Will someone be able to use this before I do?

I mentioned last week in “Musings on children’s birthday parties” that my plan was to bake my son a Dinosaur Train cake for his first birthday. Now that the cake has been made, I no longer have a need for the train-shaped cake pans.

A small, sentimental part of me thought I might keep the cake pans. My friend Julie and I even came up with more than 25 things I could do with the pans if I decided to keep them — everything from jello and ice molds to flower pots and bird baths. Since my storage space is very limited in my kitchen cupboard, though, I knew keeping them would be difficult.

Before I made my final decision about what to do with the cake pans, I made a pact with myself to see if someone else I know might need them. I put a message up on Twitter and on Facebook to see if any of my friends could use them. I decided that if someone else needed them before me, I would give them away without hesitation.

Seconds after I posted my message on Twitter, I got a response from my friend Nanette saying that her nephew had an upcoming birthday and she would love to make him a train cake. Tomorrow, the cake pans are going to Nanette and they will make an awesome cake for another little boy.

This uncluttering process has me asking the question, “Will someone be able to use this before I do?” about a number of items in my home. I ended up giving a pair of hand-tooled leather boots to a friend because I realized by the time I can wear tight-fitting shoes again (if ever), the boots won’t be in style. If I give them to her, at least she can wear and enjoy them now. I passed along a tent to a friend who regularly goes camping. And, my painting supplies went to a colleague’s wife who is an artist and will use them well before I “find” the time.

This question is best asked of things you’re storing and using extremely infrequently. Check your long-term storage spaces and see if there are things others might be able to use before you do. If so, consider getting these things out of your home and into the arms of someone who could actually use them with regularity.

35 Comments for “Will someone be able to use this before I do?”

  1. posted by Sarah P on

    It’s good to know you have those sentimental maybe-I’ll-keep-it moments, too.

  2. posted by Amy on

    Yes! I did this with my bow a few years ago. It was hard, but I knew I wasn’t going to shoot it for a long time after my archery teacher passed away. Now it gets used by a friend who had wanted it. I could have saved it for someday my son would grow into it. But there wasn’t a guarantee it would be used or be the right one for him. He’s old enough now and wants to learn, we’ll buy him one that fits him.

  3. posted by Glenda on

    This is another version of “paying it forward.” Lots of times if I put the word out that I’m in need of something, it will “appear” as well. Good reminder!

  4. posted by Stella on

    We are doing a swap meet at work this week, where we bring in these kind of items and donate the leftovers. I am bringing a massage chair seat, paper lanterns, some tins,the rest i am still working on.

  5. posted by elle on

    I started doing the same thing a few months ago; I love the fact that I can now easily find the stuff I need and use in my storage closet, and that the “clutter” has a home with some who will use it rather than in a landfill.

    I passed along my character cake pans to my sister-in-law. My kids are getting a bit too old for these types of cakes, while hers are still young enough to enjoy them (more importantly, she is a fabulous baker and cake decorator-which means these are useful to her, not just clutter).

    Did the same with my sewing/craft supplies.
    I culled out the items I know I’ll use, found homes for the extras. Many of the leftover supplies such as pipecleaners, foam pieces, felt, etc. were donated to our school’s art classroom (a welcome donation considering budget cuts) and the material scraps went to a friend who quilts. It’s a relief to be rid of the boxes of “what can I use this for?”

  6. posted by Tammy on

    Our local library is now collecting cake pans and you can check them out. When done with the pan clean and return.

  7. posted by Plain Good Sense on

    This is a question we have found ourselves facing when it comes to large items, like furniture and beds. Last year, my husband and I upgraded from a queen-sized bed to a king sized. We would have liked to keep the queen-sized bed to be used as a guest bed someday, but our current house doesn’t have a large enough guest bedroom to house it. We likely won’t be moving to a new home for 3-4 years, and even then – there’s no guarantee that we would have a large enough guest bedroom in that house, either.

    Soon, we’ll be welcoming our first baby into our family, which means we’ll have to get rid of our CURRENT guest bed, which is a full size. Again, it is tempting to want to keep this bed, because it could be used as a child’s bed when they get older (6 or 7, maybe). However – we had to ask ourselves, do we really want to store these huge beds in our basement until then? And in the meantime, there are plenty of charities in the area that are looking for beds to be used in transitional housing and shelters. Additionally, we weren’t sure if our children would ever need a full size bed, as a twin would work just fine as well.

    IF and WHEN we need a full-size and queen-sized bed again, we decided that we would rather spend the money to purchase a new mattress (and possibly a frame and headboard on Craigslist to cut some of the costs) instead of storing our old ones for several years, and not be able to use the space they take up for other things and/or activities.

    I think that the space in your home is a resource, just like time and money are resources. You should be very careful how it is used.

    Thanks for this great post, Erin!

  8. posted by Leonie on

    This is a great idea. I end up taking my stuff to Goodwill as we are not allowed to have garage sales in the neighbourhood (HOA). Now I may use my twitter account to send out the offer to friends before taking them to Goodwill. In the end, it doesn’t matter what I do with things I am not using again or soon, as long as it is not clutter in my house!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. posted by Maureen on

    I usually rent cake pans ($1/day plus refundable deposit) from cake decorating stores or bulk food stores.

