Declutter your home – declutter your life
I tried not to take it personally when my sister gifted me Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. And, though I discovered some interesting suggestions for organizing my things (items in a drawer should stand upright, not lie flat), I also found that – like much of the decluttering discourse – it failed to address what to do with my stuff once I made the move to declutter.
The thought that our stuff will simply get thrown into a landfill, I soon learned, is one of the biggest roadblocks for many of us when it comes to letting go. “Ninety per cent of people care about where their stuff goes,” says Linda Chu, a spokesperson for Professional Organizers in Canada.
Stephen Ilott of decluttering.ca, a professional organizer based in Oakville, ON, concurs. People who have invested a lifetime in taking care of memories and memorabilia want to ensure that their things go to a good home – if not to family members, then to those who would benefit most at a women’s shelter, an at-risk youth centre or an innovative charity.
Sound familiar? Our guide will help you find the best new home for your old stuff.
Declutter your closet
There are some innovative programs in Canada that are helping to expand the potential for used clothing, with textile-recycling programs topping the list.
The city of Markham, ON, has recently initiated such a project in partnership with The Salvation Army and Diabetes Canada. It collects all types of clothing, and those not suitable for resale are recycled and repurposed by other organizations into items like insulation and car seats. The bottom line is, your clothes don’t have to be in perfect condition to enjoy a second life.
If you do have some tip-top outfits, consider giving them to organizations that support women. For example, you can donate new or nearly new suits, shoes and accessories to Dress for Success. This organization, which has 11 locations across Canada, provides women with an initial suit for their first job interviews and up to a full work week of outfits once they land a job.
Other groups, such as The Cinderella Project in Vancouver, accept outfits – as well as in-kind and cash donations – for high school graduates who can’t afford formal attire for their graduation festivities (the site lists similar organizations across the country).
The more traditional way to donate clothing is to seek out charities with drop-off centres and donation bins. Other charities, such as Diabetes Canada’s Clothesline program, will pick up clothes on designated days directly from your home. Yard sales are also a classic way to get rid of old clothes.
Declutter your book shelves
An innovative way to reuse old or damaged books is to repurpose them for art. Having a wedding? You can create a “book arch” or make origami flowers out of book pages. Schools may also want them to create blackout poetry (where you blacken out words on a page, leaving only the words that create a poem). Check Pinterest for ideas.
If you have gently used books, inquire at your local library, school and church if they may be interested in them to sell at fundraisers or keep for their own collections. Alternatively, you can drop off books at one of the growing number of Little Free Library boxes. Check out littlefreelibrary.org to find one close to you.
Used-goods stores, such as Value Village, Goodwill and Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shops, also accept books, among other household items.
Declutter your electronics
If your computer, camera, laptop, TV and other electronics were made before 1998, chances are they can’t be refurbished, says Ilott, but the metal and other parts can be recycled. Google “electronic recycling for reuse” to find scrap-metal collectors who will pick up your electronics or inquire about drop-off locations for metal-recycling companies, such as Triple M Metal LP.
Other organizations will reuse and refurbish your old electronics, but make sure to remove all the data from them before handing anything over. If you know you won’t be using your laptop or other device again, donate it as soon as you can because it will lose value quickly. You can donate computer equipment to World Computer Exchange (with chapters in Ottawa and Vancouver) and old cellphones and batteries to Call2Recycle, which has various drop-off locations, including Staples and Canadian Tire.
Declutter your living room and kitchen
You can donate gently used living room and dining room furniture and other household items (but not appliances) to furniture banks, which will donate them to people in need. Many furniture banks have showrooms, so clients can choose what they want to furnish their homes. Drop off your items at a furniture bank in your area through Furniture Banks of Canada or have them picked up for a fee.
You can also donate furniture, appliances and other household items to your nearest Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, where people can typically buy these items for 50 to 80 per cent off their original retail value.
Declutter your garage
Many school-based mentoring programs, community centres and churches will gladly accept kids’ sporting equipment. You can also sell or trade quality used sports gear – everything from batting helmets to hockey pants to water skis – to stores such as Play It Again Sports. With Play It Again Sports, you have the option of getting paid on the spot, trading your equipment for 20 to 30 percent more than what you get upfront or selling on consignment for 30 to 50 per cent of what the store receives for the item.