My husband and I are going to be downsizing to a two-bedroom retirement residence in January. In anticipation of this move, we have started decluttering our current four-bedroom home and realize we have too much stuff! We would like to donate much of it, but we don’t know where we can take our books, CDs, clothing and linens.
We also have some working electronics that we would like to donate (i.e., a couple of old laptops, a monitor, keyboards and a fax machine).
Where can we take items like these and know they will have a second life?
Signed, Determined to Donate
Thank you very much for making donations a priority as you downsize. By finding homes for items that can have a second life, you are not only diverting them from landfills and helping our planet, but you are also ensuring that others in need in our community have access to them. Thank you very much for making a difference!
There are many charitable organizations in Ottawa that will give your donations a wonderful second life. A site called Charity Wish List (charitywishlist.ca) is a great resource for determining where you can donate items. Just click on their “Find Charities by location and types of items wanted” button and plug in “Ontario and Ottawa” and you’ll get a list of items and where you can take them.
For books, you can reach out to Friends of the Ottawa Public Library, St. Joe’s Women’s Centre, Saint Vincent de Paul, Second Hand Stories, Twice Upon A Time and Ability First Ottawa.
For CDs, you can reach out to Friends of the Ottawa Public Library or Ability First Ottawa. You can also take them to thrift stores like Saint Vincent de Paul, Value Village and Salvation Army.
For clothing and linens, you can donate to Shepherds of Good Hope, Caldwell Family Centre and Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa.
For working electronics, you can donate them to Hartwood House, Immigrant Women Services Ottawa, Ottawa Valley Search and Rescue Dog Association and thrift stores like Saint Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army.
To protect your personal information, it’s a good idea to wipe your devices clean before you donate them. You can find out how to do this on the Recycle My Electronics site. (click here!)
For e-waste (electronics that cannot be used again), you can ensure the parts are recycled by bringing them to retailers who participate in a “return to retail” initiative. You can find these authorized locations at the Recycle My Electronics program link (Click here!).
To donate other items like used appliances, baby clothes, magazines, vehicles, food, furniture, musical instruments, pet-related items, sports equipment/sports clothing, office, home and school supplies, new and used toys and other miscellaneous items, you can also refer to the Charity Wish List site.
If you need further help finding a charity for a specific type of item not mentioned in the list, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. A great resource indeed!
As Aesop said, no act of kindness, however small, is wasted.
Martha Tobin is thrilled that her new business not only helps clients get rid of clutter, it also helps the environment by turning up a wealth of unwanted items that are recycled for others to use instead of being dumped in a landfill.
“I love that we transform lives for the better every single day,” says Tobin, who started Room2Breathe, her organizing and decluttering business, in July 2020 when COVID-19 steered her to a career change. Never looking back from that decision, she has helped countless clients throughout the National Capital region to reduce stress and feelings of being overwhelmed by helping them organize and declutter their homes.
“I decided to follow a lifelong passion and pursue organizing and decluttering,” she says. “I love it, and it’s been successful since day one.”
Tobin says the Room2Breathe team is sometimes asked just to declutter a basement, kitchen or garage but it’s often contracted to do an entire house. While helping clients get rid of excess things they no longer want or need, Tobin realized there were many wonderful and worthy items that could have a second life with others who could use them. Through this realization, the Donations That Do Good program was born.
The program decreases the waste sent to the landfill and gives back to the community by donating items clients no longer want to local charities. In many cases, clients are more willing to let things go when they realize it can help someone else through the donation program. “We are proudly committed to making a difference in our clients’ lives as well as in the lives of those in need in our community,” says Tobin. Her enthusiasm for her work and the donation program is obvious.
She explained that due to the challenges of finding places and time to drop off donations, unwanted items removed during decluttering would usually be put out on the curb on garbage day. To avoid that waste, the Room2Breathe team pack up their vehicles at the end of the day and take the items on behalf of their clients to local charities that are looking for those specific items (e.g., clothing, dishes, toys, small appliances, etc.) When there are larger items, like furniture, that Tobin’s team cannot handle, they recommend charities that the client can contact for a pickup.
“Our Donations That Do Good program is a win-win for our clients and our community,” says Tobin, “and it’s also a huge win for our planet in that we ensure that these donated items have a second life and are not going into landfills.” The charities that they can currently donate to are the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club, Immigrant Women Services Ottawa, Caldwell Family Services, CompuCorps, EcoEquitable, Bruevére, Heartwood House, Salvation Army, Diabetes Canada and Habitat for Humanity.
