The Decluttering Mindset: Use, Return or Donate

I’ve discovered that my inner peace, and the extent to which I feel centered, is incredibly affected by how cluttered and disorganized my home is.  Basically, if I need to rest but am surrounded by chaos, I can’t really relax until I’ve dealt with the clutter.

I think this is probably true for a large number of women, particularly with children.  The number of responsibilities that sit on our shoulders is a burden we carry with us, and since the primary responsibility for the home frequently falls to us as well, it adds to the weight.

I’ve written a lot lately about how your mindset contributes to clutter.  This time, I want to tackle a couple of hangups that I’ve come across lately among my friends, and how to get past them.

A surprising number of people I meet absolutely refuse to return or donate items they’re not using, for a variety of reasons.  This is a mindset block that’s not allowing you to create the decluttered, simple life you crave, so let’s explore this a bit.

Return It!

I have friends who absolutely refuse to return anything to a store.  They find it uncomfortable and awkward; and I think some people have a stigma that returning things is only for cheapskates.

Well…I’m okay with that, if it means I’m not wasting money on things I don’t end up using.  Now, mind you, I’m not advocating being the lady who tried to return a used, wet, dirty bath towel to Bed Bath & Beyond.

What I am advocating is paying attention to whether new things you buy are being used – and returning the ones that aren’t.  Bought your kid three new pairs of pants last month, but he’s only worn two because he never really liked the third pair?  Return it, now, before the return period is over.  Otherwise you’ll just end up giving a brand-new pair of pants with tags on them to your neighbor who’s having a baby later on down the road.

Bought a pair of shoes that you loved…but then just don’t find yourself wearing them even once?  I’ve done this more times than I can count.  Apparently, I have bigger eyes than feet…or something.  Actually, I think it’s more that I think I’m willing to accept some discomfort for beauty when it comes to shoes…but then, when it comes time to actually wear them, I’m not willing to accept the discomfort.  Back they go!

This applies to all kinds of things, not just clothing…if you won’t use it, and it’s still new, for goodness’ sake return it!  My husband buys all kinds of things for household projects that he ends up not needing…the wrong size drill bit, screws that are too long, you name it.  Yep, back they go!

I actually once cleaned out our toolbox in the garage and discovered around 15 items that were brand new, still in the packaging, either from Lowe’s or Home Depot.  Tools, yes, but also a completely random assortment of connectors, springs, and whatsits.  I packed them up in a box and made two stops – first to Home Depot, where I was totally honest with them that I wasn’t sure what things were from their store.  They were super-friendly and scanned everything and took things back without the receipt that were from their store.  Everything that was leftover went to Lowe’s, where I repeated the process.  No one gave me a bit of trouble over it – in fact, they laughed when I explained that I was doing a post-project cleanout!

Too many people either forget about things they’ve bought until way later, when they get thrown in the donation bin…or they just don’t make the effort to return things.

An Easy Way to Make It Happen

I actually have a specific bin in the back of the SUV for items I need to return.  Put the item and the receipt in a bag, and throw it in the bin – next time you go to that store, it’s super-easy to return it before you do your shopping.

If you don’t, these items become part of your clutter.  You probably don’t have a space set aside for stuff I don’t really want or need but never used, right?  So clear it out, before it contributes to the mess!

Donate It!

Many people say they’re really uncomfortable with donating things to Goodwill (or another similar charity) because they don’t like the idea of someone walking around town with their old stuff.

Apparently, they’re more comfortable with the waste of throwing perfectly good items in the landfill while we use up the Earth’s resources, time, and money to manufacture new ones.

These same people would probably never, ever considering actually shopping at a thrift store.  But that’s a discussion we’ve already had…there is no shame, whatsoever, in buying things secondhand.  I’m not saying you’d want to buy everything, or maybe even most things, that way, but come on…there are a lot of items that have perfectly good useful life left in them that get donated.

Back to the idea of items flowing into and out of our lives as we need them…I actually love the idea of someone else being able to use something that’s not currently useful to me.  It appeals to my hard-core-recyling side, my money-saving side, and my charitable-giving side.  It’s a win-win.  And of course it appeals to my don’t-keep-crap-we-don’t-need side.

Not comfortable with supporting the bigger charities such as Goodwill or Salvation Army? has a great list of other places to donate specific items – I love taking business suits I’m no longer using to our local Dress for Success center.  And those half-used gallons of paint, half-dozen leftover tiles from doing your bathroom, and partial pack of nails?  See if there’s a Habitat for Humanity ReStore near you – they accept all kinds of home repair type items.

Decluttering (one of my favorite topics) plus doing good in the world?  Absolutely!

An Easy Way to Make It Happen

Would it surprise you to learn I also have a donation bin in the back of my SUV?  We actually keep a donation box (which I know a lot of people do) in the front hall closet, so it’s easy to add to regularly.  When it fills up, it gets dumped in the bin in the car, so the next time I’m passing a donation center, I can stop.  Easy-peasy.

By creating systems that easily allow you to remove items you’re not using from your home, you can naturally declutter.  It might take a while, but over time you’ll notice that it’s much easier to keep things neat and tidy at home.  And ideally it’s also much easier to take a well-deserved break without looking around at all the things you need to do!

Seriously…does clutter stress you out too?  I can’t believe it’s just me…comment below!

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