When the community yard sale rolled around this year, I just couldn’t muster the excitement for it. It is a way to get rid of stuff, but I didn’t have the heart to haul my discards outside at 6 a.m. only to stand in the heat for hours and haggle with shoppers over a buck or two. And then, at the end of the day, there’s all the stuff that remains.
The good news is that there are so many alternatives for getting rid of things that are no longer useful — including many things that have been hard to shed in the past. Instead of taking things to the landfill (where in many cases you will be charged to get rid of things) these solutions not only allow you to find a good home for your old stuff, but you also may make some money, or at least get a tax deduction for donating it.
For me, they have helped me ditch a lot of cast-offs and feel good about it too.
Here are my favorite places to go when saddled with hard-to-get-rid-of things:
Large household goods and appliances
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Craigslist.com: If you haven’t used the free online classified ad service, you’re missing out on a wonderful marketplace where you can buy or sell almost anything or service you can think of. But it is ideal for selling large furniture and appliances that you don’t want to move yourself. I sold my refrigerator and electric stove through the site. The woman who bought the refrigerator had always wanted a side-by-side model and this was the first one she’d ever been able to afford. That made me feel good. Plus, she had strong family members who hauled the appliances out of my house, loaded them on a truck and drove away. I had zero heavy lifting to do.
ReStore: Another destination for used household items and building supplies are these retail outlets that generate funds for Habitat for Humanity. A friend at who volunteers at the Restore near her home in Tennessee introduced me to this option. I was astonished at the array of things that they sold, including appliances, chandeliers, desk lamps, building materials like doors and stone, towel racks, and more. (This story is about getting rid of things, but of course, I managed to buy something: a vintage Underwood typewriter for just $20. They usually sell for hundreds.) Elin Nordegren, the ex-wife of pro golfer Tiger Woods, donated Sub-Zero refrigerators, temperature-controlled wine coolers and a large fountain to the charity, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Freecycle: When stuff doesn’t sell, or isn’t handy to donate, Freecycle is your friend. Post your item on the site — I always add the disclaimer that I can’t deliver it — and you’ll often find someone will gratefully adopt your item. No tax deduction here, but definitely a way to feel better about shedding belongings. As the website explains:
It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.
Mattresses, electronics and toxic waste
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Of course there are items – like mattresses and older appliances – that just won’t sell and are tough to donate. We all have our mattress discard horror stories. That’s where Earth911.com is a lifesaver. Type in your zip code and the materials you want to recycle — paint, electronics, motor oil, leaded paint, batteries, a mattress — and you’ll find a recycling location. You can also consult the Steel Recycling Institute regarding appliances and similar items.
Professional clothes, eyeglasses and shoes
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I like to give my more professional clothes such as dresses and suits to DressforSuccess, an organization that helps needy women get a leg up in their career by providing the clothes and other types of support. CareerGear is another option for men’s and women’s clothing.
Have old eyeglasses lying around? Seems a shame to throw them out, and here’s a great alternative: The service organization Lions Clubs International runs a program that collects used eyeglasses to distribute to people in need. The Lions Recycle for Sight program website explains various easy ways of donating yours.
If you have a lot of random stuff that you want to donate, you can always bring it to The Salvation Army or Goodwill, which have collection points and stores in most communities. To find the nearest site, go to Goodwill locator or the Salvation Army donation site.
All of these nonprofit organizations help provide goods to people who may not be able to afford them otherwise, and they raise money to help in other ways–providing jobs and training and other services through the money raised. In return for your contribution, you get a deduction at tax time.
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Pet supplies are often difficult to donate. Look at the Animal Humane Society site to find out all about pet supply donations and recycling.
Books, CDs and DVDs
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I like to see my used books, CDs and DVDs go to good homes, so I often donate them to the local library. If you want to explore this option, find a list of area libraries here. You can also donate books to these worthy nonprofit organizations that distribute them to different populations: BooksforSoldiers, BooksforAfrica, BooksforAmerica and BookstoPrisoners.
If you have the patience to sell books, there are many sites that can help you, including Cash4Books, BlueRocketBooks and Ebay’s Half.com. Wonder how to get the most cash for your books? BookScouter.com will let you compare what your book will bring at various sites. Sign onto Amazon’s Trade-In to see how much they will credit you for items you’ve bought from them including books.
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Cellphones should not go into regular trash, because they contain toxins that harm the environment and put landfill workers at risk.
But you can sell your old cellphone. Check out “5 Tips to Squeeze the Most Cash From Your Old Phone.”
I could have made a few dollars off my old cellphone, but I decided to donate it instead. You’ve probably seen collection boxes for organizations that donate phones to crime victims. Those are great options, but I chose CellphonesforSoldiers.
What’s your strategy for shedding stuff that you don’t want anymore? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.