Sunday, September 16, 2007

Card Shark

Up until now, I have mostly described projects that involve the removal of an item. However, as discussed in Weeding, even though you are paring down your belongings, there will still be some things that you want to keep or are not quite ready to get rid of just yet.

This summer one such project that I undertook was to pull out and examine the collections of cards and letters I had squirreled away. I am sure you know how that kind of stuff can accumulate! The insidiousness of this kind of accumulation is the strong sentimental attachments that may be associated with it.

Never-the-less, into the fray of sentiment I plunged, pulling the cards and letters from the various spots where I had stashed them. There were

  • letters to and from friends sent and received while in college and shortly after that period (this was before email y'all)
  • Christmas cards
  • birthday cards
  • Valentine's Day cards
  • graduation and other congratulatory cards
  • wedding invitations, souvenir bride & groom photos, and other related ephemera
  • thank you notes
  • unused greeting cards, some purchased while in college! (oh yeah. . .BUT, I have since found new homes for those)
  • etc. (of course a Packrat's always got an etc. category!)

After all this time, I thought I would be able to part with the letters at least, but it turned out to be harder than I thought (Ahhh, sentimentality! The archenemy of the Packrat). But that's okay! Not to worry. If you find it particularly difficult to part with something, don't force it. Getting it sorted and/or organized can be the next best, workable compromise, and might help make stabs at future removal a little easier.

So, while I only managed to get rid of a small portion of the letters and cards, I organized what remained a little better.

  • all correspondence to and from a particular individual is now all together
  • the cards are now organized by type (birthday, Christmas, etc)
  • everything has been put into shoeboxes which are much easier to neatly store in the closet, than the plastic bags they were in before.

If/when I am ready to finally get rid of them they will now all be together in one place, making it much easier to review and at once, rather than unexpectedly stumbling across stashes here or there every so often.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Check-out That Charity!

As I mentioned earlier this week a clutter Exit Strategy will often involve donating your no-longer-needed items to a non-profit or charitable organization. In this entry, I will discuss a couple of tools available to help you learn more about the organization to whom may have chosen to donate your stuff. They will help you to determine
  • whether an organization is a legitimate non-profit or charitable operation
  • an organization's particular mission and the communities or constituencies it serves
  • an organization's tax-exempt status (useful, if you would like your donation to be tax deductible)
  • if any complaints have been filed against an organization and whether they were satisfactorily resolved

Two of the tools that I have previously used are GuideStar and the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance at


GuideStar is a comprehensive source of information regarding organizations operating within the non-profit sector. Their database includes information on hundreds of thousands of charitable and non-profit organizations across the country. Note: Some of the information in a organization's profile is only available with a premium access subscription, but what is freely available should be more than sufficient for the purposes identified above.

At the search page just type the name of the organization you are looking up into the search field and click the search button. A list of possible organizations from which to choose will be displayed. There are also classification codes (the NTEE Classification System) that you can search by, if you want to pinpoint organizations involved in specific types of activities (e.g. youth, the environment, the arts, etc.) For a more complete listing of those codes visit NCCS.

Anyway, click a link to see additional information. Be forewarned that you will need to register with GuideStar in order to click through to this basic record! Yes, this is a little inconvenient, but registration is free and is much less inconvenient than finding out later that those clothes you realized you were never going to wear again didn't end up getting to other people who could really use them.

Once you have registered and logged in, a free, basic search will yield the following types of information:

  • the organization's name and address
  • a contact person along with a telephone and fax number (email address info in the profile is, unfortunately, only part of premium access. . .)
  • a website if available (. . .however you may be able to pick that up here)
  • a brief description of the organization and its goals
  • the type of tax-exempt status an organization has (there are nearly 40 categories!) and whether contributions to the organization are deductible, as provided by law
  • whether they are required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ with the IRS and if available, links to .PDFs of those previously filed
  • when the organization's GuideStar profile was last updated
  • whether an organization makes its audited financial statements available to the public
Other information included in the basic profile if available and which might be of interest is

  • year founded
  • location(s) served
  • additional detailed information about an organization's programs and achievements
For additional tips and information to keep in mind when investigating a charity see GuideStar for Donors.

Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance also provides information to help you evaluate a charity. Additionally, they maintain a list of organizations that solicit funds on a national basis (the National Charity Reports Index) with links to reports evaluating them in terms of the BBB's voluntary charity standards. To find information regarding regional or local charities, you will need to visit the corresponding BBB for that region or locale. Go to the BBB Look-up page.

Now you will be better able to make an informed decision about choosing a new home for your stuff.

Happy Giving!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

End of Summer Update!

Greetings to my fellow Packrats out there! Hope you all had a pleasant summer. I took a bit of an unplanned break in August! This is the first summer in four years that I have not been in school and towards the end I got a little lazy, basking in my new-found freedom.

Be that as it may, my I have not been idle. During this brief hiatus from the blogosphere, I began several projects:

  • went through, sorted and organized an accumulation of old letters and greeting cards.
  • continued my ongoing magazine weeding project
  • decluttered my bathroom rolly cart

    I'm steeling myself to tackle the kitchen! But one thing at a time.

    Anyway, as you can see the past month has still been a busy and productive time and I'll be describing these efforts in greater detail in upcoming weeks.

    But before I get to all that good stuff, I will talk about the charity check. Quite often an Exit Strategy for your clutter will involve donating the no-longer-needed items to a non-profit or charitable organization. So, I thought it would be helpful to discuss a couple of ways you can learn more about an organization to whom you have selected to donate your things.

    More on all these topics soon!