I enjoyed contributing to Amber Taufen’s article about helping our clients downsize. She wrote: “It’s harder than ever to get rid of your stuff — and once that lamp, jewelry or antique hutch reaches ‘family heirloom’ or ‘treasured artifact’ status, feelings can get hurt.

  • When moving, most clients throw away or donate unwanted items, but you can advise them of alternatives to trashing junk that could be positive for the environment.

I enjoyed contributing to Amber Taufen’s article about helping our clients downsize.

She wrote: “It’s harder than ever to get rid of your stuff — and once that lamp, jewelry or antique hutch reaches ‘family heirloom’ or ‘treasured artifact’ status, feelings can get hurt.

“This is an issue that real estate agents all over the country have been dealing with as downsizing movers — many of them baby boomers — look to pass down furniture and memorabilia to family members (often millennials) who don’t want it.”

My own home has too much stuff in it. In fact, I have several items that belonged to my grandparents and a few that belonged to my great grandparents. I ended up with more during a time in my life when I need less.

I recently became the owner of a table made of granite. It belongs to my parents; it was a gift and it has their wedding date engraved on the underside. I got tired of moving it. I have had to move it four times in the past three years — and it’s heavy.

It’s now in my living room, and I am not going to move it again. I wrote a letter to my daughter that I signed and dated; I put in an envelope along with a wedding picture of her grandparents and taped it to the underside of the table.

The letter includes some stories about the table, a list of addresses where it resided and advice about not taking anything for “granite” and about how we should choose wisely when it comes to deciding what we are going to lug around with us for decades.

We should keep the things that bring us joy and get rid of the rest.

Any progress I made emptying my basement was wiped out when I ended up having to move my parents quickly. Some of their belongings went with them, but they couldn’t take it all. I have little or no sentimental attachments to most of my own stuff or to the stuff that landed in my basement, but I feel responsible for it all.

The truth about trash

Some people throw stuff that they don’t need away. I have read the first few pages of books about people who put their stuff in trash bags and tossed it. If I could just throw things away, my work would be done.

The average American produces 4.4 pounds of waste each day. I worry what my stuff will do to the environment, and so does the EPA. I know that my stuff alone won’t have that much of an impact, but there are many people who are dealing with an excess of stuff.

If it’s all thrown away, there will be environmental consequences.

Items like old clothing and bedding end up in landfills where they become a source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Most of the items I want to get rid of can be recycled or reused.

A better way

Sometimes I spend time researching disposal options, and that takes time, which is why I am using what I have learned and preparing a how-to guide for my clients with a list of local recycling centers and charities and what they will take.

I hope they use it as an alternative to the landfill, and that they will be inspired to donate to some of the local charities.

Junk removal

There is a service called “1-800-GOT-JUNK?” They will take just about anything, and they don’t just throw it all in a landfill. Some of it gets reused and some recycled, and things like that huge, old, well-used, queen sized sleeper sofa that my parents had get tossed.

When I hired them, all I had to do was point, and they would remove anything I pointed at.

There is a charge for the service, and it is based on the size of the load they haul away. It is worth every penny. Writing a list is a great way to get the most out of the service.


Most electronic devices, including old television sets, computer monitors and computers, can be recycled. Used printer supplies can be taken to the local office supply store.


The county where I live has a place that accepts paint and hazardous waste. They require a photo ID that proves residence in the county.

I have dropped off items for myself and for my clients. The most common items that need to be disposed of are paint, insecticides and lawn chemicals.


I recently found a local charity that collects used books. They bring the books to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Elders borrow books and contribute books. I cannot find anyone who will take old text books and have resigned myself to putting them in the trash.

Other textiles

My mother’s excess paper and craft supplies went to the community center where they will be used for the children’s summer program. Her yarn and fabric went to a nursing home that is run by the church.


I have gotten rid of furniture by putting it in the alley behind my house with a note saying, “free please take.” If that doesn’t work, I put a “for sale” sign on it.

Furniture can be repurposed or upcycled. I have a few pieces that I converted into furniture for my front porch.

Occasionally, I have been able to sell items I don’t want. eBay, Amazon, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are all great options.

It takes a little extra time and work, but just about anything can be recycled, reused, upcycled or repurposed — and it is worth the effort.

It is far easier to purchase something than it is to get rid of it responsibly, which is something I consider every time I purchase anything that isn’t consumable.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman

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