How do you get rid of household junk?
When it comes to decluttering, the most natural solution is simply tossing everything in the “no” pile into the trash and calling it a day. But some things should never be thrown in the garbage, and other things are better off being reused. Want to know the best way to get rid of your trash, which could certainly be another person’s treasure? These are donating, recycling or upcycling methods will help you get rid of your junk instead of throwing it all away for good.
It might not be practical to tackle all the clutter throughout your home, or even an entire room, depending on the severity of your situation and what your energy level is. So don’t even try. Just determine what you want to attempt.
Cecilia Anderson, a professional organizer, based in the District of Columbia, says you might decide your goal is “to get rid of 40 percent of the contents of the garage. Or you could limit family keepsakes to four bankers’ boxes’ worth of space in the basement.”
Start by flexing your creative muscles to figure out how you can turn whatever trash you have into something more treasure-like.
Don’t worry, and this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have the skills of a hardcore crafter, carpenter, or handyman. For instance, you can cut old bath towels into small rags that you can use for cleaning, instead of disposable paper towels. Or, try fastening an old sheet or blanket around a lumpy pillow, and using it as a bed for your dog or cat. (They won’t mind that it’s used—promise.)
Sell Used Items Online
People usually think of Craigslist first when considering selling their junk items online. While Craigslist is definitely one good option, there are plenty of other websites and apps that you can use to sell your unwanted stuff.
ThredUp and Poshmark are great for selling (and buying) those old, name brand clothes, shoes, and accessories that may no longer fit you or your style anymore. You can try selling your unwanted electronics on Gazelle, and online marketplaces such as OfferUp and Letgo are great for selling just about anything you don’t need anymore.
If you take some high-quality photos of the items you’d like to sell and write up a detailed description, you’re likely to have some luck making some extra cash from that old desk or filing cabinet on Facebook Marketplace.
You can also try posting your unwanted stuff on social media where you’re more likely to actually know the person you’re selling your old dining set or unused elliptical to instead of inviting a stranger to your home.
Similar to donating items, sometimes “junk” might be valuable to other people. Take a quick photo with your phone or digital camera, and in seconds you can create an informative post about your item that might entice someone who’s been looking for just what you have. It’s true: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and with a little research, you may have one of those diamonds in the rough.
When in doubt, don’t rush a cleanup. If you’re not sure whether to get rid of something, ask yourself this: Do I really need it? Have you used that hand puppet for your son in a while? If he’s now fourteen, it might be a good sign that you really don’t need it anymore. Sentimental value is important, but if it’s not sentimental and you haven’t used it in six months, and there isn’t any real potential for it to be used in the future, it’s probably time to get rid of said item.
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Host a free yard sale / donate
The quickest and easiest way to get rid of anything you don’t want? Place your items outside with a “free” sign. Even if everything isn’t scooped up immediately, it’s a good starting place for your decluttering efforts. Plus, your belongings will hopefully go to someone who needs them more than you do—or at the very least, happy home where they’ll find another life.
When it comes to donating your gently used goods, clothing and shoes are just the beginning. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity will take your furniture, appliances, and even building materials for resale at their nonprofit, home improvement ReStores.
Or, schedule a pickup with your local Salvation Army. It takes everything from clothing to cookware, to cabinets, to cars. You know those bags of shoes, clothes, and toys you’ve had in your trunk for three months that you keep meaning to take to those donation drop boxes you see everywhere? There are more ways to donate your gently used junk, and even more of your junk items you can donate.
National charities like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army will gladly take your old furniture, appliances, electronics, and even exercise equipment off your hands for a good cause.
For large items that won’t fit in a dropbox, you’ll need to take them to the charity’s local donation drop-off center. You can find out where to go by giving them a call or taking a look at the charity’s website. When you donate your used sleeper sofa, washer and dryer, or lawnmower, you can feel good knowing that you are helping people in your community while keeping your junk out of the landfill.
Unwanted furniture, electronic appliances, clothing etc. might be considered as junk, but for gaining goodwill, you can opt for donating the unwanted yet reusable items to the nearby charity organizations. So, while looking to haul all the junk from your home, set these donation items aside, and ask your rubbish removal provider whether they will offer this kind of service.
Set Definable Goals
Getting rid of your junk may seem like a huge task that you just don’t have time for. You keep putting it off because you don’t have an entire weekend to blow on organizing your house. How do you get started? Sit down and set definable goals for yourself. Don’t wait for an entire free Saturday to come around. It probably will never happen. Instead, set small, attainable goals.
