This summer, my mission was to pare down my accumulated stuff. Maybe call it "rightsizing." Thinking we might downsize to a smaller house in the next year or so, I got to work.
Here's my three secrets to letting go of stuff: 1) Be motivated - you must be in the right mood. 2) Take a picture of anything sentimental. 3) Give to a good "home" as there's comfort knowing someone else will appreciate it. Calling 800-Got-Junk might be easiest but there's no satisfaction in knowing things might just be going to the dump.
You already know to have 3 staging boxes at the ready - Keep, Trash, or Donate/Sell. I added one more box - stuff to give to family and friends. I sent one friend about 60 postcards she'd sent me over the years. She's now having fun reliving trips.
Once my stuff was organized and photographed, where was it going? A giant yard sale seemed logistically impossible, so I set about giving it away.
Here's some examples of what I did.
Friends and Family.
When Great Uncle Ernie died in the early 1970's, family members were invited to go through his Woodland, WA farmhouse (my Grandmother's birthplace). I brought things home but most have sat in the basement. Recently, a cousin bought the house as a vacation home. I sent these items (and the teacup in top photo) back to Uncle Ernie's house.
Treasures Hospice Thrift Shop, San Leandro, CA.
This thrift store has a good stream of customers, including the old me. It was the perfect spot to donate mom's 38 teacups , my old sets of silver-plate, china and certain collectables. Once I got all of them photographed and boxed up, I took a full van over. A week later, I went in to see how the teacups were displayed. I only saw two tea cups (both marked $7.50) and a pair of silver-plate candle sticks (marked $50). I said to a volunteer (who just turned 90), "I guess you haven't had time to put out all the tea cups." Chuckling, she said, "This is all that's left. They were gone in two days." She said they were priced from $7.50 to $45. My mom would have got a kick out of that. Her two favorites were sent to her great granddaughters.
The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, Oakland, CA
What to do with all those greeting cards I'll never send, stickers, gift wrap and ribbons, party favors, etc. I had two or three lifetimes of Valentine supplies, so most went to the Depot. The resource center takes donations for teachers to use in classrooms. You'll probably have such a donation center in your area.
Habitat For Humanity ReStore, Oakland, CA
All house stuff (small tools, light fixtures, painting supplies) went to Habitat for Humanity.
White Elephant Sale (to benefit the Oakland Museum), Oakland, CA.
Fortunately, the White Elephant volunteers love vintage clothes and I had boxes of them. Here's my patched up jeans from the early 1970's.
The White Elephant volunteers also took seasonal decorations and a lot of linens. I scheduled a pickup and they carried everything up from the basement, 3 floors down. Their sales start in February but they collect year round. For other charities, fall is the best time to donate Halloween and Christmas stuff as it can be put out for sale immediately.
Goodwill, Oakland, CA.
The rest of the stuff went to our local Goodwill. While both Goodwill and Salvation Army pick up, it was easiest to donate right in our neighborhood as I filled a few boxes.
Boxes and boxes were moved out, along with furniture, kitchen stuff, camping equipment, clothes, even golf clubs. It was emotional, fun and took many summer weekends. I'm really feeling lighter now. We've got lots of empty drawers and a basement that could be packed up in a day, all neatly organized. Next on the agenda is going through files and boxes of papers, scrapbooks and photos. While it's fun to read my 5th grade report on Portland bridges, do I need to keep it? I'd like to figure out a way to photograph or scan pages of scrapbooks and maybe print one consolidated book. If you have any ideas, please let me know.
PS. If you start tossing, here's a story for you. Years ago, before eBay and all, my mom and I were sorting papers from her attic. We took a boxful of old paper (1930-1970) maps, menus, travel brochures to a stamp dealer. He sent her a $450 check for the box which floored us both.