Share, sell, donate, upcycle…or toss?

A box of unwanted stuff ready for a garage sale or to donate to a charitable organization.  Shot on white background.Boxes of forgotten toys, miscellaneous kitchen gadgets, retired decorative fixtures, books, frames, baby gear, old clothes…no, this is not a hoarder’s dream. This is my basement. Ok, so it could be hoarder’s dream. You really need to watch your step if you go looking for the box of old files tucked in the back corner, behind the Christmas tree, beside the gently used elliptical machine.

At some point, we all get to this place – we’ve accumulated piles of stuff that we no longer need or use on a daily basis. So what do you do with all this stuff? And, how do you keep a cluttered mess from growing again after you clear things out? Here are the options we consider when we’re thinking about what to do with our stuff, along with tips for each scenario.

Share it –If your stuff is in great condition and you’d like to see it put to good use by someone you know, pass it on to friends and family. If you’re letting someone borrow your items, rather than giving them away, make sure you’re clear about this up-front. You’ll avoid awkwardness or misunderstanding as to whether your friends/family should return the items to you when they’re done with them.

Sell it – Using an online classified service is easy in theory. Things to consider in this situation: it takes time and energy to take decent, marketable photographs, create your ads, and then manage the ads and selling process. Be prepared for questions and offers from people who are only willing to pay 10% of the posted price. You may also find that people don’t show up to pick up something they say they want. Or someone may ask to see your product, but may not decide to purchase it after taking a look at it. This can get frustrating, but if your gear is priced right, you will likely find the right buyer eventually. One way to price your stuff appropriately is to do a quick search online to see what comparable items are selling for. Other selling options include using a consignment store or holding a good ol’ fashioned garage sale.

Donate it –A great way to send your things to a good place is to give gently used items to people who aren’t able to afford them. If you decide to donate to an organization, it’s a good idea to first call ahead to find out if they actually need the stuff you’re looking to give away and if they have a means of storing the items if they don’t have an immediate need. Also, keep in mind that people you’re donating to don’t need your trash. It is thoughtful and appropriate to donate items that are clean and in good working condition, without rips or stains, and that meet any specific criteria (ie. age, gender, season etc.).

Upcycle it – You can find new life for clean, old clothes or other materials that can’t be used for their original purposes. Rather than throwing this stuff out, you or others may be able to turn this material into a DIY or crafting project. Generally, you would give these items away rather than trying to sell them since this is just one step removed from…

Toss it – These days, with our focus on reusing and recycling as much as possible, it can sometimes feel painful to throw things away. That stanky old t-shirt, the pair of cut-off jean shorts that you used to wear to mow the lawn, or that well-used undergarment – these are all examples of things that shouldn’t be passed along and that you can dispose of guilt-free. If you are throwing out electrical equipment or batteries, it’s a good idea to look up your community’s waste management information to see where you need to drop-off items like this. And, don’t forget about the batteries that may be hiding out in any battery-operated toys that your kids have outgrown.

After you’ve gone through this process once, you can avoid the return of the clutter by creating sections or setting up bins in your basement or other convenient place (livingroom not recommended). As you move items out of regular rotation, you can sort them immediately into these bins or sections.* Many people find it helpful to go through these piles every 3 or 4 months so that the piles don’t get out of hand.

Do you follow a similar process or have any tips to share? Post a comment below and pass along the info!

*Thanks to my friend Kathryn for this great little tip!


  1. Hi Quill and Curio. I love this post because it resonates with our blog and web app that we’re developing to help people reduce their waste and sustainably get rid of their things rather than tossing them. We’re called Trash Backwards and our blog is at while the app is at and all you have to do is type in any item and you’ll get reduce, reuse, regift, repair, recycle, and rethink ideas for it! We hope you have a chance to try it out for any of the stuff you have squirreled away in boxes. Thanks for posting on this really important subject!
    — Liesl at Trash Backwards

    • Liesl, thank you so much for reading my blog post, and for sharing your ridiculously cool app!! I LOVE IT! I’m going to share your app through one of my facebook pages, and also Tweet about it, if you don’t mind. Let me know if it’s ok to share the app so broadly, and if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to say about it. Thanks! Roshan, Quill and Curio

      • Hi Roshan. Thanks so much for looking into our app. I’ve also sent you a note via email with some further information. We’d be honored to have you share with others about our Trash Backwards app! We’re just starting out, but we think this zero waste tool could have some impact on changing people’s behavior. Looking forward to keeping in touch!
        — Liesl at Trash Backwards

      • Excellent! I’ll post a link to your app on the Cloak and Curio FB page, and I can Tweet about it as well. I already shared your most recent blog post, and recommended that people check out your blog. We shall stay in touch! Roshan

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