Donate, Sell, Recycle: Easy, Trash-Free Ways to Clear Your Clutter
BY CHRISTIE BRYDON
So, you missed out on that whole “spring cleaning” thing, or maybe you’re cutting down to prep for a big move. Looking around, you see unworn clothing in your closet, tons of cables for devices you no longer use, and the guitar you just never got around to learning how to play.
If you’re compelled to throw everything in a trash bag and never see it again, we feel you. But there are so many easy ways to get those goods to a better place.
You have a few sustainable options: donating, selling, and recycling. You could even get a tax write-off (cha-ching). Here’s a quick guide to organizing and making the most of your unwanted clothes, furniture, and…stuff.
WHAT TO GIVE
Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure. Like that Panic at the Disco CD you’re still hanging on to.
Clothes. Anything from t-shirts, to formal wear, to shoes can be easily donated or sold. But first, if you’re looking at something that’s torn, stained, or otherwise damaged, resist the urge to donate it and let someone else handle the fix. Take salvageable items to the tailor, cobbler, or bust out your own needle and thread. When in good condition, these things are perfect for donation or sale, but keep in mind that most places do not accept undergarments or swimwear.
Furniture. There is always a thriving market for furniture on Craigslist, so if you’re flexible on time and pick-up, try posting anything from bed frames to floor lamps. When it comes to these posts, there’s nothing too big or too small. While many thrift stores do accept furniture, they may need notice beforehand to ensure that they have the space or assistance required.
Bedding. When you’ve upgraded to a snooze-tastic mattress, it can be tricky to find a way to donate your old one. Due to sanitation guidelines, some organizations do not accept bedding, so be sure to check before you donate. Some will happily take sheets and comforters, but cannot accept mattresses or box springs. You can also check women’s shelters and animal shelters, which may have different guidelines (and will surely put your pre-loved threads to good use).
Unless you are weaving the world’s most uncomfortable sweater, heave ho all those rando cords and cables.
Electronics. Laptops, music players, and batteries do not belong in the landfill. (Toxins could leach into the water supply.) If you have an old iPod, MacBook, or Apple product, you can work with their e-recycle partner, with many devices scoring you free shipping, packaging, and an Apple gift card. Best Buy accepts a wide range of electronics for recycling at no cost, and will take away your old appliances for a small fee when you buy new ones. Regardless of where you’re sending your appliances, just be sure to clear your data first.
Sports gear. If your bike has been sitting, unused, for months and will never be taken for a ride again, go ahead and donate it. However, if you want to keep it around and make some cash, post it on Spinlister. Think of it as the Zipcar for bikes, surfboards, and snow gear, where people can rent by the hour, day, or week.
WHERE TO GIVE
Donating old household items and furniture so someone else can use them = good karma.
Donation bins. They’re conveniently located at gas stations and city sidewalks, requiring a simple drop-off of your clothes—no appointment or paperwork. While all donation bins should handle your clothing, be aware that some are for nonprofits and some are run by for-profit organizations that simply resell the clothing. Companies like Planet Aid and Thrift Land USA resell clothing for a profit, while Goodwill and Big Brother Big Sister bins benefit charity. (While it’s entirely legal to sell the clothes, it is illegal for these organizations to present themselves as charities.)
That bright orange fleece seemed like such a good idea at the time….
Thrift stores. Speaking of Goodwill, for a giveaway with a mission, donate your goods at thrift stores. Two of the most common? Goodwill helps people find employment through education and training, while The Salvation Army is an evangelical Christian organization funding homeless shelters and disaster relief. Plus, you could be eligible for a tax write-off based on weight or number of items. See a common list of accepted items here.
Consignment stores. For-profit stores like Buffalo Exchange buy clothing selectively and only during the appropriate season (meaning they’re unlikely to take your winter gear in July). While it’s great to make a buck off your unwanted wardrobe, there’s a chance you’ll leave the store only one item lighter.
Animal shelters. Sheets, pillows, and towels can be a huge help to pets in shelters. Find a shelter near you and call ahead to confirm what types of bedding or linens they’re able to accept.
Right at your door. Some organizations will schedule monthly or on-demand pick-ups in residential areas. Simply pack up a box or two and put them at your door or curb at the designated date and time. Give Back Box provides free shipping labels so you can pack any unwanted clothes or household items into any cardboard box, attach the label, and it’ll get sent to the nearest Goodwill. Big Brother Big Sister offers curbside pick-up. Simply find the dates when BBBS will be in your area and prepare boxes for pick-up at your curb or front entrance.
Farewell party favors. If you’re reducing your load in advance of a move, you’re gonna have one last hurrah before you go, so give it a second purpose. Put a (kind of dull, but super practical) spin on party favors with all the random odds and ends that you don’t want to move, but aren’t worth selling: Tupperware, cleaning supplies, and that random drawer full of pens and Post-it notes. Tell everyone to take as much as they want and it’s a win-win—they score freebies and the landfill is spared some usable items. You’ll end up as the host or hostess with the leastest…in a good way.