  10. posted by Lose That Girl on

    I haven’t had this happen in awhile – I’ve been trying to only purchase items if I have a definitely plan to utilize them… but I think it’s always good to see if someone can use something you own but rarely use instead of tossing it out. I gave my best friend two barely used coats recently. I loved both of them but never got around to wearing them. I felt a pang to let them go but they went to the best home and an owner who was thrilled. Now I have space in my closet to store the jackets and coats that I routinely wear. A win-win, I think.

  11. posted by Jen on

    I have been pondering how to get rid of old vhs tapes. there is no recycling for this type of item in our community. I hate to throw all that hard plastic into the landfill. I had an idea to post them for free on kijiji.com and see if anyone wants them. They have old tv shows and specials recorded on them that someone might enjoy watching.

    Of course, eventually, someone will have to dispose of them. There must be billions of vhs tapes sitting in people’s homes. I find decluttering and recycling inextricably linked, and so they should be. I could never toss clutter without first trying to make the best possible choice for the health of our planet.

  12. posted by Jonathan Blundell on

    That’s a great mindest to keep. Leo Babauta had a similar sentiment in his book The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life…

    Things aren’t valuable if they’re not used. So by holding onto things, you are preventing them from actually being used by someone who needs them.

    That’s been hitting home as I try to continue decluttering my stuff. A great reminder for sure. Thanks!

  13. posted by Amanda on

    Erin it is nice to know that you too sometimes have pangs associated with continuing to try to lead an unclutterled fabulous life. Thank you for your honesty. I think “Would this item have a better home elsewhere?” and into the Goodwill box it goes unless I can think of receipent quickly. I have received items the same way from friends who thought “Hey, Amanda could use this.”

  14. posted by Dorothy on

    Jen, the thrift stores in my area all sell VHS tapes. I just took a carton full of them to the local Hospice thrift store. Some people still have VCRs and will enjoy them for a few more viewings, I hope. And a few bucks will devolve upon the Hospice.

    Erin, great post. It reminds me of a story I heard about Mohandas Gandhi. Not sure if it’s true but it’s a lovely tale. One day Gandhi and several aides were running to catch a train. As Gandhi hopped onto the train, one of his shoes came off and landed in the railbed. The train was moving too fast for someone to retrieve the shoe. So Gandhi bent down, untied his other shoe, and threw it out of the train so it landed near the first shoe.

    One of his aides asked why he’d done that. The Mahatma replied, “One shoe will do me no good. But a poor man will find the pair of shoes, sell them, and feed his family for a month.”

  15. posted by Tiffany on

    I still think train-shaped meatloaf is a culinary adventure worth exploring.

  16. posted by amandalee on

    Love this – I do it all the time. My bandmate actually brought me a bag of work-appropriate clothing to sift through last night before she takes it to Goodwill – and next week after my closet sort-through is complete, I’ll do the same for her. I’m passing on an armchair I never use anymore to a friend that just moved to town and has literally no furniture. When my boyfriend moved in with me, we gave his bed to a friend of ours who rents single furnished rooms in his house and needed another bed. Awesome and useful. 😀

  17. posted by Lee on

    Our previous, very small, neighborhood had a lending tool shed program. We reserved a tool a week in advance and left a refundable deposit when we picked up the tool. It took startup money, someone who did have storage space, and someone to handle the program. We were OK with not having some of these tools because we knew we could get them inexpensively when we needed them. Our cordless power drill, however, is used often and earns its space.

    We borrowed a power washer from a neighbor (he loves tools and equipment). My husband is going to help him build a small patio. That seemed fair to both of us. We also have a card table, chairs, small number of inexpensive wine glasses and glass party plates and cups, etc. We don’t use them often, but many of our friends have the same thing and we can at least borrow from each other when we need a large number for a party, etc. The alternative is renting these when we need them if we decide to let these go when don’t have enough space to justify keeping them.

    The issue for us is still letting something go that we will need later. We’re working on that. Thanks for addressing the issue.

  18. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    We have a bulk food store in our neighbourhood that rents cake pans of all shapes and sizes. There’s a $20 deposit and $1.99/day rental fee. Bring the cake pan back in good shape to get your deposit returned!

  19. posted by Sheila on

    I’m really surprised no one has mentioned using Freecycle to help give away items like these. It’s nationwide here in the US, by county, so mostly it is a local network. I have given away lots of stuff (with more to go) and have received a couple of things as well.
    visit http://www.freecycle.org/

  20. posted by Michele Connolly, Get Organized Wizard on

    Hi Erin!

    I try to avoid long-term storage spaces in general.

    If something crosses my vision regularly but isn’t getting regular use, I tend to notice and donate it to free up space.

    Once something gets out of sight, I get lazy and find it’s too easy to hold onto it past its genuine usefulness.

  21. posted by daney on

    A lady in a nearby community collected these shaped pans and when she died, her family gave them to the local library, which now allows for free checkout – very fun!

