It never feels good to have your clutter go to waste.
Being the recipient of a lot of clutter you don't need, also doesn't feel good. Often when learn how to mindfully declutter we have good intentions that take a wrong turn.
Have you ever been the recipient of someone else's clutter? A well meaning friend brings you all of the hand me downs from her kids. You feel you should be grateful, and you are, and also you see a whole lot of work ahead for you?
That's okay! You're still a good person.
Often times when we declutter our stuff with good intentions, we are only considering our role in the transaction.
We want to get rid of our clutter, and we feel bad for letting it go to waste. So we assume that someone will want it, and take it and it makes us feel good to know we're being so generous with our resources. Especially if it's given to someone in crisis, or dealing with hard times.
But it's important to ask ourselves if we are really considering how our stuff will actively help, or not help the recipient.
Pushing our clutter onto others and calling it generosity is not cool!
We know clutter overwhelms us. We know it consumes our time and energy. Often we even explicitly declutter our things because it is such a burden. Why do we assume our burden will be someone else's gift?
Now, I am not saying to not be generous.
I am saying be mindful about what you give, and get explicit consent that it is stuff the recipient wants to have first. It does no good to assume you know what someone needs.
People in crisis don't have the luxury of time or energy.
When we donate to people in crisis we often assume our stuff will bless them. However, people in crisis often don't have the time or energy it takes to make decisions on what stuff they need and don't need (aka declutter). What they often need is people's time, energy, emotional support.
Again, I am not saying don't be generous with resources and things when needed.
I think we should normalize giving our time, money and energy more than we give things though.
It's okay to give money to people in need.
As women, especially mothers, we are taught to not talk about money. However, money takes up no space. It can be turned into any resource someone needs. It is also a renewable resource in that it can create MORE resources for us.
It's easy to give people stuff, it's not easy to give them these things.
So, where do we actually declutter our stuff if not to family and friends, or people in need?
Well, my first suggestion is to just ask people if they want or need it. If they do, great! Let them have it. If they do not, take it somewhere else.
I believe we should give the same courtesy to our local charities and donation centers as well (assuming it's not a large chain). Call ahead and let them know what you have, and ask if they have a need.
Even donation centers have limits on what they can take in. I remember when we decluttered our stuff our local donation center stopping donations. Another in my area only accepted donations the first week of every month.
It costs businesses time, money, energy, resources and staff to re-distribute the clutter they receive.
I love the company Savers for donations.
When I was moving out of California I loaded up my car and brought a lot of very good, and usable things to them. While I love them now, I did not love them then. They went through my stuff diligently and took about half of it. Then they referred me to the recycling and textile center because they didn't want my stuff.
More work for me. I will be honest and say I was annoyed, but this is the truth:
As a society we have way more stuff than we can ever possibly use, redistribute or repurpose. And Savers was proof of that for me.
Just like my family and friends tell me, “no thanks, I already have enough”. Savers also has enough. Maybe even too much.
This is the true nature of clutter. No one has room for it, or wants it. Everyone is just trying to shift it from place to place already. Sometimes the most mindful way to declutter is cut out the middle man and just let it be trash or recycling.
Which I know can be a scary thing to do. Also an experience of guilt for all the waste and lost potential, but here's the thing:
I had to do it when we moved across the continent and no one would take my stuff for free, the donation center didn't have room and turne me away and then I was left to take it to the landfill.
Yes, I felt so bad.
It totally sucked.
However, I will spend the rest of my life being a mindful consumer and have gotten to the root of clutter which is overconsumption of things I don't need.
Yes, a lot was wasted in the landfill. And I will make up for it every single day by teaching moms the value of less. How to change your consumption habits.
How to face the reality that not enough is not our problem, too much is.
We don't even have a healthy perspective on what “enough” looks like because we are constantly surrounded by so much.
I'm here to help change that.
The next time you donate your stuff I hope you ask who its being given to and how it will help ,or not help them. Where is it going to end up? Really helping someone out, or just a scenic route to the landfill? And furthermore, when you choose to consume things in the future, do you really need it or is it going to end up clutter in your home sometime soon?