Statistics show that the average American household has "300,000 things." And as more baby boomers downsize, move to assisted living facilities, or pass away, "the volume of unwanted keepsakes and family heirlooms is poised to grow -- along with the number of delicate conversations about what to do with them," the New York Times reports.
From your great aunt's rocking chair to that unopened box of hand-me-down china, the weight of what we own and what we no longer use could easily be lifted off of our shoulders. Wouldn't it be nice to ditch the guilt and declutter your life by finding a new home for some of your belongings?
While some trinkets should just go in the garbage bin, many other items don't need to be relegated to the curb. You might not appreciate that wicker table or oversized lamp, but someone could be searching for those exact furnishings on the internet, at a garage sale or auction, or in a local antique, thrift, or consignment store. Perhaps that's a college student ready to decorate their dorm room, a first-time homeowner on a budget, someone nearing retirement age who wants to freshen up their space, or even you!
Before making a decision, it might be helpful to research the aforementioned options and take inventory of the items you're considering parting with. Remember, there's no right or wrong answer with donating or selling since every situation is unique, and either way you're essentially recycling.
A few local experts on the receiving end of these treasures and questions share their insights about how to feel good about getting rid of your stuff: Amy Blaschke, operator of Another Home Furniture, Patrick Connell, incoming donations and logistics manager of Habitat for Humanity ReStore; Leah Hernandez, owner and manager of The Cozy Home; and Robert Washburn, store manager of Agrace Thrift Store. Their responses have been edited for clarity and length.
What kind of home goods does your business accept?
Another Home: Quite a range for every pocket book, including antiques and furniture; everything from $2 knickknacks to $5,000 wall art. We only accept very gently used items. Habitat ReStore: Furniture in various conditions, doors, wood, cabinets, electrical, appliances, building supplies, lights, and fans. Anything residential for the most part; just not reclining furniture, pull-out beds, desks, mattresses, or entertainment centers. Cozy Home: A wide variety of vintage, eclectic, and contemporary furniture and home decor, like couches, lamps, dressers, wall art, and rugs. Upholstered items sell really quickly. Items must be clean and cannot be broken. Agrace Thrift: Sofas, kitchen tables, chairs, and end tables are probably the hottest items right now for furniture. We don't take sleeper sofas or mattresses.
What if I feel obligated to keep an item or I'm not ready to let go?
Another Home: Don't panic. Take the things you are emotionally connected to and set them aside for the time being. Keep in mind that you have memories with them but you'll just feel better when they're off your plate. Plus, opting to consign is a good return on your investment. Cozy Home: If I sense they're not committed to getting rid of an item, I talk them out of it because I wouldn't do a good job selling it in their eyes. If they are on the fence, I try to tell them it is truly going to a good home and someone who really wants it will use it and love it. I think it's really important to start having conversations early with parents who are aging so the person can go through their stuff themselves, because it's a lot harder when their children are under pressure to get a good price and get it taken care of quickly. Agrace Thrift: Most donors are pretty intentional and committed to donating, but sometimes with smaller things they're not quite ready to let go. For patients and families (of Agrace Hospice & Palliative Care) it's often part of the grieving process to donate these things when they're ready mentally.
What are some benefits of consigning?
Store markets and sells items for you
Potential to make money
Items not claimed or sold are often donated to local charities
Another Home: You can have the peace of mind knowing that your family treasures are going to someone who absolutely wants it and is willing to pay a certain price for it. Cozy Home: We ensure your item is treated with respect. And you can get a good quality piece of furniture at a better price than at big box stores.
What are some benefits of donating?
Donations are tax-deductible
Quickly and easily get rid of items in various conditions
Proceeds often go to local charities
Habitat ReStore: We appreciate the donations because we are able to build homes for those who need them, and the money stays in Dane County. According to Habitat for Humanity, the Dane County ReStores have kept 7,640 tons of building materials out of landfills, and their proceeds have helped build 51 of the 263 Habitat homes in Dane County. Agrace Thrift: The thrift stores are primarily run by volunteers, so all profits go back to serving Agrace and their families. Very rarely do we throw anything away; other community partners take what we cannot sell.
Want to learn more about delivering, donating, or selling items?