an undue burden on the receiving charity. So, definitely donate things you aren’t using to charity, but be thoughtful enough to donate good, clean usable items.

Donate things
Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash

4. Recycle What You Can. Trash What You Must.

OK, so you know by now that I am a recycling-aholic. I think anything that can be recycled should be, as our landfills are literally bursting at the seams. So be conscious of what you toss in your effort to downsize your stuff. Earth911.com has a great recycling locator on their website that you can access by clicking the link. It can tell you, by zip code, where you can recycle all kinds of things you are getting rid of. Check it out before trashing items and your great-grandkids will thank you for it! No recycling option, then it’s time to trash it, but make sure you’ve exhausted the other options first.

So What Else Is Good About Downsizing The Stuff In Your World?

When you streamline your possessions to just the things you use 80% of the time, you have less stuff to take care of, store, repair, clean – and more time to live a joy-filled life. Amen to that…

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”

Wendell Berry

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