National Give Something Away Day: 11 Ways to Declutter (& Give Back)

Woman donating Clothes for give away day

Tomorrow is National Give Something Away Day.

That’s a mouthful, which is why a lot of folks opt for the abbreviation: Give Away Day.

I prefer to think of it as the perfect opportunity to declutter and make a difference at the same time.

Spoken like a true minimalist.

We’re all about win/wins here at Mostly Mindful and this is definitely one of the better ones.

You’re doing yourself a favour by finally decluttering your house and you’re making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Talk about a double whammy of the feel goods, eh!?

I can’t help it, I always break out in Canadian when I get excited. 

What’s National Give Away Day All About?

Founded in 2015 by self-proclaimed giver, Linda Eaton Hall-Fulcher, National Give Something Away Day is, as the name suggests, all about giving. Her Facebook page is no longer being updated, but the spirit of Linda’s message is alive and well. Read more about the day.

The world can always use more kindness and generosity. Why not view the day as an opportunity to give the things you no longer need to someone who could use them? After all, there’s no point keeping something if it’s just gathering dust.

I know, I know. Letting go of stuff can be hard. What with the sentimental aspect, the guilt of wasting money on impulse purchases and the slim chance you’ll need those things in the future. It’s easier to just keep it all.

Is it, though? Is it really?

How to Decide What to Keep and What to Turf

national give something away day

My mom used to say she was a JIC (just in case) person. Not surprisingly, Mom was also a bit of a hoarder. She couldn’t bear to part with anything, because there was always the chance she’d need it again in the future.

She didn’t.

This approach to possessions has merit if the item in question is your winter coat and it’s the middle of summer. But it doesn’t hold water when you refuse to get rid of your tennis racquet even though you haven’t set foot on a court in more than a decade.

Figuring out what to keep and what to let go is a bit of an emotional minefield. Which is why it’s often so hard for people to declutter. They’d rather not have to deal with the feelings that invariably arise when they think about their too-full basement or overflowing garage.

Look, there’s no easy solution to the problem, so use National Give Something Away Day as your ‘why’ for tackling the issue head on. Humans are inherently caring and compassionate and I’m sure you’re no different.

If you know who you’ll be helping it’ll make letting go that much easier. Sure, you still have to do the work, but with a clear idea of the recipient in your mind, the task won’t seem nearly as onerous.

We’ll get to that in a minute (if you’re impatient like me, go ahead and scroll down now). First, let’s take a closer look at this business of letting go. It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think.

Seriously, stick with me on this one.

Letting Go of the Guilt of Letting Go

young woman with sunflowers on give away day

For a lot of people, letting go of stuff elicits feelings of guilt. Whether that’s because you spent a lot of money on an impulse purchase you ended up not using or you inherited a really ugly vase from your favourite aunt, there’s an emotional attachment that’s preventing you from letting go.

So how do you let go of stuff guilt? For Ruth, it took losing her mother-in-law and sister-in-law to realize that memories and stuff are not the same.

“The reality is that at some point, it is no longer practical, healthy or reasonable to hold onto things we don’t need simply because you’re trying to hold on to a memory,” says Ruth.

But what about those impulse buys or the expensive pair of jeans that no longer fit you? Zoë Kim of Raising Simple has some tips to help you let go of perfectly good things. It may sound obvious, but the first thing you need to do is accept the mistake.

We’ve all bought something we thought we’d use and never did. It happens. Holding on to it is just cluttering up your home and serving as a reminder of something you’d much rather forget. Make peace with it and move on.

Zoë also recommends keeping your eye on your why. “In times of discouragement, make a choice to focus on why you are giving perfectly good things away. Remember, you’re giving up the good for the best.”

The guilt won’t magically disappear overnight, but it will lessen the more you declutter. Whenever you find yourself holding on a little too tight, remind yourself of these wise words from Marie Kondo: “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” 

Questions to Ask When Decluttering

young woman thinking about give away day

Decluttering requires inquiry. You need to ask yourself some pertinent questions when deciding what to keep and what to purge. This exercise requires a commitment to being absolutely honest in your responses. 

