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As Your Kids Go Off To College, Declutter and Donate


As young adults start to get ready to head off to college, parents are faced with a room that may have many years’ worth of memories, but also a lot of clutter.  This could be the perfect time to repurpose that room, for office space or part-time guest room, or at least clean it up.  Morris Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore is the perfect place to donate good used books, furniture, lamps, rugs and more.

Here are a few easy steps to get the project started

1. Set a reasonable goal.

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When you’re starting out think of how the room could be used in your student’s absence. Would it make a good home office, guest room, or arts and crafts studio? Then the room can be shared with your child during school breaks. If that’s the case, you might leave a dresser and place to sleep in it.  Just be sure to discuss the project beforehand, so there are no hard feelings or concerns.

2. Start early.

If possible, begin decluttering several weeks or months before your child leaves home and agree together on a date when you plan to have the project finished. If it’s tough to get started, set aside a specific day to begin, or set aside a certain number of hours a week to stay on track.

Bring in garbage bags for items that will head to the trash. Use boxes for goods that can be donated or sold, and set up storage bins for your child’s possessions not needed at school right away.   Also use plastic bins to hold the items your child wants to take to school. This will make it easy to see exactly what is going along.

3. Let go creatively.

Keep in mind that college dorm rooms tend to be tiny so you may want to limit the number of bins and suitcases to pack. 

If time allows, go through every piece of clothing your child owns. If it hasn’t been worn in a year, it probably doesn’t need to go to school – or even stay at home.

Surplus clothing and hobby items might sell well before school. Donating furniture, lamps, rugs and other items to Morris Habitat’s ReStore will not only help Morris Habitat but will also provide you with a tax deduction for next years’ taxes.

Freecycle and eBay are other options for extra items. And Listia allows your child to trade belongings no longer needed for items that could be useful in college. If there isn’t time, put the items in a plastic bin and have your child sell them later, such as at the holiday or Spring Break.

4. Focus on memories.

Rather than keeping boxes of school projects, awards, uniforms, and decorations, sort through the accumulated items and pick out the best ones to keep. Get a special box, label it and ask your kid to put in the most special pieces, as well as cards and letters. Then put it away in the attic or a closet, for a future trip down memory lane

Consider framing some of the most memorable pieces of artwork, photographs, mementos, and postcards. Hang several of these, either in the room or another area, to remember your child’s earlier years.

5. Know when to stop.

When a child leaves for school, especially as a freshman in college, it can be an emotional time. If you start decluttering and find it too stressful, give the project some distance. Set a time to readdress the room and your child’s belongings, such as during the first summer break from college, when emotions have settled.  You may be able to sort clearly and make better long-term decisions by waiting.

To learn more about Morris Habitat and how you can help, please go to or call 973-891-1934. To donate to the ReStore call 973-366-3358.



About Morris Habitat for Humanity

Morris Habitat for Humanity is part of a global, nonprofit housing organization operated on Christian principles by building homes, communities and hope. Morris Habitat is dedicated to eliminating substandard housing locally and worldwide through constructing, rehabilitating and preserving homes; advocating for fair and just housing policies; and providing training and access to resources to help families improve their living conditions.  Habitat for Humanity was founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should live in dignity and safety, and that decent shelter in decent communities should be a matter of conscience and action for all. Morris Habitat welcomes volunteers and supporters from all backgrounds and serves people in need of decent housing regardless of race or religion.  

Since 1985 Morris Habitat has served 305 families though home ownership opportunities, home preservation, and international home building programs. During the past year Morris Habitat has completing 5 units, with 15 under construction, and finished 10 home repair projects. Thirty eight projects are in the pipeline for 2015-2017.  In addition, proceeds from the ReStore, opened May 2007, have built 14 homes and diverted 4,400 tons of useable material out of landfills.  Located at 274 South Salem Street, Randolph. Store hours: Tues 12 - 8 p.m., Wed & Fri 10  - 6 p.m., Thur 10 - 8 p.m., Sat 10 - 5 p.m.  


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