Once you've gone through your closet (or any room in your house, really) and made your big pile of stuff of you no longer want/need, you'll have to make a decision as to what to do with that pile. As I see it, there are only five things you can do with clothing or household item castoffs:
1. Trash the junk. Seriously, if no one else would be happy to see this stuff on their doorstep, then pitch it. If your items are in good condition and could easily be reused, then read on!
2. Give it to friends/family. Got a bunch of kids clothes your cherubs have outgrown? Give the items that are clean and in wearable condition to someone else who can use them. I have this arrangement with my friend Mary Anne. When the Little Guy outgrows his clothes, we put them aside for Mary Anne's son, who is 2.5 years in age behind him. Mary Anne saves the clothes her daughter has outgrown for Baby Girl, who is 2.5 years behind her. It helps that our firstborn children were born within days of each other, and the second children were born within three months of each other. This is a wonderful arrangement; we both save a ton of money on kids' clothes, and clothes that have only seen a few wearings (because kids grow so fast!) get a second life. Also, we save a ton of money on kids' clothes. Did I mention that one?
3. Sell it through a resale or consignment shop. In the Chicago area, we have a few chains of resale shops: Once Upon a Child, Clothes Mentor and Plato's Closet. These stores will purchase clothing items from you, depending on the brand, condition, style and their current stock, and you get the money immediately. Consignment shops work a bit differently: they will sell your items for you, but they take a portion of the purchase price that you set. You get paid after the item sells, and sometimes according to the store's pre-arranged schedule (IE. monthly or quarterly). Either option is great: you are recouping some of the cost on your clothing investment, and someone else is doing the work to sell the items.
4. Donate the clothes to a charitable organization. Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Purple Heart and more...there are countless charities who are willing to take your usable clothing and household items and resell them. The money they make goes to fund their programs; read about Goodwill's Success Stories here. By donating your items, you not only help out a worthwhile organization, but you also get a tax deduction.
While donating items is an easy process, please carefully consider which organization will get your items. Make sure the organization is a legitimate charity by checking with your Secretary of State or State Attorney General. Some solicitors say they are collecting items for a charity, but in reality they are taking your old stuff for themselves and giving only a small fraction of the profit to the charity they mentioned. You can also contact your local Better Business Bureau to see if the organization is in good standing. Finally, there are several online sites that provide information about charities: Charity Navigator, Philanthropedia, and GuideStar are reputable places for researching nonprofit organizations.
Once you've found a worthy charity in your area, check with them BEFORE you take in your donation. You don't want to take your old electronic equipment to a place that only resells furniture. And you don't want to haul 12 boxes of old clothes to a storefront to find out that their donation point is across town.
Also, think outside of the box when it comes to donating items to a charity. For example, a local animal shelter would probably like to have your old towels and bedding items for the animals. A neighbor's Girl Scout troop would love to have your old crafting items for their own projects. Opportunities to get your good, clean and usable castoffs into the hands of people who truly need them abound. You just have to look.
My good friend Ashley adds: "If you live in the city limits of Chicago, another great charity to donate gently used clothes to (child, teen, and adult) is Misericordia Home. They are a non-profit Catholic Charities organization that is home to 600 disabled children and adults. I have a ton of experience with this organization and they are legitimate."
5. Have a yard/garage/rummage sale. For this closet purge, and for the purging I have been and will continue to do over the next few weeks, this is the option for me. I'll be having a yard sale or two this summer in an attempt to clear out my clutter and make a few bucks. For anything that doesn't sell, I'm going with option #4: all yard sale leftovers will go to charity.
Have you started cleaning out your closet yet? Do you know what you'll do with the stuff you no longer want? I suspect that for many people, the agony and confusion about the decision (What do I do with all this stuff that I know I don't want?) keeps them from purging the unwanted items in the first place. Don't let this happen to you! As long as you are getting rid of the clutter, any option you choose from the above list will be a good one. Now get busy cleaning out that closet!