As a Professional Organizer, clients naturally turn to me to help them figure out what to do with all the stuff they’re ready to part with. One suggestion I make is to try to sell or give items away on craigslist or Freecycle. It’s often a fast, cost-free method to move things out of their home, but sometimes – even when it’s free! – there are no buyers or takers. What then?
The next step is to determine whether or not the items are suitable for donation. If not, I explain to clients that if they’ve made a good faith effort to find a new home for their clutter, but nobody seems to want it, it’s perfectly alright to toss it. If they seem to be leaning towards keeping an item(s) they were ready to let go of, I explain to them how doing that thwarts their goal of de-cluttering their space. Because most of my clients are in the greater NYC area – which usually means they live in apartment buildings – I have a great option to offer which often does the trick. I recommend that we neatly put items in the basement trash/recycling area of their building and hope that someone else will think they’re treasures and take them. I know from personal experience in my own and my friends’ apartment buildings how often that’s exactly what happens. One man’s trash really is another man’s treasure, at least in NYC! Of course, before leaving items, we always check to make sure that it’s alright with the super or porter of the building. If no one takes the items, eventually the super or porter will toss them. Psychologically, it makes it easier for some clients to let go if they don’t actually have to do the tossing.
If a client insists on giving a charity clothing items that are not in good shape (we truly have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to charity and thrift shops in NYC), I ask them to think twice about that decision. Goodwill, for example, receives a billion pounds of clothing every year. Yes, I said billion with a “B”! Unfortunately, because well-meaning donors often aren’t discriminating enough about the condition of the clothing they donate, charities end up being able to use less than half of what they get and have to pay to dispose of the rest. Here’s a good rule of thumb to go by if you’re thinking about donating clothing: if you wouldn’t give it to a family member or a friend, it’s probably not good enough for a charity either. By being thoughtful and sensitive to a charity’s needs and not using them as a dumping ground or simply to get a tax deduction, you avoid creating a manpower and financial burden for them and perform a truly charitable act.
The bottom line is that sometimes you just have to trash items and that’s OK.