Clean Your House But Keep Clutter Out of the Landfill
Okay, I did the KonMari house declutter. Now where does all this stuff go?
A question I see people struggling with lately is “where do I donate my stuff?” With the success of the Marie Kondo Netflix show, we’re all getting inspired to clean house a bit. While there’s nothing wrong with toting it all out of the house in one go, some people prefer to find an ideal charitable recipient for their stuff. And what do you do with stuff that isn’t accepted by the usual charities? I’ve been compiling this list as I discover new places.
In the case of almost everything, there’s a better place for it than the landfill.
What do I do with…
Many UPS stores will recycle your bubble wrap and packing peanuts. Some small businesses that ship stuff will also take packing materials donations.
Vintage lace clothing and linens
The Lace Museum in Sunnyvale, California collects these and sometimes sells them for fundraisers. The nonprofit museum is hoping to raise enough money for a permanent museum location.
Donate broken jewelry
I asked this question on a local Facebook group and got connected with a teacher at an elementary school who runs a jewelry studio. She gladly took a bag of costume jewelry that was missing clasps, etc for the students to take apart and create something new.
Donate formal dresses
First, a cause close to my heart! Prom, bridesmaid, quinceanera dresses can go to local charities such as The Princess Project. I started volunteering with them this year, and it’s such a fun cause. The chapter that I work with collects dresses and jewelry under 8 years old. There’s very likely a prom dress donation organization near you.
Send wedding dresses to a good cause
While collecting dresses for The Princess Project, I got asked about donating wedding dresses. This is a tricky one since there are fewer nonprofits dedicated to wedding dresses. Here are the ones I found around the United States.
In Massachusetts, Brides Across America
Michigan brides can donate to thebridesproject.org to support cancer research.
Virginia, the nonprofit St. Anthony’s Bridal accepts wedding dresses.
Charities that take cosmetics
First of all, send all those mascara wands to Appalachian Wildlife Refuge. Other used cosmetics should be tossed if they’re old, but if they’re new they can go to women’s shelters. Call and ask first!
Donate clothes and household items
My go-to is usually to donate to a locally-run thrift shop because I believe they do good in the community. There’s also the strategy of putting it all out on the curb and posting a “curb alert” on Craigslist. Neighbors will come help themselves to your free yard sale and you’ll have way less to haul off to the donation center. The downside is no tax write off, but the convenience factor seems to outweigh that for a lot of people.
Recycle old mattresses
Some Goodwill locations will recycle mattresses free or for a small fee. Goodwill of Silicon Valley says that 90% of mattress materials can get repurposed and tens of thousands of mattresses get diverted from the landfill every year through Goodwill’s disposal program.
Recycle broken electronics
Cables and small electronics such as cameras and cell phones can be brought to Best Buy for free recycling. Local computer shops will often take old laptops for free recycling as well.
Donate old towels and blankets
These are often accepted at dog rescue organizations. I found a neighbor through the Nextdoor app who works with a rescue and gave bags of old towels to her. I made sure to trim any ripped or frayed edges before I dropped them off.
Donate old books
My strategy to purge books is to canvas the neighborhood and patronize the Little Free Libraries, but that takes dedication. I can’t unload my entire box of antique books at one lone Little Free Library, you see–they need to be parceled out around town. I’ve read that prisons and women’s shelters take books but I haven’t tried this myself. Books that are musty or outdated can be composted or recycled. It feels weird at first to dispose of books, but sometimes it’s the only option.
Working in the magazine industry, I amassed a collection of magazines that was ever-growing. Since Reuse comes before Recycle, I wanted to offer the magazines to someone who could collage with them first. The very first memory care center I called wanted them for their residents.
These alternatives to donating to Goodwill are often where your donated items can do the most good. I know many people try to avoid donating to Goodwill in favor of smaller local charities, but it’s way better to bring stuff there than to throw it away. Goodwill also does fabric recycling, so it’s a great solution for clothing with holes that can’t be resold! I drop off bags there a few times a year.
Do you have a suggestion for the list? Please leave it in the comments! I’ll be updating this post as I find more places.