What To Do With Clutter

I have myself a challenge over the holidays: Pick one part of my house and totally tidy it up–get rid of clutter! And I did it!

Here’s the challenge when you’re decluttering, though. You want to get rid of stuff, but what do you actually do with it? You don’t want to contribute to landfill, so what do you do? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Get Rid of Clutter by giving to thrift stores

(if it works and if it’s sellable). Don’t just dump stuff that you would normally put in the trash. But if it’s usable, give it.

2. Find families with younger children than yours and pass it on!

We recently passed on about 30 Groovy Girls complete with clothing and furniture. What a great present for those little girls, now that our girls have grown out of them!

3. If you have old clothing, bedding, or linens, but they’re too worn to be reused, ask at your local Salvation Army if they still need them.

Someone at our Salvation Army, for instance, collects such stuff and sells it by the ton to a company who shreds it up and turns it into mattresses. Chances are there are such opportunities around. Just keep these donations separate from the wearable clothing, and be sure to let the Salvation Army know what you’re giving them.

4. Donate to a Green Building Store in your area

We have a store where you can purchase salvaged household building supplies. If you’re ripping out cupboards, getting rid of carpet, changing faucets, or anything like that, you may be able to drop it off at such a store. You never know who may find it useful!

5. Ask around about what people involved in missions would like–your clutter may be gold!

We’re collecting yarn and towels, for instance, for a trip we’re taking in March to Africa. We’ve started a knitting microbusiness program with some graduated girls from a children’s home, and we’re bringing a lot of that old acrylic yarn everyone buys from WalMart and then never does anything with. We’re taking a ton of knitting needles and crochet hooks, too. If you have old craft supplies, see if someone on short term missions projects can use them.

Often schools have knitting programs, and they may be able to use craft supplies. You can also try churches with clubs groups during the week, or Boys and Girls after school clubs that are always looking for things for the kids to do. Some of them would surely love old construction paper, or markers, or yarn, or whatever.

Senior citizens homes and retirement homes often are eager for craft supplies (and sometimes even more eager for people to come in and start a knitting project with them). So if you have knitting/crocheting things you don’t use, you may be able to get rid of them that way.

6. Have furniture you’re willing to get rid of for free?

Try putting a notice in your church bulletin, or putting up a notice in your local grocery store or local community college. Someone’s sure to want it!

7. Repurpose items.

I’ve taken old flannel pyjamas and fleece sweatshirts and sewn them into sanitary pads to take to Africa. I know it sounds gross, but they are cheaper, better for the environment, and actually more comfortable! You can read instructions in this post on how to make them.

And I’ve also taken old sweaters that are out of fashion or that I don’t like anymore and reclaimed the yarn.

I’ve even covered pillows that were ugly with a new cover that I’ve knit. Hey, it uses up yarn and an old pillow!

And I’ve taken yarn that I didn’t like, combined a bunch together (so I’m often knitting with three strands, so it’s thick), and made a blanket.

8. Digitize Clutter-Rich Photos/Videos

Have tons of old VHS tapes cluttering your cupboards? Have old camcorder tapes with old family videos? Those take up a lot of space–and they’re too valuable to let become obsolete. Pretty soon you won’t even be able to watch them, because we won’t have anything that plays those old tapes anymore (maybe you’re already stuck!).

Why not empty out those drawers of old tapes and get them transferred onto digital media? Then you can store all of your old family movies on a USB stick. I find this a lot safer–I can store movies on an external hard drive at home; upload them to a flickr account (and mark them private); and then keep another USB stick at my mother’s house so that I never have to worry about losing any of them. YesVideo will transfer your tapes for you.

9. Get rid of Clutter by Regifting–Someone else may love it!

But I don’t just mean giving away gifts you’ve been given. Lots of things can be transformed into gifts. Old mugs can be stuffed with homemade chocolate truffles. Wicker baskets, napkins, or tea towels make great gifts, too. Just stuff them with homemade cookies or buns, and you have a housewarming gift! So just because your mugs don’t work for you anymore, or you have too many teacups, don’t get rid of them! Keep them and use them as gifts.

10. Remember consignment stores or second hand stores.

Many places will pay you $1 for a DVD or a CD. Great way to purge some of those collections. Others will pay you 20% of the cover price on paperbacks. So don’t just throw out your old books. See if you can turn them into money.

11. Get cash for used electronics

Finally, don’t ignore those old tablets or broken iPhones or old phones. Gazelle pays cash for old electronics! And they pay for you to ship them. Find out more here.

I think that’s it! But if you have any other great ideas on what to do with older things if you don’t want to fill landfill, do leave them in the comments!

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