The best way to get rid of all the clutter you don’t need

July 8, 2024
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I’ve accumulated a surprising amount of stuff in the three years I’ve been in my apartment. A lot of it will be coming with me to my next place — my bed frame, desk, couch, some art that means a lot to me — but not everything will fit into the new space.

I’m taking this move as an opportunity to declutter, partly because I’ll have a bit less closet space going forward and partly because I don’t really need the empty MacBook Air boxes or the dozen miscellaneous cables I’ve been hanging onto for years “just in case.” But there’s also a lot of good quality stuff I no longer have a use for or that I never used at all: a camera I bought on a reporting trip and never touched again; some curtains that didn’t look good in my room; more books than you can imagine; clothes I no longer wear. This is, in other words, stuff I don’t need but would feel bad throwing away.

Getting rid of big stuff

If you want to recoup some money for your move — given how expensive the whole ordeal is — and you’re getting rid of furniture, then selling it online is your best bet. Some platforms, like Kaiyo, Chairish, and AptDeco, handle the process for you in exchange for a cut of the sale.

Chairish is best for designer furniture — think Herman Miller chairs — and antiques. Kaiyo is good for brand-name pieces from brands like West Elm or CB2, and if they accept your items, they’ll handle shipping and photography. AptDeco requires you to do a bit more work, but they’ll accept a broader range of items. Each platform will take a percentage of your sale.

If you’d rather handle sales yourself, you could go the Craigslist route, but I’ve had more success on Facebook Marketplace.

A sampling of items available on Facebook Marketplace.
Screenshot: Meta

There are some downsides, though. If you’re like me, this may mean getting back on Facebook for the first time in years and being confronted by the fact that all the people you went to high school with are now homeowners (I, obviously, am renting). There’s also some legwork you have to do before listing your items, especially the larger stuff. I had to dig up the West Elm listing for my dresser, which I bought secondhand years ago, and take measurements and photos so I could post it.

Once the listing is live, you also have to deal with back-and-forth from prospective buyers, mostly in the form of an endless stream of automated “Is this available?” messages. There’s also the chance that the listing will fall through or that no one will buy whatever it is you’re selling. In the end, I decided to give my dresser away to the person taking over my old lease.

Giving stuff away is the simplest option, especially if you’re pressed for time or are too busy to handle the logistics of listing items and coordinating pickup. Big national charities, like Goodwill and The Salvation Army, usually accept furniture. You could also look up smaller organizations in your area that accept furniture donations.

Getting rid of small stuff

While browsing Facebook Marketplace, I noticed some people try selling little things — trinkets, decor, etc. I also noticed that, in most cases, those listings stay up much longer than ones for, say, a dining table. If you want to offload your clutter quickly without throwing it away, there’s a much better, faster option: Buy Nothing groups.

These groups are easy to find, but there are a few rules. You have to be in the group for your specific community (which, in large cities like New York can get pretty specific, neighborhood-wise). Some groups will ask you a few questions before you can join in order to verify that you actually live there. But once you’re in, it’s pretty straightforward.

Buy Nothing is a good place to get rid of small stuff.
Screenshot: Buy Nothing

What people are willing to take, even for free, varies.
Screenshot: Buy Nothing

My original plan was to slowly declutter my apartment in the months leading up to my move by listing things on Buy Nothing. Instead, I started the process less than a week before my movers were scheduled to pick up all my stuff, and it’s been really fast. The curtains I no longer want were claimed in minutes. Even a stack of old magazines found a home after being claimed by a collage artist.

As the name suggests, you won’t get any money for the thing you list on Buy Nothing; everything has to be exchanged for free. But it’s a good option for the small things you want to get rid of but would probably have a tough time selling. (The Freecycle Network is another option for giving stuff away.)

Getting rid of clothes

The same process, more or less, applied to all the good clothes I owned but no longer had room for. It’s easiest to give things away or drop them off at a local thrift store, but if you want to earn some funds for your move, there are plenty of online options for doing so. If you’re getting rid of high-end or designer clothing, try selling it on The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective, or Grailed. Rebag is a platform for buying and selling designer purses, though they don’t always accept the items people try to sell. For gently used fast fashion, vintage clothes, and everything in between, Depop, ThredUp, and Poshmark are good options.

Here, too, there are downsides: the platforms take a cut of what you make, though the percentage depends on where you’re selling it and, in some cases, how long it’s been listed. Your listing could be dormant for weeks before anyone bites. The buyer may be anywhere in the country and you’ll have to ship the package, either to them or to the platform itself, which then handles shipping the item to the customer. I’m not a fan of selling clothes online — the process itself is easy enough, but I find going to the post office a huge hassle — so I just took things to a local donation center. But again, selling things in advance of your move is how you recoup your money.

Some final advice

If you’re going the selling route, I’d advise you to start as early as possible, especially for things that you expect will be harder to get rid of. The flip side is, if you’re selling furniture, you don’t want to sell it too soon, especially if it’s something you’re actively using.

I ended up having to sell a bunch of my stuff after moving it to my new apartment — an inconvenient outcome of poor planning on my end. If I had to do it again (which I really, really hope I don’t anytime soon), I’d start decluttering the second I know I’m moving. Breaking the process up into small discrete tasks makes it less daunting and will make your eventual move go a lot smoother.

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