Dos And Donts Of Decluttering: Giving Things Away To Friends & Family
There’s a certain scenario that occurs in tandem with the decluttering process that I wish wasn’t as familiar as it is. It goes like this:
You say, “You know, I think my brother-in-law/colleague/neighbor’s mother’s boyfriend’s accountant would love to have this. In fact, that person even mentioned to me once that if I were ever to get rid of it, they’d want me to give it to them.”
Great, I say. Let’s make that happen.
But then the item to be given to this special person sits there. We move onto other projects and other rooms, and still it sits there; treadmill in the garage, antique trunk on the front porch, grand piano in the master bathroom.
What’s the status of that stellar person coming to collect this? I say.
“Well, blah blah blah.” You say.
It comes to be a rawther awkward, annoying situation when you promise an item to someone who accepts, but does not come to collect, it. Your goal, after all, was to be rid of it, and you may be many things, but as long as that fake christmas tree takes up space in your dining room in the middle of May, you are still not that.
Let’s review some dos and don’ts of decluttering when it comes to giving things away to friends and family:
Determine an Absolute Deadline for when you want the thing gone before you offer it to someone.
Take into account what you’re offering and what it entails to transport it; a container of doll clothes should probably take a week, tops, to scoop up. A life-size backyard doll house for children to play in will probably require a bit more effort–perhaps the renting of a truck, rearranging of a car–and therefore should perhaps be given up to three weeks to be collected.
Consider the transportation entailments for the respective item you’re offering up and then establish your A.D.
“Hey you, I’ve got a king size mattress I don’t need; want it?”
“In the process of decluttering and organizing my house, I’ve realized I no longer need this king size mattress (now sitting in the middle of my foyer). (Bonus points for attaching photo as visual aid.) I’d love to give it to you if you’re interested, but I should warn you that this offer has an expiration date, as I have to have it out by ____(A.D.).
If you can grab it before then, it’s all yours! If you can’t make it happen in that time window I totally understand. For my own sanity, I’ll go ahead and donate it at that point.”
“Let me know when you’d like to pick it up!”
“Let’s arrange a day/time for you to get it. Do you have your calendar around?” Schedule the pick-up; it should be at least a couple days prior to your A.D.
Assume that the other person has any sense of urgency about picking up the item. After all, since they aren’t in your space, they aren’t aware of the extent to which their not prioritizing swinging by to grab that armoire is driving you nuts/making your hallway impassable.
Remember that other people are busy leading their lives, making a friendly albeit assertive reminder a wise idea. If the pick-up date you scheduled is any more than 1-2 weeks in the future, you might send a message saying something like:
“Hi (person), just a little reminder that I’ve still got this mechanical bull sitting in the driveway just for you! Can’t wait to see you when you pick it up on ____(pick up date you two scheduled).”
Excuse one pick-up rescheduling. It happens, life gets crazy, person‘s dog had to be taken to the vet unexpectedly and then went into labor on the way home (the person not the dog, or, really, either way).
Let the other person drag the situation on for months and months. You are doing them a courtesy, being generous with your possessions. It is on them to respect the boundaries you’ve provided for timeline and availability.
“No worries at all! It’ll be here!”
“I totally get it. When is a better time for you to get it? Schedule 2nd chance pick-up; a date that hopefully still abides by your A.D.
Let’s say the person flakes on the first pick-up and then flakes out on the second pick-up, and then your A.D. dawns. Then what should you do?
Send a last-ditch message that goes something like, “Here I am loading up that life-size Cat In The Hat stuffed animal to take to goodwill that I wanted you to have. Too bad. Sad face.”
Doing so will almost certainly earn the response, “Ohmygosh wait I totally want that still! I’ve been so busy ahhrhrh! Can I get it later this week?!?”
Which can then have you trapped in the whole cycle for another three months and that’s thinking optimistically.
Load up the item into your car and drive it on over to your favorite local charitable organization. No muss, no fuss. That’s about you upholding your word to yourself.
You had good intentions to give it to person, but person dropped the ball, which is on them. You don’t owe them an explanation or an apology.
Feel great about having given to the world, knowing that wherever the item is most needed, it will undoubtedly find its way.
Image credits: Oprah, b for bonnie (via morning by foley), Matchbook Magazine, @elenashihan
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Annie Traurig was born with the ability to see order through clutter. As a child, she spent playdates organizing friends’ closets and packing their duffle bags for summer camp.
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