Yes, it’ll be uncomfortable, maybe even a little scary, but there’s every chance you’ll find the process quite liberating. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize the half-truths we tell ourselves about our stuff. 

1. When last did I use this?

Obviously, certain items are seasonal, but even then you should still check in with yourself. If you last wore that winter coat three years ago, it’s time to send it on its way. For everything else, set yourself a reasonable timeframe.

Sporty and I employ the three month rule. If we haven’t used something in three months we generally get rid of it. There’ll be the odd exception from time to time, but on the whole we’re pretty ruthless in our approach.

If you’re new to decluttering, you could decide on a six or twelve month timeframe when assessing what gets to stay. I wouldn’t go longer than a year though, and I’d also suggest scheduling another round of decluttering for six months’ time to reassess the situation.

2. Do I need this many?

An ex-colleague of mine once admitted to me that in his household of two they had three full dinner services and enough pots to start a restaurant. One of our house sitting clients had somewhere in the region of 20 coffee mugs (and she lives alone). 

A few years ago we decided to embark on a lifestyle experiment to see just how little we could live with. It turns out two of everything is plenty. That’s of course a little extreme for most folks, especially if you like entertaining. It’s still worth thinking about, though.

3. Do I even like it?

I once took a job that required me to ‘dress up’ a little more than I was used to. I bought some pants and shirts I liked enough to wear to work everyday, but they weren’t really my style.

I held onto them long after I quit the job because I’d spent quite a bit of money on them and they were still in perfectly good shape. Every once in a while I’d try and wear them again, but I always felt uncomfortable.

Eventually I had to make peace with the fact that it was time to let them go. Reminding myself that I’d already gotten my money’s worth during the time I did wear them made it easier.

Pay it Forward

In her TEDx Charlottesville talk Think you can’t be a minimalist? Think again! author and Afro Minimalist Christine Platt has some great advice on how to live with less. One thing in particular stood out for me.

Christine advocates paying it forward when you’re struggling to let go of something. She tells a story of a fancy power suit she’d kept for years even though she never wore it. When she eventually donated it to Dress For Success, she remembers feeling so good, so liberated.  

“You’ll never be able to financially recoup everything you’ve spent on things you don’t need, but you can pay it forward in many, many ways,” says Christine.

One of the ways Christine pays it forward is by sharing her journey to minimalism online. If you’re a bloggeror Instagrammer, that’s great. If you’re not, giving the things you don’t need to people who could use them is a wonderful alternative.

Sometimes, a shift in focus is all that’s needed to reframe the way we think or feel about something. Knowing that someone else really needs whatever it is you’re struggling to let go of makes it easier to part ways with the item.

Look for Help (in the Right Places)

two young woman talking about give away day

Whether you’re looking to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle or simply want to declutter your home a little, it can be daunting to go it alone. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who’ve walked this road before you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for some simple ideas to help you thin out your closet, want help letting go of sentimental items or need some tips on how to declutter when you don’t know where to begin, you’ll find it on the interwebs.

11 Ways to Declutter (and Make a Difference)

To save you the trouble of Googling —and because tomorrow is National Give Something Away Day and time is of the essence— I’ve compiled a list of 11 ways you can declutter and make a difference at the same time.

We’re all about win/win here at Mostly Mindful.

I got a great deal of inspiration for this list from Apartment Therapy. I’ve also added my own ideas and flavour to the mix. I hope you find it helpful.

1. Toys 

Let’s face it: children have way too many toys. Donating some of them to an orphanage, shelter for women and children, or a creche in a not-so-well-off community is a great way to teach your kids about the value of making a difference. Check out these minimalist family blogs for inspiration.

2. Bedding and Towels

If your bedding and towels are too old and ratty to donate to a human shelter, then the next best thing is to share them with our four-legged friends. Find an animal shelter in your area and drop them off. Easy peasy.

3. Fancy Work Clothes

Are you hanging onto power clothes (like Christine and I did)? Why not donate them to an organisation like Dress For Success? Imagine knowing that your fancy pant suit helped someone land a job.

