Occasionally you readers write and ask me for advice.
When you query me about topics like cooking, gardening, simple living, and Greek yogurt, I always feel a mixture of flattery and terror—honored to be asked, and scared to death I’ll steer you wrong.
Curiously, you never ask me for dating tips. What’s up with that?!
Anyhoo, a lovely reader named Leah wrote me about a common dilemma that can arise when trying to clear space and get organized. Here’s her letter:
Dear Wise Eliza, (Please note: I may or may not have added the word “Wise”)
We need to declutter, and I am about to get rid of lots of things. For me, the difficulty isn’t in parting with the things (i.e., it’s not a question of sentimentality or nostalgia) – the issue is that I don’t know how to find all these things good homes without going to great lengths. Goodwill and other charity shops are great for some items, but I simply don’t know what to do with really nice things. I want the next “steward” to really love them – not keep them in storage (as I did) and then put them in landfill.
I can get rid of these things quick on Freecycle, but I’ve found that people don’t value objects or services unless they pay for them. eBay is a possibility but it involves a lot of time and hassle; yard sales are time-consuming and people generally are looking for deals (rather than things they love and need); and giving these things as gifts feels like I’m burdening my friends. Two strong, conflicting needs – to shift the stuff fast and be non-wasteful – are tough for me to reconcile, and I don’t know what to do.
What would you advise?? My husband tells me not to feel guilty or responsible for the existence of these things (especially the items that were given to me as gifts), but I find this so emotional and difficult!
~Conscientious, but Crowded
Leah, have you considered keeping a hungry goat as a pet?
Sorry, I’m kidding—no pun intended.
Let me share a couple of thoughts, and then we’ll invite our astute readers to weigh in.
1. You might enjoy this post, “How to Declutter Your Home,” by Maxwell Ryan. Ryan is the co-founder of Apartment Therapy, a wonderful site with inspiring photos and ideas to help people in smaller homes create beautiful, highly functioning spaces.
2. Consider selling your treasures on NextDoor.com, a site that connects people in nearby neighborhoods. It’s much less anonymous than, say, Craigslist. I’ve sold several items using the site’s free classified ads, and met some really nice people in the process.
3. Find a nonprofit that helps people transition from homelessness. A fine example here in Denver is Joshua Station, a former old Motel 6 converted into apartments refurbished by volunteers and decorated with donated goods. If you find a charitable organization where your wonderful treasures will directly be making a difference in another person’s life, you may feel more peace about letting them go.
4. Photograph your treasures before you say goodbye, and make a photo book through a service like Shutterfly. Write a few memories, so that you can remember and share your feelings about the items and what they meant to you.
How About You?
Readers, will you share your thoughts about how to mindfully declutter and let things go? I always love hearing your ideas, personal experiences—and dating tips.
P.S. Grateful thanks to Tomi Knuutila for the use of the collection image above and Rebecca Siegel for the use of her wonderful goat image.