Tobin loves making connections with charities or other organizations that can use the donated items to raise funds or provide them to those in need. Items collected during a recent day of decluttering were donated to a garage sale for a refugee family. All proceeds went to the family, and unsold items were given to Caldwell Family Services. If you are a charity that needs specific items or you know a way the donations could help others, please reach out to Martha Tobin at email@example.com or 613-868-5197. To learn more about Room2Breathe and their Donations That Do Good program, check out the website at room2breathe.ca.
If you’ve been making efforts to reduce your waste, we may feature you in a future column. Please send a short paragraph explaining how you are reducing your household or business waste to firstname.lastname@example.org, attention Katie.
Katie Fice joined the Glebe Community Association’s Zero Waste Committee (a subcommittee of the Environment Committee) to learn about waste reduction and raise awareness of simple changes in our daily living that have a positive impact on the environment.
Decluttering is a daunting task at the best of times and your feelings of overwhelm may be holding you back from beginning. Here are 5 tips and tricks to get you started:
(1). Start with one room at a time and focus on one section of that room.
I recommend starting with the surfaces and removing all items from these surfaces (ie. desk or counter top).
(2). If you find items that belong in other rooms, just put them in a box labelled ‘other rooms’ and continue to stay in and on track with the room you are working on.
(3). For each item on these surfaces, determine if you still use it. For items no longer used, put them in a box labelled ‘to give’, ‘to sell’ or ‘trash’.
(4). For those items that you are keeping, ask yourself about their frequency of use. Prime real estate in that room is for items used hourly and daily (so placed within arms reach) while weekly and monthly items can be within standing or walking distance respectively.
(5). Once the surfaces of the room are decluttered, then pick another section of that room (i.e. drawers or cupboards) and repeat the above process.
By tackling decluttering one room at a time, you will not only see progress but that progress will keep you motivated to declutter other rooms.
Dear Martha, My partner continues to order online or bring home more and more purchases but we have so much ‘stuff’ that we now have piles everywhere because we have nowhere to put everything. The more stuff he brings home, the more stressed I feel. Any words of advice? Signed, Ready for calm Dear Ready for calm, You are completely correct – an excess of stuff does cause stress. Here are 3 practices that may help from Sarah Nettleton’s book, The Simple Home – The Luxury of Enough: (1). Look around your home and celebrate the ‘good choices’ that you have made when bringing something into your home (i.e installing shelving in your garage or adding a few woven baskets on a shelf in your entry hall for keys, sunglasses and masks,). (2). Consider the elimination of non-essentials by reviewing each room’s contents (start with the surfaces) and determine for every item if it is practical or emotional. Practical items are kept because you need them while emotional items are kept because they are sentimental. If an item is neither, consider letting it go (donate, sell or trash). (3). Celebrate restraint. If you do bring something new into your home, let something else go that you no longer need or want. Home’s only have a finite amount of space so by applying a ‘one in one out’ rule, you will be respecting the equilibrium of your home. “Homes that nurture us are not fortresses of exclusion, but rather clearings in a busy world that help us to dream new ideas and to be creative in our own way.” (Sarah
Dear Martha, My home has too much stuff but how do I determine what to let go of and what to keep? Signed, Unsure Dear Unsure, Here are 5 questions you can ask yourself to determine if you should keep something: (1). Do you love it? (2). Do you use it regularly? (3). Is the item in working order? (4). Do you have space for it and does it have a logical ‘place to live’ in your home? (5). For items of clothing, determine if it still fits and if it still suits your current lifestyle.
Take a look around you and start with a junk drawer, your linen closet or your bathroom cupboard. Ask the above five questions about each item you come across and if the item is no longer serving you, let it go. A life well-lived is about experiences not things.
“Removing clutter makes room for a life focused on the things that matter most. It opens up physical space in our home and mental space in our mind.” (Clear the
This past month’s tips and tricks focused on storing suitcases. I recommend the ‘Russian doll approach.’ Keep three travel bags per family member (preferably only for those family members currently living in your home). Consider keeping a large wheeled one (international travel), a small wheeled one (domestic travel) and a medium sized day bag/backpack or duffel bag (weekend travel).
Using the wooden nested Russian doll sets as your example, place the smaller luggage inside the larger luggage. If you no longer need some of your luggage, take a photo and the measurements and put them on a Buy Nothing online marketplace group.