4. Fancy Party Clothes

Have you got a fancy evening gown or tuxedo lurking in your closet? Becca’s Closet provides prom dresses to girls who can’t afford them. Operation Prom welcomes both dresses and suits for students in need. 

5. Fancy Wedding Clothes

You might be sentimental about your wedding dress, but since you have the memories and photos of your special day, why not donate your dress to a charity like Brides Across America and give another bride the chance to enjoy her special day in style?

6. Previously Loved Clothes

While we’re on the subject of clothes, let’s talk about all those items that don’t fit you anymore. Let’s also talk about the garments that fit your body but not your personality or style. And let’s talk as well about the eighty percent of your wardrobe you don’t wear.

Look, you’re not wearing those jeans, t-shirts, shoes, sweaters and whatnot, so share the love a little. Think about it, your old sweater could be keeping someone warm. That pair of jeans could be someone else’s good for work pants. 

7. Kitchen Whatnot

If you’re anything like the ex-colleague I mentioned earlier, you’ll have plenty to declutter in the kitchen. Take a look around and see what you have too many of and what you don’t use.

These items would be welcomed by shelters, soup kitchens, previously homeless people, women who’ve left an abusive marriage, and so on. Get in touch with your local shelters and ask them what they need.

8. Electronics (Laptops, Smartphones, etc.)

Most people upgrade their devices every 2-3 years. This could be because your provider tempted you with a snazzy upgrade or because you needed something bigger, faster, better to serve your work needs.

There are plenty of places that would welcome your tech castoffs with open arms. Instead of leaving that old iPad to languish in a drawer, send it somewhere it’ll be useful. This article from iDTech explains how to donate your old laptop computer.

9. Baby Paraphernalia

Taking care of a new human requires a lot of stuff. From clothes and prams to cots and baby seats, you’re left with a bunch of useless stuff once your offspring moves from infant to toddler.

Unless you’re planning on making more (humans, that is), there’s no point hanging onto those things. You’ll also know how expensive they are to buy, so the satisfaction of gifting it to a struggling new parent will be huge.

Places like The Grace Factory and Moms Helping Moms are two places you can offer your gently used baby items to. If they’re not in your area, ask Google for some suggestions.

10. Books and Magazines

I see you. Sitting there with your piles of National Geographic, Garden & Home, Runner’s World and Cosmo. You’ve got every edition ever printed and you’ve reread them how often? And what about the chicklit, cook books and spy novels cluttering up your shelves?

I know you’re attached, but you’re never going to read them again. In some cases, you’re never going to read them. Period. Be nice and send them somewhere they’ll be read and appreciated. Here’s a list of places to donate books as well as an article on how to let go of unwanted books and magazines.

Now go and buy a KindlePaperwhite and you won’t have to go throught this again. When the need for an actual paper book or magazine overcomes you, go to the library.

Don’t say I don’t give you options.

11. Sports Equipment

If you’ve got teenagers you’ve more than likely got old sports equipment lying about the place. Maybe you’re a sports freak with a shopping problem. Perhaps you thought [fill in the blank] would be fun and after one go you came to your senses.

Whatever the reason for your glut of sports and exercise apparatus, leaving it to gather dust in the garage is silly. Do yourself a favour and give them to one of the many organisations donating sports equipment to those less fortunate.

Go Forth and Declutter (and Make a Difference)

giving tomatoes on give away day

My list is far from exhaustive, but by now you get the picture. Pick a category or room in your house that needs decluttering and then find an organisation that needs the things you no longer have any use for.

By picking a room and category, the task becomes less daunting. Instead of decluttering your whole house, all you have to focus on is the kids’ bedroom or the kitchen drawers or the hall closet, for example.

I hope I’ve persuaded you that giving is better than hoarding keeping stuff you don’t use. If I have, please leave a comment and let me know how your decluttering mission is going. And if you liked the post please also share it with anyone you think would find it useful.

Happy National Give Something Away Day!