Maybe just one room at a time, or one closet. Divide your garage into sections and work on one section at a time. Work for a set amount of time and then come back the next day. It doesn’t matter what goals you set, or how small as long as you set something that will work for you and stick to it.
Throw Out the Garbage
You may be surprised just how much of your stuff is actually useless garbage. Take a big garbage bag with you into your work area of choice. You may find that with a simple, quick once over of the room, and you can fill that garbage bag with useless items.
Broken toys, ripped clothing, dead electronics-for whatever reason we hold onto these things thinking we’ll get around to fixing them one day. But why? If they’ve been sitting in this random room for a while, that means you probably already have replacements for them. You don’t need to worry about fixing them. Just throw them away.
Whether you use a private waste company or your regular garbage collection service is government-sponsored, you’ll need to contact them and request a special collection for them to haul away your bulky junk.
You can expect to pay additional fees for this service, and there are usually restrictions on the size and types of junk you can have picked up. In addition, it can take days to weeks before your junk is able to be removed. If you want to throw away your bulky junk right away, you’ll probably need to load it into a truck yourself and haul it to a landfill or transfer station to drop it off.
If you do decide to throw away your old mattress or recliner at the dump, you should be prepared to show proof of residence to be able to drop off your junk there.
You can also expect to pay fees for disposal. You will likely end up paying around $500 to drop off a truckload of junk, which is pretty easy to do with bulky junk items like furniture and appliances. Or you could pay less than that to have a professional junk removal company like LoadUp haul it away for you, instead.
If you have rooms crammed with clutter, you probably have items that can be immediately ferried to the garbage can without giving it a second thought. Maybe there’s an empty bag of chips lying around (you know, real garbage), or some empty shoe boxes you kept, thinking you might store something in them one day. Get rid of them. Make getting rid of trash one of the first things you do, advises Felice Cohen, a professional organizer based in New York City.
Dried out old paint
If you weren’t already aware, you can’t just toss most paint in any ‘ole garbage can. Cans of latex-based paint have to be disposed of at special drop-off sites. However, if you have a bunch of nearly empty latex paint cans lying around and don’t feel like hauling them to a recycling centre, you can simply dry the paint out.
According to The Family Handman, “Spread a sheet of plastic—painter’s plastic is cheap and readily available at home centres and hardware stores—in an out-of-the-way spot and dump a thin layer of paint on it to dry. When the liquid has evaporated, bundle it up and throw it in the trash.”
Ditch unknown cords
If you come across an unknown cord, label it “unknown” with an expiration date of one year. This gives you enough time to find the match. (For example, in eight months you might find it goes with a holiday decoration). If you find the match, re-label it. If not, toss it!
Sell your unwanted clothing online
There’s no reason for old clothing to just pile up and take up space inside your closet. Nowadays, there are many apps and websites—including Poshmark, ThreadUp, and Depop—that make it easy to sell all your unwanted clothes, especially ones that consignment stores might not take. Most of these sites allow you to post photos of the clothes you’d like to sell, and once you make a sale, they’ll provide you with a pre-paid, pre-addressed shipping label for your package, making the transaction process easy as pie.
Transform ratty clothes into cleaning supplies
While you may want to donate or sell your old clothes, some of them may be too damaged or worn-out to do so. If that’s the case, try transforming them into cleaning supplies. Old clothes can be cut up into smaller pieces and used as rags, saving you a pretty penny on wash cloths and paper towels, and providing a more eco-friendly alternative.
What to do with water bottles
Has your kitchen cabinet turned into a water bottle graveyard? Here’s what you really need. Keep two travel mugs and water bottles per family member who uses at least one per week. Keep only one per family member if they are used less often.
Set up 4 Stations
How did your initial once-over go? Do you still have some time left on your goal for today? Ready to roll up your sleeves and really dig in?
To get started, set up four stations. These can be boxes, bags, or just a designated section of the room.
You should have one for garbage, donation, keep, and relocation. As you go through the room, every item you come across needs to go in one of these four stations, no ifs, and, or buts.
Identify what you want to get rid of. What happens if you find that everything is ending up in the keep pile?
That means you were already pretty organized, to begin with, right? Maybe. Or maybe it means that you’re not being brutal enough.
To help yourself decide where to put each item, make a list of questions. Here are a few good examples:
- Is it broken?
- Is it useful?
- Can you use it?
- Can someone else use it?
- Do you love it?