Our basement is literally chockablock with stuff. We have multiple bins of baby clothes down there (and our “kids” no longer live here). We also have more suitcases than we’ll ever need, more tools than we’ll ever use and inherited china that has not entertained anyone since it arrived over a decade ago. I know we need to do something about our basement, but I am so overwhelmed. I have no idea where to start or even what to do with all the items we no longer want. Can you help?
You are not alone. Basements are one of the key areas in a home where organization goes to die. It’s usually where we keep items we’re just not ready to part with, like baby clothes and other keepsakes. Problem is, items that are not seen regularly are forgotten – out of sight, out of mind. That’s complicated by inaccurate bin labelling and, in many cases, lack of any labelling, which leaves you with mystery bins.
The best approach is to open the bins and take stock of what’s inside. Commit to bringing up a few bins each Saturday and take a look through them while sipping your morning coffee. Not only will you have a wonderful walk down memory lane, but you may also realize you are now ready to pare down the baby clothes and other keepsakes. Keep only those items that evoke the strongest memories. As Ruth Soukup says in her book, Unstuffed – Decluttering Your Home, Mind and Soul, “if everything is special, then nothing is. Let go of the guilt.”
In addition to purging, reorganize the pared-down items more efficiently (i.e. maximum one keepsake bin for each family member) and label them accordingly. No need for any fancy labelling machines. Remember that simple organizing systems and solutions are always the best ones. A roll of masking tape and a Sharpie will serve you well.
For suitcases, I recommend the “Russian nesting doll approach.” Keep three suitcases per family member (preferably only for those currently living in your home). I recommend a large wheeled one, a small wheeled one and a medium sized day bag/backpack. Place the smaller luggage inside the larger luggage, like Russian dolls. If you no longer need some of your luggage, take a photo and measurements and put it on a Buy Nothing online group.
Regarding tools, I can almost guarantee you’ll save time and effort the next time you need a tool if you donate some that you never or rarely use. You will no longer be digging through a variety of screwdrivers just to find the one that you use 90 per cent of the time. By donating excess tools to an organization like Habitat For Humanity’s ReStore program, you’ll be giving them a useful second life.
As for inherited china, unpack it and use it. As Erma Bombeck wrote in her infamous 1979 “If I Had My Life To Live Over” column, use items that are important to you. “I would have burned the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored,” she wrote. Take a good look at all your “good china” and ask if it evokes positive memories. If so, why not use this china as your everyday tableware? Or keep a couple of key items, like a sugar and cream set, and donate the rest to local refugee committees who help set up homes for new arrivals in Canada.
Whatever your clutter, the key is always no waste. No wasted time looking for items, no wasted rooms taken up by unused items, no wasted items in landfills and no wasted days. Just being alive is cause for celebration and thanks. Use the good china and celebrate every day that ends in ‘y’.
For so many of us there has been unparalleled change over the last year; some of it good and some of it not so good. As a family we were only just getting our footing back after recovering from some big losses when the pandemic hit. The passing of Mike’s father, my mother and brother all within a few short years left big holes in our hearts and palpable gaps in our lives. And like so many others we also felt the horrible sting of confinement when our brother in law died unexpectedly in Newfoundland and we could not be there to grieve with family and to honour his life.
We have spent much of COVID doubling down as a family. We have kept close. Very close. Very scared. We have zealously protected our family as the thought of one of us going alone into hospital is unimaginable.
And now one year later with vaccines for all imminent, there is finally hope. And yet, our post-pandemic reality brings with it other anxieties and worries. How can we alter the future of our planet so that it is healthier and our communities are more connected? What will our ‘new normal’ look like? How will we move forward as a society? How will we recover with so much job loss, so much unemployment and so many industries decimated?
We are all excited to live in an unmasked, hug-friendly world again but we’re all coming into it as different people now. We’ve had a long while to take stock of our lives and to think about our ‘reset button’. We are excited to move forward, blessed to still be here but we recognize that we have been impacted by the pandemic and we want to move forward with a new sense of purpose and intention.
The younger generation like our daughters have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic in general and the required isolation in particular. When the schools closed last March our daughter, Meagan, who had been working part time at the Wild Oat, was graduating from Canterbury’s fine arts program. Sadly her grade 12 lost all of their well-deserved celebrations that would have brought closure to a formidable high school experience. The prospect of university residence in the fall of 2020 buoyed her spirits. But by late summer that dream was sunk when residences were closed and our deposit was returned.