  22. posted by chacha1 on

    Great post and yes, it is nice to know Erin still has those moments!

    I am trying to do this with my piano. I *may* use it in the future, but I haven’t used it in six years, so the odds are good it is better off in someone else’s home. I’d rather think that someone’s kid gets a chance to learn how to play than that my cats have a longer elevated highway.

  23. posted by Tiara on

    A friend of mine recommends this site a lot for the things you don’t use often. It is for both people who want to hold on to things but get some use out of them (as well as some cash), or for people who need things infrequently and doesn’t want to buy them. http://www.rentalic.com/

  24. posted by Zac on

    Considering other people’s use for my clutter and junk has been a major motivator for me to get rid of things. It helps me break the sentimental/psychological attachment to certain possessions to know someone else will have a use for it and find it special. Sentimental hoarding and keeping things with the “just in case” mentality used to be my major source of clutter. Knowing its going to be used helps to let go.

  25. posted by Mletta on

    Been doing this for a long time. Not primarily to declutter, but because I believe it makes no sense to keep something when someone else can use it. It just seems morally/ethically “wrong.”

    I’ve done it with electronics (everyone doesn’t need the latest items), clothing, household items. Almost anything that can be recycled like this, is.

    And I am also the beneficiary when others have stuff they don’t really use or need.

    To me, it’s about the “energy” of something and how it needs to be used (I know. Not your thing, but it works for me.) It feels wrong to keep something when someone else could use it, especially in this day and age when so many people need so much.

    I only wish people could recycle space and homes! LOL

    Actually, that’s how I got one of my apartments. Years ago, a friend moved out. I had two newly married friends living in a studio. They needed the one bedroom, so I bowed out and said: Take it.

    years later, they moved across the hall to a bigger apartment. While I was on vacation, they signed a lease for me for their old apartment (the one I “gave” them) and I ended up moving into that original apartment that they were in. Talk about karmic recycling. It was great because of the apartment but also because I was living across from my friends and their son. Many happy years and times.

    If you have trouble letting go of stuff, just consider how many people could benefit by having it. Once I think hard about what others need, it’s much easier to let go. There’s a real joy in knowing others will use something you love/cared about.

  26. posted by Rebecca on

    I like making specialized cakes for our 3 kiddos, but they rarely want the same cake more than 1 year, so I hate to spend the money on buying a pan I use once. A local baking supply shop, about 20 min away, has over 200 different pans they rent out for use. You put a $30 deposit down (which you get back when you return the pan) and pay $5 a day for use of the pan. We go there anyways to get supplies and food colors, my kids like to do scouting trips to check out which cake they might want.

  27. posted by Karen on

    Great post, and who knew that cake decorating shops rented specialty pans? Note for future reference!

    Now, let’s talk about something more important: How did that dinosaur train cake turn out, anyway? (We want photos!)

  28. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Karen — Here’s a picture of the cake I made for him:
    http://assets.unclutterer.com/.....4506_2.jpg

  29. posted by Lynne on

    A very good question – especially since I added to my yarn “collection” (aka “Stash”) today! LOL

  30. posted by Catch the kids on

    What a profound idea!! Everyone wins.

  31. posted by Marie on

    That cake is gorgeous!

  32. posted by Sally on

    I am not decluttering, as a matter of fact, I am running a musical instrument donation bin for my kids. So, who has a full size viola or a 3/4 violin or a harp or a trumpet (or any other orchestra instrument) that we will use before you do? 🙂 We will gladly put them to use for you.

  33. posted by claire7676 on

    Wow, that is a cool cake, and I did not know you could turn cakes on their “sides” like that to sit up like a proper train!

    This article cites EXACTLY the reason why I am going to part with my wedding dress. I LOVE it, but I would rather someone else get use out of it. That, and I plan on trying to sell it and donate the proceeds. A double-win.

    Also, as for freecycle, I signed up for that in the past, and unless you are CONSTANTLY monitoring the email list, you can almost never get anything (something that you’re actually interested in, that is). I’ve used Craig’s List to give away things, personally.

  34. posted by Madeline on

    Funny enough, I just did this to let go of my bike. I’d been holding onto my bike (complete with baby seat) fostering fantasies of riding around with one of my kids happily strapped in the back. Realities of single mommyhood totally screwed that one up. It suddenly dawned on me a friend who lived on the beach would probably love it. I was right and the bike went to her and her hubby and twin girls. Turned around and did the exact same thing with the diaper changing table my baby’s outgrown.

  35. posted by Jessica on

    We recently turned our home office into a bedroom for our toddler daughter, since baby #2 is due in a couple of months! I went through a box of arts & crafts stuff, hobbies I used to enjoy but don’t have time for anymore. I posted an email on our neighborhood list, and someone came and picked up a bag full of jewelry-making supplies and beads, as well as some cross-stitch kits. My husband gave a giant stack of old design magazines (that he would never look at again) to an interested co-worker, and we regularly take car loads of clothes and other things to Goodwill. We also have a pile of old calculators, film cameras, cables, etc. that we plan to take to our county’s next electronics recycling day!

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