Reframe your ideas about waste (Downsizing: Part 4)

The three different types of waste we encounter when downsizing and what to do belongings that might be valuable, beautiful, and still functional.

Travel pictures on map

People really, really hate to waste.


I don't like to waste either. But let's just flip that around a little bit and look at waste from a different angle. Typically there are three types of “waste.”


  1. Usable items If an item is usable, but you're not using it, it is being wasted since it is just sitting in your house right now. You could pass it along so someone else could use it, and it will no longer be wasted.

  2. Broken or obsolete items If you have items that are broken or simply obsolete, it is likely that no one will ever use them again. These items are just wasting space in your home.

  3. Items that bring up guilt or that you don’t like If you are holding on to things out of guilt or if you have items in your home that you don't even like, it's a wasted opportunity because those things are a distraction from what you actually like. They waste space and energy. If you get them out of your home, then the things that you actually care about have more space to be seen and used.


Where should I begin?

Start with the stuff that you don’t use or don't like, are broken or obsolete. This is the easy stuff – it's not sentimental. It doesn't have any dollar value. It's just taking up room and you might have even forgotten that it was there. Let go of what’s easy first, and then you can begin to see what you have left.


What about items that may be valuable?

Often we hang on to things because we think our special items might be worth a lot of money (or at least some money), or we may have been told that they were valuable. But it often turns out that these treasures have little monetary value. I encourage clients to have an expert help them determine what an item is worth. If an item really is valuable, then the expert can often help you sell it.


What should I do with things that are beautiful and functional but I just don’t want them anymore?

So many of us have beautiful things that are usable, but we know we don't want them anymore. My clients really want these items to have a meaningful second life. Ideally these things can be passed along to someone that you love, who you know wants what you are offering.


Often, though, people in our lives don't want our things or don't have space for them. In this case, you can donate your belongings to someplace like Goodwill or to an organization in your community that is near and dear to your heart, where someone might actually be able to use these things.


For example, Clean Slate partners with Lund Family Center, a local non-profit. My home organizing and downsizing clients can give their belongings a meaningful second life by donating them to Lund to support young moms who are transitioning out of their residential program into independent living. These moms don't have a lot of resources, so when my clients pass along their household items, kitchen items, furniture, etc, we are able to use these donations to set up an apartment for a young mom. This allows her to not be as stressed about finances so she can just focus on her parenting.


I would encourage you to research opportunities in your community. I find that it is often easier to let go of items when we know that our things are going to be helping somebody in their life's journey.