As many of my readers know I am all about as much transparency as possible. So no, I am not going to share my deep secrets from college, but I am going to share a story that I hope will help everyone who is preparing for a move whether personal or business, and that my experience is going to help prevent a lot of stress and headaches.
I have been working on Southeast Green for seven and half years now. We have had a lot of success, but not as much financial success as I would hope for. So I juggle a lot of freelance jobs. It’s okay, I have been it doing for years, way before Southeast Green. My hope is still to make Southeast Green a full time financial gig but until then I am happy to serve a variety of clients.
This past winter one of my clients asked me to help with a move, a big move. They were reducing their office footprint by 60% and that was after a 50% reduction two years before that. They are also not a sustainability minded business so a paperless office was not in their vernacular.
Knowing we were going to eliminate two compete offices, I started three months out trying to use all the resources I had to get the furniture donated. The caveat being that they needed to come pick up the items. We had a sofa, huge desks, chairs, multiple pieces of artwork, multiples of staplers, tape dispensers, enough expandable file folders to circle the globe a couple of times, and several file cabinets.
Where to start
The old cliché say goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So the first thing I did was start purging. Thankfully the office building we were in already did recycling. We emptied our three foot tall recycling bin over fifteen times. I hope it all ends up as cereal boxes or recycled toilet paper at Publix or Kroger. Honestly, we recycled so much paper, even I felt like the planet was doomed. What if every company produced that much paper? I am sure at one time they did. As I was trying to unload over 60 expandable file folders on fourteen floors of offices, I did learn that many offices have now gone paperless. Yipee! Progress!
We also set up three staging areas in the office for packing: donations, storage and move. The donations section ended up being an entire office of just stuff not including the office furniture. Meanwhile, I was frantically looking for someone to come get the furniture. Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, United Methodist Children’s Home, First Baptist Church of Decatur, home of the world’s largest garage sale; The Atlanta Furniture Bank; and even LifeCycle Building Center who I wanted to donate three large sets of cabinets to, all told me, various stories that essentially boiled down to we can’t help. It was very discouraging and as time ran out I asked a whole second round of non-profits given to me from friends. No one was calling back. I really was starting to panic when in desperation I called Katy Hinman, my pastor and former executive director of GIPL (Georgia Interfaith Power and Light) and she suggested Freecycle. I had used Freecycle before and it just never crossed my mind to use it for this amount of stuff.
Don't be frantic like me
Let me save you the hassle. Skip all the big non-profits. They are getting plenty of stuff. Post to Freecycle, because this is what I discovered, there are little non-profits scanning Freecycle looking to pick up large items. They will come and pick it up and many of them are 501C3s. So you can get a tax deduction to boot. Also, if I had started earlier with Freecycle, that office of stuff that I tried to get rid of would have been gone. Because I did Freecycle with two days out from the move we got rid of about 40% of the stuff. Yes, all the rest presumably headed to the landfill. I consider this colossal failure on my part to not get all that stuff donated. And yes, I did carry multiple items to drop off stuff and we still had 60% left over. One can only do what one can do.
The one thing I did do that was successful was use Eric Moncrief of The Green Guy, who by day has an electronic recycling company. He came not one but three times to pick up electronics recycling. It is amazing what can be amassed over years in an office. We all know our homes are full of stuff but OMGoodness, the stuff we had in that office!
Your office and home is like your purse, backpack or briefcase
For those of you who know me, you know I carry a very small purse. That’s because I learned a longtime ago whatever your purse size, you fill it up. This extends to backpacks, briefcases, and homes and offices. So be mindful and discerning when thinking about space and do I really need all this space? Because you will fill it up with stuff that at some point will have you saying, why did I ever think I would need that?
Here are some take aways:
- Start with FreeCycle and save yourself headaches and time
- Give yourself forgiveness – do the best you can
- Give yourself time – even with Freecycle you need more than 2 days
- Ask for donation receipts from non-profits that do pick up your stuff
- Be overly cautious with what your throwaway. In other words something you might think is too old to use will be something new to someone else.
- Use freecycle yourself. Before you go out and buy something new see if you can get it for free first.
The Freecycle Happy Ending
I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to meet so many different folks who were going to use the stuff. One was starting a business, one had moved down here without furniture. People were going to use items to enhance their homes. It’s really touching to know that one company’s overload can serve so many other folks.
So, what is my recommendation? Don’t wait until you move. Spring cleaning is just around the corner what about a walk through your office or home to find out what you can give a second chance to?