- Do you feel any sort of negative emotion about it?
Be strict about it. If something is broken, stained, or otherwise unusable, put it in the garbage pile. If something is useful, decide whether it’s useful to you or if it would be better to donate it. Then put it in the appropriate pile.
Sometimes an item may be useful to you, but you hate it or have some other negative emotion attached to it. If that’s the case, get rid of it. You don’t need that negativity in your life.
Sometimes an item may not be useful, but you love it. Perhaps you have a prized collection of x things. If your collection is that precious to you, put it on display somewhere in your home. If you find that you don’t value it enough to set it out and keep it clean, perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to that collection.
If you can, at the start of your junk-removal process, put everything in one area, Cohen says. If moving everything to one area isn’t practical, she suggests labelling the items, so you know what will eventually be going to charity or what you plan to sell and so on.
Put An Expiration Date on It
What about items that might be useful? Or ones that you’re not sure what they belong to?
For example, you may run across a few random cables. You throw them out because you don’t know what they go to. Then when you get the Christmas decorations out in a few months, you discover that you threw away the power cord to your favorite light-up tree.
Designate a spot for those kinds of items and label them with an expiration date. One year should be plenty of time. When the time’s up if you’ve never figured out what the item was for or never needed to use it, get rid of it. If you don’t need it in a year, the chances are that you’re never going to need it.
Find out how to toss it responsibly
You can find a second home for a lot of your stuff, but you’d be hard-pressed to track down a person who wants your half-empty paint can or used up printer cartridges. It’s fine to get rid of this kind of stuff, too—as long as you do it in a way that’s easy on the environment.
That means finding a way to recycle whenever possible. Sure, it’s more work than just throwing the item in question in the trash and forgetting about it. But part of living lightly and being mindful about your consumption is taking responsibility for your stuff—even when it’s time to get rid of it.
So do the extra legwork and find out about green options in your area. The EPA has info on how to safely discard everything from used oil, to batteries, to old tires. And directories like Earth911 makes it easy to find recycling locations nearby.
Donate books to local teachers
Many public school teachers use their own money to stock their classrooms with the necessary supplies for a sufficient learning experience. Especially for elementary school teachers, this includes buying books for a classroom library where students can practice and perfect their reading skills. So if you want to clear out some books from your kids’ or grandkids’ collections, consider donating them to a local teacher.
Compost unusable food and dead plants
There’s no reason to waste food these days, even if it’s spoiled. And that goes for dead plants, too. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 30 percent of what we throw away is food scraps and yard waste, all of which can be composted. Composting spoiled food, dead plants, and food scraps instead of trashing them will help the global overfilled landfill crisis and reduce the amount of methane released from landfills. Take your plastic bags to the grocery store
If you have a bunch of plastic bags lying around that you no longer need, take them to your local grocery store. As the push for reusable bags becomes more mainstream, many grocery stores have started placing drop boxes at their store’s entrance to collect used plastic bags.
Upcycle Your Junk
You can turn your old junk into treasure by getting crafty and using it for other things. While that old, worn-out sofa or ancient laptop computer may have seen better days, a lot of that stuff can still be salvaged. Even if some of the items may not be in good enough shape to be used as what you bought them for, they can still serve a useful purpose somewhere in your home.
If you feel like you don’t have a creative bone in your body, don’t worry. You can cover a lumpy sofa cushion with an old t-shirt to turn it into a pet bed, or transform that rusty tire rim into a fire pit with some garden stones and fire glass.
Once you start to use your imagination, you’ll find that the possibilities are endless. You will feel so much better once you get rid of the junk that is lying around your house doing nothing. If you’re having trouble getting motivated to get started, keep that end goal in mind.
Recycle Your Junk
Many people don’t know this, but a lot of junk items can be recycled, especially things made primarily of metal, wood, fibres, foam, and glass, such as that old mattress, furniture, appliances, and electronics.
Recycling your junk may require more work than just throwing your broken recliner or outdated PC monitor in the garbage and being done with it, but it’s an essential part of being green and living responsibly. You can go online and find information from the EPA on how to safely dispose of just about any junk item you can imagine. Online directories like Earth911 can help you easily find recycling facilities near you, as well.
Because most regular recycling collection services don’t provide pick up of bulky junk like appliances and mattresses, you’ll have to haul those things to the recycling centre yourself. This can take up a lot of your time and have considerable costs involved, especially if you’re going to have to rent a truck and hauling equipment to get your junk there.
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