It’s Marie Kondo’s world now, and we’re all just trying to declutter in it.
After Kondo’s Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, based on her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, debuted this month, people have gone tidy-crazy. Local news sites are reporting that thrift shops are seeing dramatic upticks in donations this month, likely a result of MariManiacs decluttering their houses of all of the belongings that no longer spark joy. (If you’re still unfamiliar with the KonMari method, we wrote about the basics here.)
If you’ve watched the show or read the book, then you know that order in which you tidy up is important. “Start with clothes, then move on to books, papers, komono (miscellany), and finally things with sentimental value,” writes Kondo. “If you reduce what you own in this order, your work will proceed with surprising ease. By starting with the easy things first and leaving the hardest for last, you can gradually hone your decision-making skills, so that by the end it seems simple.”
But what do you do with all of the stuff that doesn’t spark joy? Given the categories she describes, you have four different opportunities to dispose of your stuff, and thrift stores can’t handle all of our junk. Here’s how to donate, recycle and re-sell effectively.
After you’ve Kondo’d your closet, there are a few different steps you might want to take before hauling everything off to the Salvation Army.
First, if you have some name-brand items, you might be able to sell them on sites like Poshmark or thredUP. They don’t accept all items at all times, but it’s at least worth looking into to recover a few bucks from your tidying spree. Buffalo Exchange and other consignment shops in your area are also an option for higher-end clothing.
For donations, in addition to organisations like the Salvation Army, Fitted for Work is a non-profit that provides women with professional attire, support and development. You can donate lightly used work clothing, accessories and shoes to Fitted for Work.
The Freecycle Network is composed of people around the world who meet up to swap belongings for free. You can find a local network here.
Remember: Clothes that are ripped, stained or otherwise damaged cannot be resold. Similarly, donation centres aren’t trash cans for all of your soiled stuff. The good news, though, is that you can recycle pretty much anything. Some chain stores also recycle certain types of garments for customers. If you or your child wore a school uniform and it’s still in good condition, check with your school to see if they accept donations.
Paper, of course can be recycled. And to cut back on paper clutter, call the companies sending you catalogues you no longer want, and cancel subscriptions you don’t actually read. You can also request to be removed from non-profit or charity mailing lists (sign up for their email newsletters to avoid guilt), and check out this page from the Federal Trade Commission on how to remove yourself from direct mailing lists.
Books are a bit trickier. You have more options, for one, and can potentially make a few bucks back. Try the website BookScouter.com: You input the book’s ISBN and it will compare buyback vendor options for you.
If you can’t find a seller, check with your local libraries (though they might not want your books), second-hand bookstores, high schools, etc., to see if they accept donations or are seeking specific types of books. If you have a collection of, say, comic books that you no longer want, the library is a good starting point.
Operation Paperback donates books to troops overseas, and there are many organisations that donate books to prison libraries. You won’t be able to donate just any books to these types of orgs, but they’re worth checking in with.
There’s been a lot of backlash to Marie Kondo’s attitude toward books, thanks to her new Netflix show. In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she encourages readers to get rid of all their unread books. She says that she personally only owns 30 titles. Her critics say that’s ridiculous, and in fact you should cover your home in books.
This is the most broad of any of the Kondo Kategories—komono means miscellany, so there’s a lot of ground to cover.
If you’re purging tech items that have ever had an account tied to them—computers, phones, tablets, gaming devices, smart home devices—clear all your data off of it and disassociate it with your accounts.
You probably know you have to wipe your old computers and smartphones clean before you sell, donate, or recycle them. After all, you don’t want to give whoever ends up with your secondhand gadget access your documents, login credentials, or any personal information.
Then, see if it can be sold at a store like Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Office Depot, Sprint or Staples, all of which have buy-back programs for various products (usually their own). Here’s Senior Tech Editor David Murphy with more:
The easiest solution is to sell an Apple Watch or iPhone something-something to a friend or loved one. They get a decent deal, you get cash from a trusted source, and they can bug you for troubleshooting whenever they want. Everybody wins.
Otherwise, you can try selling your device to any number of places—even Apple itself. We’ve previously covered many of the major options you have, and it’s worth your time to pull out a notepad, visit a few sites, and write down everyone’s trade-in values to make sure you’re getting the most money for your older device as possible. (I tend to part with my older devices using Amazon’s trade-in program, which gets you gift cards instead of cash, as the amounts offered have always felt reasonable to me.)
You can also try eBay or Craigslist, but you’re then surrendering yourself to everyone else’s needs.
If you can’t sell it, remember that you can’t just drop your old computer off at the recycling yard. “Electronics products can also contain toxic substances, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, which all must be disposed of carefully,” writes Consumer Reports. “So far, 25 states have passed laws requiring people to recycle old electronics.” You can find a list of different organisations that can recycle the products here. Additionally, check with local schools or libraries to see if they accept tech donations.
Beyond tech, there are even more options. Again, some retailers will give you a discount or coupon if you drop off certain items in-store to be recycled. You may be able to donate old tools to organisations like Habitat for Humanity.
Furniture can be trickier—you can likely donate it, but if you can’t transport it yourself, there’s always Craigslist or companies that pick up donations from your home. The Salvos, Brotherhood of St Laurence and others will take donations of furniture that's in good condition with collection services.
For old toys, beyond the usual suspects like the Salvation Army, you might also call up your local children’s hospital, doctor’s office, daycares, children’s shelters and churches. All are likely to be in need of certain types of toys and entertainment options (check for recalls before you donate any items). Online communities on Facebook and the Freecycle Network may also be helpful. And many local councils run toy libraries which can take toys that are in good condition.
Old kitchen equipment needs to be cleaned and then can be donated it to a secondhand store.
Finally, we arrive at sentimental items, likely the most difficult on the list to part with. If you’re having trouble getting rid of old photographs and other items that hold memories for you, here’s some advice. (Remember, just because it’s suggested to pare down your stuff doesn’t mean you have to—if it truly sparks joy, keep it.)
First, consider passing on items, particularly family heirlooms. Or, think of ways you can remake old items to be better suited to your lifestyle now (I was recently struck by this article, in which a woman painted an old wooden dining table passed down through the generations purple to fit her modern lifestyle.)
“A stone from a dated ring can be re-set into a band that’s more your style, and a board from a dresser that won’t fit in your apartment can be transformed into a floating shelf,” writes the Spruce.
Finally, check with local archives and museums if you think you have sentimental items of value. Here’s some advice on what’s considered “historically valuable.”
All of these tips just scratch the surface on the variety of reselling, recycling, up-cycling and reselling options out there. Regardless of what you’re decluttering from your life, take some time to research online what can be done with it besides throwing it in the trash or donation bag. It takes time, but no one said sparking joy came easy. At the end of it, you’ll feel better having found sustainable new homes for your clutter, rather than adding it to a landfill.