So you’ve sorted by category, took everything out, touched every item, and asked yourself approximately a hundred thousand times “does this spark joy?”, now what? What do you do with all those things that just don’t spark joy? Here’s what I did with items that no longer sparked joy.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, let me catch you up to speed. Marie Kondo a Japanese “tidying expert” has got us all decluttering and chucking a lot of our possessions. Her unique method that’s laid out in her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up hinges on the main idea that you keep only the things that “sparks joy”. What “sparks joy” for one person will be completely different for another. It’s a very personal and soul-searching question. But by ridding your life of everything that doesn’t or no longer sparks joy, you’re able to free yourself to focus on more important things in life. My husband and I were first introduced to the Konmari Method when we witnessed my in-laws do the system. We saw how liberating the process was for them. However; we (I mean I) wasn’t truly interested until I saw the new Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” when I got to witness Marie in action. I found it fascinating that she never told people what to get rid of. She truly lets you decide what “sparks joy” for you. Another important part of the method is to express gratitude for your items, both the ones you keep and the items you do not. After binging the series, I bought the book (I’ve been on the library waitlist for it for months and am nowhere close to getting a copy) and read it cover to cover. We’ve been going through the correct order and doing our best to follow the guidelines. And just in case you’ve never done this before, let me let you in on a little secret, you’ll come to find out that not a lot of what you own actually sparks joy. I’d say that in most categories we’ve gone through we only end up keeping 25% of our items. So that leads me to what do we do with the other 75% of our items?
This nationwide tidying frenzy has left thrift stores busting at the seams with donations. And unfortunately, it has been more a burden than a blessing. Thrift stores can only process so much at a time. I’m really glad people aren’t just throwing everything away, but you’ve got to know there are other options!
13 Thrift Store Alternatives to Drop Off Items that Don’t Spark Joy
1) YARD SALE
Environmentally speaking, the very best thing you can do for used items is get it into the hands of someone else who is going to actually use it. It’s better for the environment for items to stay in circulation as long as possible, because once they end up in a landfill, they’re never coming out. To stay in circulation as long as possible, they have to retain value. You can help items retain value by selling them. Items that can be sold, should be sold. It will make their life a little bit longer.If your area has good yard sale culture and it’s the right season, you could save everything up for a yard sale. But only do this if you’re actually going to do it. Don’t lie to yourself. Marie doesn’t want you hoarding those “don’t spark joy” items in your garage forever. If you are more attached to your items and had a hard time even deciding to let something go, this might not be the best option for you. It might be too much torture to see people hem and haw and low ball you on your items and then walk off with them. You might end up bringing too much back inside. If this is you, don’t do a yard sale, but do read on. There are options for you that will be less painful.
2) CLOTHES CONSIGNMENT SHOP
Clothes consignment is great especially with the places that buy them outright. I make myself not look at what they’re buying or didn’t buy. I also don’t let them “explain” to me why they didn’t buy my items. I don’t need to hear that all my clothes are “too-old-fashioned” or “badly worn”. Don’t get personal, just take the money and run.
Your local store might be named differently, but we have Plato’s Closet, Clothes Mentor, and TurnStyle. I took the better of my items (without stains or holes) to these places. I was able to get $50 back in cash and those items were able to be passed on to people who actually want them.
If you have lots of kids items, I suggest finding a local kids consignment shop or kids consignment sale.
3) CRAIGSLIST / FACEBOOK MARKETPLACE
If you have a special item that will sell for $30 or more, you can list it on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. You can list it for any dollar amount, but I’ve found that for the hassle of responding to messages and arranging to meet with people, anything less than $30 generally isn’t worth my time, unless of course it’s bulky and I just want it gone. You can also easily sell lots of like items on Facebook and Craigslist as well, others will pick them up most likely to resell them (and get them into the hands of people who actually want them), but they are doing most the work and you’re getting rid of the things that don’t spark joy-- win win.
4) EBAY / POSHMARK
You can also sell items on Ebay and Poshmark, or a number of other marketplace apps. You know that I’ve sold on both, so for me it’s pretty easy to throw up special or collector’s items on there. But I will warn you, you will sabotage your tidying up efforts if you keep everything with the intention of “selling it on Ebay eventually”. Like with the yard sale, be truthful to yourself. If you won’t list it for sale this week, you need to find another option for it.
Here’s a really easy option. You can go to Thredup.com to request a free closet clear out kit. Get a box, fill it up with women’s and kids’ clothes, slap a pre-paid label on it, and mail it in. I prefer to take things to my local cash-up front places like Plato’s Closet and then mail whatever is left over to Thredup. You can choose to get what they don’t want back or let them keep it. When I’m just trying to clear house, I let them keep the items. In fact, I want them to keep the items because they will either sell it / donate it for charity OR they will send it to textile recyclers which is 1000% better than having those items in the landfill.
