What to Do with All That Stuff


25 Sep
25Sep

Basically, as I see it, there are seven things one can do with one's earthly possessions. The first five are ways of disposing of them. I will tackle each of these in more detail in future posts.

  • Sell
  • Gift
  • Donate
  • Recycle
  • Toss
  • Re-purpose
  • Keep

Selling seems attractive because who doesn’t want to make some money if they can? But selling is more time-consuming than other routes, and not without its challenges. Plus, most things aren’t worth squat these days.

Gifting is great for those with family or friends who might some of what you own. Unfortunately, what little family I have lives across an ocean, and all my friends are trying to downsize, too. With a few minor exceptions, like the odd item of clothing, gifting is off my table, though it can work well for others. (But, I am told that most young people are not interested in their family's heirloom 12 place settings' worth of china.)

Donating is probably my favorite. I feel like my things are going to serve a good cause, and when I was eligible (i.e., had a high enough income), donations made for a nice tax deduction. Easiest items to donate are clothes, jewelry, kitchen items, household linens, books, dvds, cds, small (unused) toiletries, office supplies, and some furniture. 

Recycling makes us feel like we are doing something for the environment. It’s easier to toss things that aren’t in any condition to donate but also wasteful. I’ve already recycled masses of paper documents, floppy disks, and cassettes, and plan to recycle three ring binders through Office Max.  

Tossing is the easiest. Except for larger items for which you might need a pre-paid sticker, items can be placed in bins and put on the curb with the weekly pickup (for those of us whose communities offer such services.) But tossing is also wasteful. If you live in a neighborhood where people roam the streets the night before trash pickup looking to score some gem, you can try leaving out that you might otherwise toss. Anything metal is a winner, for example. 

Re-purposing is a way of using something you no longer need in its original form. As a collage artist, I am a sucker for re-purposing old magazines, calendars, travel and entertainment brochures, etc. (dangerous for the savers among us—see previous post on types of downsizers.) I also give the fronts of old greeting cards to my local senior home, as the seniors can glue them onto new fronts and reuse them. So many nice images that don’t have to go to waste!

Keeping things is a topic for many other posts. How do you decide what to keep and what to let go of? How many of one kind of item do you need? In what forms can beloved items be displayed and preserved? I am now of the mindset that I need to be able to see or easily get my hands on something to justify keeping it. That means ultimately nothing will remain in my attic with the dangerous pull-down ladder, but I will allow some useful items to stay in the dry basement. My ideal goal is to have almost everything on hand in my living space.

Fortunately, with slow-downsizing, I remind myself that I don’t have to make these decisions all at once, even as a part of me just wants it all to be done. But with downsizing I am not a “pull the bandaid off quickly” sort of a person, as one friend described herself.

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