If you’ve ever looked around your home and felt weighed down by your possessions, you’re not alone. Plenty of people have realized that owning less can be freeing, save you time and money and make it easier to find your keys.
A year and a half ago, I challenged myself to rid my life of clutter. Compared with a lot of Americans, I didn’t own much. But I’d still managed to accumulate things I didn’t really need or value; from books to clothing to dinner plates to large pieces of furniture. Over the next several months, I opened every box, drawer and closet door in my apartment and took inventory of what I owned.
Figuring out what to get rid of was only the first step. The second one was figuring out how to give my unwanted stuff a second life. I started a blog, Simpler Living, to document the process and to give things away to anyone who wanted them. And it worked – I posted photos of dozens of things and found new homes for them that way.
I also found many other ways to recycle lots of different stuff in ways that benefit the greater community – from my personal network of family and friends to agencies that help refugees, victims of domestic violence, and other people in need.
Here are some creative ways to share your stuff with the world:
First, spread the word. Tell everyone you know what you’re doing and why. My friends, family, colleagues and readers all gave me ideas for places to donate things. Some of them were even kind enough to take things off my hands.
When I downsized my wardrobe, I found more than 100 things I didn’t wear. So whenever I’d have a friend over or throw a party, I’d ask them to look through my donation boxes and take home whatever they wanted. Some of the skirts, shirts and accessories my friends took have become favorite parts of their wardrobes. Win-win!
I’ve also found new homes for my unwanted clothing by going to clothing swaps. If you don’t know someone who’s having one, throw your own instead.
Churches, homeless shelters and nonprofits that help the needy often accept clothing for their thrift stores. Many also redistribute clothing directly to the poor. “You can look around during the sermon and see who might need something,” a coworker told me. She took a warm down coat from me and discreetly gave it to another person who came to her church’s services last winter.
Got gently worn shoes? Donate them to Soles4Souls, which distributes footwear to people in need.
If you have professional clothing, contact Dress For Success. The nonprofit helps disadvantaged women look their best for interviews; your gently worn suits could help someone else land a job in a tough economy.
Do the same thing for men in several major metropolitan areas via Career Gear.
The Cinderella Project accepts formal wear and accessories. Every year, girls who can’t afford a prom dress find one through the nonprofit, which has local branches across the country.