woman packing clothes to move and donate

I remember the day that my family moved out of the house where we lived in Brooklyn. In 1975, Grandma sold the building and Dad had bought a house in Queens.

I vividly recall that all of Grandma’s and our things were on that sidewalk waiting to go into a moving truck. Boxes of papers, clothes, photographs, furniture, pots and pans, and all of our toys were there, the sum total of everything that we owned was all in one place. And I remember Mom shaking her head and saying, “Boy, you never know how much you have until you move!”

Cleaning Out a Loved One’s Home

Her words ring so true for me today, as I have once again had the intimidating task of cleaning out a loved one’s home. Every item — from birth certificates to clothes to jewelry, even kitchen items like spatulas and cheese graters — came into my possession.

What to do with all of these things? When Mom passed away, the seniors in her building were happy to get kitchen items and clothes, so I just left items in the lobby and they were snapped right up! A resident there could use some dishes or a container of shower gel. I even put her unused cans of food there for someone to enjoy. Nothing that Mom had went to waste.

When my brother passed away, a young man of 42, the task was not as easy. Fortunately, I have the luxury of time to decide what to do with his things. I will, of course, keep vital records and certain personal items, but what to do with the rest?

Donations to Those in Need

I’m fortunate that my coworker Ryhana volunteers at a homeless shelter here on Long Island. The shelter houses and feeds individuals and families and helps them get back on their feet again. I gave Ryhana a whole wardrobe of clothes, including some quality work-ready shirts and ties, to take to the shelter. I even donated my brother’s huge, over-sized sauce pot for their kitchen.

Mom always liked giving donations to Ryhana because she knew that Ryhana would see the people who were being helped and the good that the donations would do. And since I could just bring the items to work, and Ryhana would make the trip to the shelter anyway, neither of us used any extra fuel in getting the donations to their destination..

If you have a lot to donate, or big items, like furniture, it’s nice to know that some organizations will pick up your donation from your front porch (call first to find out what items are accepted). And there’s no extra driving required if you donate books on your regular visit to the library, or when you contribute non-perishable foods at a food drive that your workplace hosts. For me, a clothes bin in a supermarket parking lot is another good choice, as I go to the supermarket anyway.

How Can I Simplify?

The grueling task of cleaning out a loved one’s home made me think about what I would like to leave behind me — certainly not the burden of disposing all of my things! How do I live the way that I want to, surrounded by the things that I need and love but not burden my loved ones with this ponderous task? Well, this is going to require a lot of thought, and I’ll let you know in a future post!

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.