How To Get Rid of Stuff

My friend Cori, who is being super helpful in helping me box stuff up.
My friend Cori, who is being super helpful while I box stuff up.

I started Kondo-ing my life this past March, thanks to my friend Lori (she introduces me to all the cool things).

The general premise: Discard all items that do not spark joy.

I’m sure people have written all sorts of amazing posts about what you learn about yourself when you discard all the things. This is not one of them. I’m not ready to write that one yet, because I haven’t gotten rid of all the things yet. But, in the past few months, I’ve definitely learned a ton about the logistics of getting rid of stuff. So, here are the ways I’ve discarded.

Online Second-Hand Clothing Stores. I went through my closet and sold items in good condition to The site only accepted “known brands” and clothing less than 3 years old, but they clearly listed payouts for items, for example: “Banana Republic Dress,” or “Gap Sweater,” so I knew exactly how much I was getting paid. They made it so easy that I just boxed everything up, sent it off, and got money back. They gave me a 25% bump for accepting store credit. The company has since shut down, but there are other similar services, like PoshMark.

Gazelle. I need to get in the habit of offloading my electronics the minute I stop using them, because their value just decreases over time. I sold my cracked, barely-functional iPhone 5S to Gazelle for $90 (I got a bump for accepting Amazon credit instead of a cash deposit). Gazelle is so, insanely simple – you tell them what Apple product you have, what condition it’s in, and they give you an offer. If you accept, they’ll mail you a box and shipping label. Wipe your hard drive, drop the phone in the mail, and get paid in a week.

Craigslist. For non-Apple electronics and furniture, I sold it using Craigslist. This was the biggest hassle out of all the ways I got rid of stuff, but I also got the biggest return. It was also much easier than renting a car and taking stuff out to the dump. I learned a surprising amount by selling things on Craigslist, which I shared with my friend Lisa one night while wandering around Harvard Square. She said the tips were pretty useful, so here’s my advice for selling as efficiently as possible on Craigslist:

  • Set up a Craigslist account. This makes it easier to manage all of the items you’re selling.
  • Include photos. Photos from every angle, and photos of any imperfections or damage. Upload the best photo first, it will be the one that gets displayed in search results.
  • Be descriptive. Clearly state the item in the title, and in the body include important details like measurements, weight, fabric, or material. If you’re selling furniture, state whether or not you are a smoke free / pet free home.
  • Include transactional details. Clearly state cash only, where pickup is (neighborhood or cross-street), and when you’re OK with pickup (weekends, after work, etc.). You don’t want to sell something only to find that they can’t come get it or you can’t coordinate a pickup time.
  • Be choosy with responses. I never replied to emails where people asked questions that I already answered in the ad, or sent emails with no manners (absurd questions / demanding / all caps, etc). I sold 5 large items on Craigslist, and everyone I interacted with was courteous and nice. I wasn’t willing to deal with rude/crazy people just to sell stuff secondhand.
  • Text over email. Move the conversation to text once you’re arranging pickup, it’s just more efficient.
  • Lump pickups together. For safety reasons, I always made sure I had a friend hanging out at home with me for Craigslist pickups. In return, I fed my friends beer and snacks :) So, I’d try to group viewings and pickups so that I could coordinate with when friends were stopping by.

Give It Away. There were a bunch of items that I knew certain friends would enjoy way more than I do, like fancy dinnerware for my food-obsessed friend Austin, or cute organizers for my roommate Emily, or a silly Kumamon magnet for my friend Christine. It’s way more fun to give this stuff away to people who will appreciate it, than have me own it but not enjoy it.

Austin is SO excited about all the FANCY DISHES!
Austin is SO excited about all the FANCY DISHES!

Paper Shredder. I had so many completely irrelevant documents from classes, old jobs, applications, projects and even old mail that I was holding on to simply because I never took the time to sort through it all. It was a pile of “todos” that were never tended to. I sorted ruthlessly, and shredded almost everything.

Scrapbook. Postcards from friends, baby announcements, random photographs, funny scraps from events, Taylor Swift concert tickets, these are all items that I wanted to keep, but they had no home after they had outlived the fridge. I pasted everything that mattered haphazardly into a scrapbook, and threw out anything else. I’ve actually been doing this for years, so I have a pretty neat chronological scrapbook of letters, photos, and memories.

Free Books! When I was in college, I would sell my used textbooks back to Amazon every quarter. I wasn’t willing to put in the effort this time around for the rest of my bookshelf, so I gave away about half of my books by putting out a box of “Free Books” on the street. This is a pretty common occurence in Cambridge, MA, where I live, and the books were gone within a day.

Free Bin! My roommate and I throw parties at our house every few months, open to all of our friends and their friends of friends. We had one this past weekend, so I just put out a bin of items and marked it as FREE for anyone to grab and take home.

Goodwill. Any remaining items in good condition I donated to Goodwill. I ended up donating about 4 bags of clothes and 6 bags of items.

Not Buying Things. The funny thing about getting rid of stuff is that it teaches you about items that just don’t matter. I could very quickly see a pattern in the items I was discarding: OK-ish dresses I bought because they were on sale, odd-shaped memorabilia from an event or trip that just took up space, spur-of-the-moment Target purchases, and shoes that hurt (God, I am so almost-30). It seems obvious, but only buy things you really need.

Otto is all like, "You're not throwing out my toys, right?"
Otto is all like, “You’re not throwing out my toys, right?”

Want more? Christopher Mims at the WSJ wrote about digital-Kondo-ing. It’s a process I haven’t started yet, but will probably try out at some point.