OUT WITH THE OLD: De-cluttering? Organizations thrive on taking stuff you don’t want

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Nicki Nichols sorts books and other items donated to the Hancock Hope House thrift store. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Got too much stuff?

You’re not alone.

A quick Google search shows studies indicating what most of us learn firsthand — that clutter is not only problematic for our homes, but for our peace of mind as well.

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“When our living space is cluttered, we lose a lot of precious time and energy maintaining our unused stuff. We waste time looking for misplaced things and then money to buy replacements,” said Becky Gaynor, an Indianapolis-based organization expert with clients in Hancock County.

She encourages her clients to reduce the clutter. “Sort through and organize your possessions and you’ll reap space, energy and peace of mind. Your household will be a place to relax in and enjoy, and best of all, the absence of stress will allow you to focus on the new possibilities and opportunities for your life,” said Gaynor.

Fortunately, there are places in Hancock County that are willing to take that clutter off your hands so you can start the new year off right, and help others in the process.

Chandrea Warner spends her days sorting through the scores of items donated to the Hancock Hope House retail store at 35 E. Pierson St. in Greenfield.

“We’re looking for gently used items, not things you’d throw away,” said Warner, who sorts and sells items alongside two part-time employees and 20 volunteers.

While a good portion of donations end up on store shelves, others are too dirty or broken and end up in the trash. “We encourage people to bring in only things you would give to a family member,” said Andrea Mallory, Hope House’s executive director.

Those who donate to Hope House can know their items will go to good use locally, even if they don’t appear on store shelves. Hope House residents — homeless men, women and children — get vouchers to shop in the store. Mallory and her staff often funnel shoes and clothing to families they know are in need, whether it’s through Hope House or other local charities like Changing Footprints and Love INC.

Donations at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a home improvement thrift shop at 1141 W. U.S. 40 in Greenfield, also make a local impact.

“Being nonprofit, we operate on a really slim overhead, so about 60 to 65 percent of what we make goes straight to building homes,” said Marlene Liu, manager of the Greenfield ReStore. Four Habitat for Humanity homes have been built in Greenfield since the store opened four years ago, she said.

Although Habitat for Humanity is an international organization, local ReStore revenues stay within Greater Indy Habitat, which impacts Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks and Marion counties. The other regional stores are in downtown Indianapolis, Avon and Fishers.

As with any thrift shop, you never know what you might find when walking into the local ReStore, which accepts new and gently used appliances, furniture, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, flooring, lighting, building materials, windows, doors and more.

ReStore offers home pickup of bulky items, “but we’ve found in the last few days we have seen more people dropping off than we have been picking up, and it seems like that’s because they’re de-cluttering and downsizing, cleaning out closets and making room for new stuff,” said Liu.

Just like Mallory, Liu encourages those donating to only bring in functional items. “We want to sell the item as is, so if it’s broken we’re not going to be able to sell it,” she said.

A third option for discarding unwanted stuff while making a local impact is the local Goodwill store at 1772 Muskegon Lane in Greenfield.

“Our mission is really all about helping people increase their independence and reach their potential through the programs and services that Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana offers,” said Sam Perry, Goodwill’s director of communications for the region. “We really depend on the generosity of Hoosiers to make that happen.”

Donations are what generate the revenues that support Goodwill’s mission, which is to enhance people’s dignity and quality of life by strengthening their communities, eliminating their barriers to opportunity, and helping them reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.

Over half of Goodwill’s 3,000 retail employees have some sort of barrier to obtaining a job, whether it’s a disability, a criminal background or lack of a high school diploma.

“Giving jobs to those who face those or other barriers is an important and visible part of our mission,” said Perry.

Goodwill also offers The Excel Center for adult education, and a Nurse Family Partnership that matches first-time, low-income moms with a registered nurse for support.

“We couldn’t do all this without the support of our Hoosier donors,” said Perry, who hopes that knowing the benefits will encourage people to take on the task of mid-winter decluttering.

Just don’t bring in items in need of repair.

“We prefer no stains, no tears,” said Warner at the Hope House. “We have a coat ministry that will repair coats with tears or missing buttons, but clothing and other items that aren’t in good shape just end up in the trash, which costs us money to haul away,” she said. Devoting storage space and man hours to sort through undesirable items is also an issue.

On its website, Goodwill states: “When Goodwill receives items that cannot be sold, staff must dispose of them…. Disposal of such items (especially secure shredding of loose papers) raises expenses and reduces the revenue available for employment and educational services.”

Goodwill also encourages donors to check all pockets, drawers and other spaces that might contain personal information like bank statements, passports and checkbooks.

If de-cluttering seems overwhelming and you’re not sure where to start, consider watching a few episodes of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix, or check out the tips at www.flylady.net, which offers key de-cluttering advice like working 15 minutes at a time, working clockwise around a room, and marking bins “Give Away,” “Throw Away” and “Put Away,” and acting accordingly.

The FlyLady herself, Marla Cilley, got so fed up that she rid her house of clutter for good in 1999, then launched a website showing others how they could do the same.

She tells her million-plus followers to overcome perfectionism and procrastination and take baby steps to reclaim a peaceful household. “We tell ourselves we don’t have time to do it right, so we do nothing,” she said. “Our stuff piles up and continues to pile up and it gets in the way of who we’re supposed to be.”

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These organizations accept donations of household items and clothing:

Hancock Hope House

35 E. Pierson Street, Greenfield

317-467-4991

www.hancockhopehouse.org

Habitat for Humanity ReStore

1141 W. U.S. 40, Greenfield

317-318-9380

www.indyrestore.com

Goodwill

1772 Muskegon Lane, Greenfield

317-468-0473

www.goodwillindy.org

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