Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spreading Goodwill to All (Or, How to De-clutter and Clean Out Storage)

Way back in November--the weekend of the VT-NC State game, in fact--Beth and I traveled down to Blacksburg and cleaned out our storage unit, which I'd had in some way, shape, or form since about 1996. For one, we didn't really want to pay the nearly-$50/month in rent any more. For another, we wanted several items in storage, including my dryer (since the one that came with Chateau Papillon has a bad habit of eating clothes, you can probably see why) and some of our Christmas decorations, among other things.

One problem: Chateau Papillon is chock full of our stuff already! We make many donations to Goodwill every year, and despite a genetic heritage of packratism (you should have seen my grandmother's "utility room"), in recent years I had really moved toward de-cluttering. Most of that stuff had been in storage for at least five years, after all; if we could do without it for that long, ought we not be able to do without it entirely?

As Beth was booked to the gills with petsitting, she couldn't come down Saturday, whereas I definitely wanted to go to the game and also pay a visit to my favorite wine store, Vintage Cellar. Since we knew we needed a rental truck for the dryer and some other large items, we really couldn't bring two separate cars down--so I indulged in my most-traveled air route, albeit one I hadn't made since 2006 or so: Washington to Roanoke, thanks to a United "e-fare" deal which cost me around $100 total. After watching the Hokies pummel the Wolfpack and catching up with friends, it was time to get to serious work.

Emptying our storage unit did take some time. Beth arrived Sunday morning; I met her in Roanoke, where I returned my rental car and picked up the truck (and had the misfortune of driving past a Sarah Palin book signing, I might add). Once back in Blacksburg, we started loading the truck and . through the various stuff we'd accumulated.

In addition to two entire carloads of stuff we tossed out entirely, we took a half of a U-Haul to Goodwill in Christiansburg, dropping off there my bachelor coffee table and end-table sets along with a large dorm fridge Beth had rounded up "dumpster diving" on campus and which I'd always intended to turn into a "keg-erator" and several large bins of clothes and household goods. That still left us a good half a truckload of stuff to haul back to northern Virginia and Chateau Papillon (a lot of it because we were running short on daylight and time and thus didn't have a chance to sort through it or make another load to Goodwill before they closed for the day).

We have subsequently made three more large carloads of donations to Goodwill, including some really good stuff which we simply didn't need (such as many strands of Christmas lights--we've gone almost entirely LED now), a few interesting museum pieces (an Apple IIe and a Sega Master System console), and admittedly, some junk, too (though one never knows quite what another will consider treasure...).

On top of that, we've filled two 65 gallon recycling bins with scrap paper and cardboard I culled from old boxes of stuff... and unfortunately still filled a few trash cans as well with things I just couldn't justify giving to Goodwill and for which I knew there was no way to freecycle or recycle.

In addition to the tax benefits we receive for the donations, we're glad to keep as many things out of the dumpster and landfills as we can, and in the process provide items which can be sold at low cost by groups like Goodwill in their thrift stores--including a few things I'd have been thrilled to discover hidden amidst the dusty, mothball-scented prom dresses and pajamas of secondhand-shop shelves. So if you find that Apple IIe out there in a Goodwill store, you can thank us for it...

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