Like the parents of other university students we grappled with the weight of wondering at what cost we let the pandemic determine the mental and emotional well-being of our children. In the end we decided that Meagan needed a university experience so with mixed emotion, we rented her an apartment in downtown Montreal so that she and her good friend could have some semblance of autonomy while attending Concordia’s Fine Arts and Design program virtually. We have no regrets and she has blossomed from this tip of the iceberg encounter with university life.
Our daughter, Emma, in Grade 10 at Glebe Collegiate has also been impacted by the pandemic and like so many other high school students she has had to juggle her days between school online and in person. And she’s had to become accustomed to only seeing friends either online or outdoors. The great thing about youth though is their resilience and through it all Emma has grown and adapted. Knowing where her strengths lay, Emma recently took on the role of Room2Breathe’s social media manager and her support and computer savvy have been a welcome addition to our growing team.
Supporting each other became paramount for Mike and I too as we were now together day in and day out, working side by side in our home office. While my career of 31 years was rapidly dissolving, Mike’s career became more relevant and urgent than ever before.
With planes grounded and new legislation surrounding the closure of our nation’s borders,
Mike’s work as a senior consultant on contract with the federal government required long hours and many virtual meetings.
On the other side of the career pendulum, my long standing career in the promotional products industry came to an abrupt halt when the schools closed and conferences, conventions, trade shows, AGM’s and golf tournaments were nixed resulting in clients cancelling orders.
Fast forward a few months and after much soul-searching I decided to follow my passion for organizing and decluttering and started my company, Room2Breathe. Although commencing any company during lockdown seemed perilous, it was the only option that kept calling to me so I took a leap of faith and happily have never looked back. And certainly ‘Covid confinement’ has made many realize how much ‘stuff’ they have so that’s certainly kept us busy.
We are a family that likes to be kept busy so living in the Glebe has been an amazing experience.with the Rideau Canal close by and skating, running, walking and biking right on our doorstep.
Mike and I were both raised in close knit neighbourhoods with Mike coming from Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and me from Montreal West and we wanted that experience for Meagan and Emma. And certainly we’ve gotten that in spades from the schools and community center to Brown’s Inlet block parties and outstanding neighbours.
Interestingly enough it was at the Glebe Running Room that Mike and I first met so it’s even more special for us to live in this exceptional area of Ottawa.
There have been many dark moments during Covid but one of the bright spots has been running into friends out walking and enjoying the beauty that surrounds us in this community we now call home.
“The purpose of life is to live it.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
My COVID career change was not so much a leap of faith as it was a good hard shove out of one career and into another.
The day schools closed last March was the beginning of the end of my long career in the promotional products industry. Over the next couple of months, as all conventions, conferences, trade shows, AGMs, golf tournaments and gatherings were cancelled, a huge segment of my business went completely flat. Completely changing gears was not an option but a must.
As it turned out, my catalyst for change came in a book that I was re-reading. The book was called What Colour Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles. As I followed along with the exercises, the penny dropped and I awakened to the realization that my next career would involve organizing and decluttering.
Organizing and decluttering has been a lifelong love of mine. Books, shows and magazine articles on the subject of home design or organizing and any related before-and-after photos have always been my “go to” for unwinding and enjoyment. I am more relaxed, more creative and more in control in rooms that have a calm orderliness to them.
Turns out, though, that organizing and decluttering is a skill and we all have different skill sets. The same way I don’t have a natural affinity for languages, others are not successful with organizing and decluttering. No shame there. Just different strokes for different folks.
When it occurred to me that I could help people who didn’t have the time, energy or inclination to organize and declutter, I reached out to some friends and offered them pro bono work in return for their honest appraisal of my value in this area. Happily, I got an enthusiastic thumbs up and so with equal parts elation and trepidation, Room2Breathe Organizing & Decluttering was born.
Unencumbered by the weight of clutter and unfinished projects, people can be more productive, creative and calm in their safe haven. Purging the “stuff” that no longer owes us anything is liberating and we grow when we are not fenced in or weighed down by our things. By creating space, we have room to breathe and possibility is once again within reach perhaps in the form of a new library or craft room where once resided only dusty boxes and an unused desk. Maybe while decluttering, you unearth your travel journals and a European trip is once again beckoning.
For my part, when I “let go” of the familiarity and dependability of my 31-year career and stepped into uncharted territory to pursue my organizing and decluttering passion, I never would have imagined how closing one door would have opened up another that has completed me, fulfilled me and empowered me to be the very best version of myself. As Maria Shriver writes, “Choose you, and when you do, know that you’ve made the best choice you can make.”