Think it through. Saving things for a rainy day may seem practical. But it can leave you and your home bogged down with excess baggage. The secret is to kick the habit of compulsive, mindless collecting -- and explore better alternatives.
"There's a difference between hoarding and saving," said professional organizer Lisa Wendt, Homes That Work. She coaches clients to "Save it for a reason. Keep the stuff you really want, and get rid of the things that mean nothing."
Parents, for example, can become overwhelmed with school papers and kid-related keepsakes. By all means, hang onto that funny essay or beautiful artwork -- but not every worksheet. And instead of saving that big bulky science project, take a picture of the child with the project and put it in an album. Then dismantle the project and recycle the parts.
Recruit a partner. You can hire a professional organizer to help you sort through your closets and cupboards, but you don't have to. An honest friend, willing to say "Are you serious?" can do the trick, Wendt said. "Don't have a family member help you. They may guilt you into keeping things."
Repurpose mementos. If you've been hanging onto old clothing with sentimental value -- babywear, your teen's old sports jerseys -- why pack them away in boxes? Willow Creek Studio (www.willowcreekbaby.com) will turn your garb into memory blankets. For 16 pieces of baby clothing and $75, you can get a small baby blanket. Adult blankets start at $125.
Swap your duds. Clothing swaps, where a group gathers to trade clothes, shoes and accessories that they don't want or that no longer fit, are a great way to clean out closets while getting "new" clothes. (For more information, go to www.meetup.com, then type "Twin Cities Clothing Swap.")
Give it up. Some think getting rid of things is wasteful. But finding good uses for them is greener than letting them molder or fall apart in your garage. The items you no longer need could be doing someone else some good. "You may have things sitting in your basement that people could really use," Wendt said.
WHERE TO TAKE IT
There are a wide variety of consignment stores around the Twin Cities (check yellow-page directories for those nearest you). For furniture and household goods, one option is H&B Gallery, 2730 Hennepin Av. S., Minneapolis. The store sells secondhand furniture, antiques and art, as well as dishes, glassware and jewelry. "It doesn't have to be perfect, but it has to be in good condition," said co-owner Tony Scornavacco.
For clothing, consider Clothes Mentor (five Minnesota locations, with two more opening this spring). Unlike most consignment stores, which pay after your items sell, Clothes Mentor pays cash upfront. Clothes Mentor is selective, accepting only current styles (two years old or newer) and items in excellent condition. "It's more about style than about brand," said Chad Olson, chief operating officer. "We take designers like Ann Taylor, but we'll also take Target and Kohl brands if it's in style." Clothes Mentor also deals in accessories, such as purses, shoes and jewelry. And items that don't meet their standards can be left for charitable donation. (www.clothesmentor.com)
Some charities accept donated furniture, but many do not, and those that do often have particular requirements. One option is Bridging (www.bridging.org), which serves families in transition by giving them items to set up a household. Bridging accepts furniture and housewares, such as cookware, linens and dishes. Dressers and kitchen tables/chairs are especially needed, said Mary Proepper, manager, external relations. Bridging doesn't have a repair facility, so items should be intact and in good condition, but age and style aren't important. Bridging has two warehouse locations, Bloomington and Roseville, and items can be dropped off without an appointment, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Thu., and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Residential pickup, for a fee, also is available.
For items in excellent condition, consider Hope Chest, an upscale resale store that accepts donated furniture, accessories, such as china, lamps, artwork and rugs, as well as clothing. It uses the proceeds to benefit underserved women with breast cancer. Furniture must be from smoke-free homes, said manager Susanna Franklin. Clothing, which must be cleaned and on hangers, can be dropped off on weekdays at either of its locations (St. Paul or Orono). For larger items, you can schedule a drop-off at www.hopechest.us.