6) DRESS FOR SUCCESS
I actually haven’t donated to Dress for Success yet, but that’s because I don’t have any formal work wear clothes. If you have formal work wear clothes, Dress for Success is a great alternative. This is a non-profit that helps women in need, such as women experiencing homelessness prepare for job interviews by helping them with their resumes and making sure they’re dressed professionally. You can find local chapters here and I believe the donations are tax deductible.
7) WOMEN'S & MEN'S SHELTERS
Donating specialty items to a women’s or men’s shelter is definitely worth it. You can call or go to the website of your local one to see what they are in need of. I donated toiletries like shampoo including full size and samples, partially used and new. Other popular acceptable items include hats, socks, jackets, Bibles, and pillows. They often are in need of children’s items as well: clothes, diapers, formula, bottles, etc. You might be surprised at what they are in need of, so be sure to check before you head out.
8) PAWN SHOP / USED VIDEO GAME SHOP
Going back to the idea of selling items help them stay out of the landfill longer, taking specialty items to specialty shops is a good idea before taking them to the thrift store. I’ve got a bag full of video games that I’ll be taking to my local buy / sell / trade video game store to see if they can help put any of it into good hands.
9) SCHOOLS & TEACHERS
Similar to the women’s shelter, ask your child’s teacher or your teacher friends if they are in need of anything. You might be surprised at what they want. We ended up having a ton of unused office / school supplies. I asked a teacher friend if she would like any and she took a few item types. Beyond office supplies, they also might be in need of cleaning supplies, tissues, and teacher lounge items such as coffee and teas.
You can also get in touch with the art teacher to see what he or she might want. They might gladly accept empty plastic containers, beads, arts supplies, paper towels, empty toilet paper rolls, magazines, etc. Just ask first! Don’t assume and clutter up their classrooms with unwanted stuff that they have to deal with in their already full days.
10) ANIMAL SHELTER / ANIMAL RESCUE
Another place you can ask what they are in need of are animal shelters and animal rescue groups. They often are in need of pet food. So if you have a picky eater of a pet who took two bites out of a new bag and decided she didn’t like it (I’m looking at you, cat), you can bring that to an animal shelter or an animal rescue group. They’ve also been known to accept newspapers, paper towels, cleaning supplies, used towels, used blankets, and used pillows. Often times they will have a wanted list on their website, and if they don’t, just give them a call.
11) NURSING HOMES
Another often forgotten place to check in with are nursing homes! Again, check their website or give them a call to find out what they are in need of. Items like baby dolls and stuffed animals are often helpful and well accepted by dementia patients because they have a calming effect. Other items to think of are lap blankets, books, puzzles, old-time TV shows and movies on DVD (and some places still have VHS) and arts supplies like knitting or embroidery. I know a lady in the nursing home who we’ve stayed in touch with from when my grandfather was there at the end of his life who just loooovveees writing and sending greeting cards. I pulled out my (unused) greeting cards that no longer spark joy for me and will deliver them to her. Bonus points, it’s usually pretty fun and rewarding to drop things off at a nursing home.
I haven’t found a library yet that will take books or magazine for their collection, but I haven't met one yet that won’t take books for their yearly or twice yearly book sale. Generally libraries will have a public book sale that benefits the library once or twice a year. You can ask them about this and donate books in good condition.
Okay, so I haven’t gotten to do this yet. BUT if you have highly collectible or rare items, you could donate them to a museum! You’ll probably have to call a few and get written approval before just dumping them off, but depending on the tax-status of the museum, it might be tax deductible and you’ll have the satisfaction of giving your items a long life of being admired!
BONUS: SPECIALTY RECYCLING
Unfortunately, there’s just some things that can’t be meaningfully passed on and should in fact be trashed. Thrift stores do not want your trash. You’re just passing on the responsibility and the financial cost of throwing them away. Don’t donate and DO throw away anything that is:
--broken beyond reasonable and realistic repair (like would it take more money to fix than to buy new?)
--clothes that have blood or poo (gross, but thrift stores DO get that stuff!!!)
--clothes that are too torn and / or ratty (no, the “poor people” do not want to wear junk either!)
--unidentifiable (if you don’t know what this belongs to, neither will they!)
When it comes down to throwing something in the landfill or recycling, we obviously try to recycle as much as possible. We’re taking a bag of broken and worthless electronics to the electronic recycling spot in our county (it doubles as the hazardous waste drop off where you can drop off paints, poisons, meds, and chemicals). Worn out clothes should be brought to a textile recycler near you (Google “textile recycling near me”). And plastic containers that are larger than a business card should be rinsed out thoroughly and recycled.
So what do you think? Did I name off anywhere you didn’t think of? What have you discovered as you’ve gone through the Konmari Method?
Stay sweet & see you on the ‘gram
Hey! I'm Christine, I'm an entrepreneur and small business owner who has learned by trial and error. I write helpful articles that help you take your next steps in business. Occasionally I like to mix things up and dash in a bit of lifestyle topics. Thanks for being here!