Decluttering and donating your belongings can be stressful, especially when it is part of a move—even more so if you’re moving during a pandemic and your local charity or thrift shops aren’t taking donations. If you find yourself stuck with bags or boxes full of things you no longer need, there are some options for you to pursue:
Make sure the items can be donated
First things first, confirm that your items are in good enough condition to be donated and that they will be accepted by the donation center you are dropping them off at—according to Fashionista, “only close to 20 percent of Americans' clothing that goes to consignment shops and thrift stores is sold to consumers.”
Do not try to donate torn, broken, damaged, and otherwise unusable items. Find a way to repurpose or recycle them, or, if there are truly no alternatives, throw them in the trash to save charities (and yourself) the time and effort of sorting through items that can’t be resold.
PRO TIP: According to the Washington Post, “[s]tained clothing can go to Goodwill, which sells to textile recyclers.”
Locate a place that is accepting donations
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on standard operating protocols and, in some places, resulting in lockdowns, many charities and donation centers have been forced to adapt. Beyond shutdowns, many of the places that were accepting donations have been overwhelmed by the quantity of items they’ve received and have had to stop taking new donations until they are ready for more, so before you load your car and head to your local donation center, visit their social media page, website, or call ahead to find out whether or not they are currently accepting donations, what types of donations they are taking, and what items they specifically need.
Do not just abandon your stuff at a drop box. While it may be tempting to unload your belongings at a donations bin, check bins for signs indicating whether they are accepting new items first. Many donation bins were shut down to protect workers and are or were not being monitored or picked up, resulting in piles of bags being left and items becoming damaged and unusable in some cases.
Here are a few places to check out:
Clothing & accessories
Furniture & other home goods
- Salvation Army
- Habitat for Humanity
- The Arc
- Furniture Bank
- Pick Up Please
PRO TIP: If you have a vehicle to get rid of, the Humane Society, The Arc, and Habitat for Humanity all accept vehicular donations and will issue you a tax receipt.
Offer them up to your family, friends, or neighbors
A great way to get rid of items quickly is to let your family and friends sort through the things you don’t want in case you have anything they might need or want in their own homes—just make sure there aren’t any gifts from them in the pile! Do your neighbors have kids or similar taste in clothes? Invite them over to peruse anything left over.
PRO TIP: If you still have a lot to get rid of, consider listing your items on NextDoor, the Buy Nothing Project, or freecycle groups.
Sell the items
Once your family, friends, and neighbors have pared down your give-aways to a reasonable amount, the next option is to sell what’s left over. Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace are all great places to start the task of getting rid of your belongings. Check for local buy and sell groups on Facebook as well.
PRO TIP: For a more comprehensive list of places to sell your belongings online, check out this list on The Balance.
If allowed by your municipality during this time, a garage sale is another way to quickly sell off unwanted items. However, many people are wary of paying with and accepting cash, so you may want to look into options for cashless payments, such as Venmo, Cash App, or PayPal. It may also be difficult to maintain social distancing, especially for those with immunocompromisation issues. If you do host a garage sale, make sure that anyone who stops by can safely stay 6 feet away from you, your family members, and other shoppers, and strongly encourage everyone to wear a face covering.
PRO TIP: In lieu of a traditional garage sale, consider hosting a virtual one.
Put them in storage
If you can’t find a way to donate your items, your last resort is to put them in storage, whether in an out-of-the-way room in your own home, the home of a friend or family member with space to spare, or a rented storage unit. Before you box away your items and promptly forget about them, make sure you:
- Make a list of what is in each box for quick reference.
- Label the box with the items contained inside for easy drop-off and retrieval.
- Store the items in location-appropriate containers. For example, if the box is going to be stored in a cellar or basement, make sure the container will protect the contents from mold and mildew.
- Set a reminder in your phone or write one on your calendar to look into the donation situation at a later date.
If, like so many other things during this pandemic, you have found your decluttering and donating plans waylaid, don’t get discouraged and bin everything. While it may be somewhat less convenient than usual, there are still ways to part with your “unpackables”:
- Ensure it is actually donatable, and if it’s not, get rid of it another way (either via recycling or the appropriate disposal method).
- Some places are still taking donations. Contact them before you drop your items off to confirm and see what the rules are surrounding donations at the time.
- Let your friends and family pilfer your unwanted belongings to help cut down on the number of items you need to get rid of.
- Sell your items online.
- If all else fails, put them in storage in your new place, a friend or family member’s home, or in a storage unit.
Check out our organization resources for more advice on decluttering and organizing your home.