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What to do with it all?

Original to Times-Standard

Even without a pending move likely to force us to recognize our “collections,” we can still feel overwhelmed by years of accumulation. Let’s be honest, we can’t seem to let go of things, even though we have no reason to keep much of what we have. I think the hardest items to let go of fall into just a few categories.

Gifts and Heirlooms. Ask yourself: do I love this, do I use it? Is it a family heirloom I want to keep? During this process the person who gave it to you is less important that how you feel about it, unless it is the one item you have that reminds you of that person and without it, you would forget them forever. Ask your family members if they want the heirlooms, but don’t be offended when they don’t.

Bought but not being used. Hopes, dreams, regret, bad purchases. All feature here. Often the expensive purchases we made but never could justify. It doesn’t matter how much you spent on the item. Holding on to it won’t bring back the money, or better justify the expense. Admit it was a bad buy and move on. If it’s in good shape, great, but remember, just like a brand new car, it will be worth less the minute it is driven off the lot. For most things you shouldn’t expect to make your money back.

Simply needs to go. These are the things that have served their purposes and lived their natural lives. You know what this is. Broken things you plan to fix but can’t or won’t, things you are saving “just in case I (fill in the blank).” I call these the “pieces of string too small to use” items.

If you don’t want to donate your items, try to sell them first. There are numerous local estate sales companies (they do pre-estate sales too, so no pressure here) and antique dealers as well as web-based options. Be prepared to accept less for items than you think they are worth. Things are only valuable if people are willing to pay for them.

If you decide to donate, don’t rationalize donating clearly unusable items. Thrift shops need to have a reasonable chance of reselling what you bring. If you don’t want it because of its condition, they won’t either. Admit the item is “done” and dispose of it properly. Find peace with this.

Never leave items outside of donation hours. How would you feel if the community dumped its unwanted stuff on your yard at night?

Other tips:

  1. Call ahead if you haven’t donated in a while. There is nothing worse than arriving only to discover that the donation hours have changed or they aren’t accepting specific items anymore.

  2. Be patient with the people who accept your donations. They are touching a bunch of unwanted stuff all day long. Don’t get grumpy.

  3. Clean and sort your items so you know what is in which bag or box, in case there are new restrictions since your last visit.

  4. Check out SCRAP Humboldt. They take items that aren’t typical thrift store donations, especially those that can be creatively reused to make something cool. (

  5. Use Freecycle, Craigslist, etc. to get your unwanted items directly to someone who wants them. There is a whole economy driven by people who reuse and recycle. Find them.

  6. Examine your consumption habits. If you make regular clean sweeps only to go out and replace everything, it’s something to ponder. Think twice before you buy something new when used will do.

If you need help with downsizing, whether you are moving or not, contact Kraft Transitions.

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