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This article was published on April 29, 2012

5 ways to declutter your life and give your stuff away for free

5 ways to declutter your life and give your stuff away for free
Lian Amaris
Story by

Lian Amaris

Lian Amaris is a writer, artist, and designer based in the Bay Area. She has Master’s degrees in Interactive Telecommunications and Performa Lian Amaris is a writer, artist, and designer based in the Bay Area. She has Master’s degrees in Interactive Telecommunications and Performance Studies, both from NYU, and is currently the Product and Creative Director at Enole. She is a co-founder of and was a 2011 writing resident with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in NYC.

Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on goods and services they don’t absolutely need, according to The Wall Street Journal. Thankfully, the growing collaborative consumption movement, which promotes the gifting, sharing, and renting of things, can help deflate that bloated number.

If you have been moving piles of things from one room to another or stuffing them into an overflowing closet, it might be time to consider getting rid of some of your stuff. You can sell it on eBay or Craigslist, or rent it on Loanables and Snapgoods. But if you are feeling altruistic and don’t need the money (or hassle) that comes from renting or selling your items, here are  5 ways to give away your clutter.

Curb it

May 12th is Give Your Stuff Away Day, organized by New York-based teacher Mike Morone. His model for the annual event is simple: gather up stuff, put it on the curb, and wait for the masses to take it away; if it isn’t taken away, the garbage collectors will haul it off for you. If you want to participate in Give Your Stuff Away Day, Morone recommends putting your stuff to the left of the trash to be sure people can get to it easily. Also make a few big “FREE” signs that are visible from the road, or even put notes on items identifying if they are working or what they need to fully operate.

Find A Needy Neighbor

Long-time gifters know that Craiglist’s “Free” board and the nearest chapter of Freecycle are fast and easy ways to get rid of your stuff locally, and keeping items in the community tightens your neighborhood network. Posting on Craigslist is simple, it allows for listing lots of items in one post and will usually yield quick and numerous responses. Freecycle requires a moderator to sign you up through an email account, and then you can post “offers” for your items on the local forums. For a more updated experience, try GiftFlow, which adds a social network element to the gifting process. Unlike the other sites, you create a user profile, which means you can post what you have and what you want while acquiring a user history; this helps when you are meeting a stranger for the handoff.

Ship it

If you aren’t excited about the face-to-face interactions required by local gifting, consider shipping your stuff to someone who wants it. Exchango lets you offer local pickup but also gives you the option to ship your free item to the recipient who then pays the shipping costs. Similarly, Givmo lets you post your items, relays messages of interest, and gives you a prepaid shipping label to send your stuff out. While sites like these are gaining in popularity, if you are committed to purging a lot of stuff quickly, the shipping-one-at-a-time method might not be right for you.

Targeted Donations

For the gifter who likes to choose the recipient, consider targeting donations. Whatever your category of item, there is a group who could use it. Closet overflowing with professional clothes? Career Gear for men or Dress for Success for women will outfit someone in need for potentially life-changing job interviews. For that bin of old cell phones, Cell Phones for Soldiers or National Coalition Against Domestic Violence will refurbish and resell them. And for all of those books you don’t need anymore because you have them on your Kindle or iPad, there are dozens of organizations from prisons to homeless children programs that can use them. Though you will pay for shipping, you can get tax receipts for your donations and the tax deduction will likely cover what you paid to ship the item. For an exhaustive list of places to donate your stuff, check out Miss Minimalist’s Where to Donate Your Stuff: 101 Places Your Clutter Can Do Good.

Gift Temporarily

If you aren’t ready to get rid of your stuff permanently, consider the “gift of lending”. Neighborgoods allows you to lend out your appliances or other items to people locally. You can create private groups or participate with “verified” users, and everyone is held accountable through the feedback system on their profiles. Acts of Sharing provides a similar service that allows friends to post the things they want and need, with an easy-to-use interface. Inherently social and great for college students, AOS users login using Facebook or Twitter and find their sharing inventories amongst their current social networks.

If you have been avoiding an overflowing closet, gifting your stuff to someone who needs it has never been easier. Take advantage of this list and start your spring cleaning today!