Decluttering Your Home?

Eco-friendly solutions for 5 items you can’t donate

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s beginning to look a lot like spring. I know I am enjoying the warmer temperatures and longer days.

And if you’re like me, you’ve been throwing open some windows and sorting out closets. Spring and cleaning go hand-in-hand, like PB&J. Or, like gin and tonic. Pick your poison.

Most of us have stuff that we don’t want or need anymore. Some items, like clothing in good condition, are totally donate-able. Other items might give you reason to pause. “Should I throw this out? Does anyone want it?”

I feel like the U.S. is divided into two camps: people who throw everything away and people who throw nothing away. If you’re in the latter group, this article is for you.

Some people donate straight-up junk because they can’t bear to toss it out themselves. So, they box it up and leave that task to someone else. (Don’t be that person.)

As a result, workers at Goodwill and charity shops have to sort through A LOT of crap. Plenty of donations don’t even make it on the floor. Because unfortunately, some people treat their donation box like a de facto dumpster.

The 5 things you should never donate

In my experience, there are 5 items that you should never donate to Goodwill and charity shops. These things either shouldn’t be used anymore or the general public isn’t going to be interested:

  • Textbooks
  • Recalled and worn out baby gear
  • Clothing and textiles that are stained, ripped, or in need of repair
  • Single socks
  • Knick-knacks and chintzy souvenirs

These items don’t necessarily have to head for the landfill, though. Here’s what you can do with them besides just throwing them in the trash.

1. Textbooks

If a textbook is not the current edition, it’s already outdated. No one wants it, and that includes your local library. So please don’t anonymously “donate” your ancient chemistry textbook by placing it in the return bin. Librarians have no time for your dump-and-dash.

If you can, cut or tear the cover off the book. Then you can recycle the paper.

If you really think you have a gem of a book, search for it on eBay. Don’t just look at active listings. Take a peek at “sold” listings, if there are any. See what the textbook sold for. Then decide if it’s worth your time to try and sell the book.

Edited to add: I forgot about Books for Africa. This organization accepts certain textbooks that meet specific criteria.

2. Recalled and worn out baby gear

Mesh playpens that are showing wear and drop-side cribs should no longer be used. Some realtors will use certain baby gear and furniture for house stagings, so long as they still look good. You can also see if any photographers or theaters could use them for background props.

If nothing else, you might able to recycle these items, especially if you are willing to take them apart. Some recycling facilities will take metal and plastic.

3. Clothing and textiles that are stained, ripped, or in need of repair

If you don’t want to use older clothing and textiles for rags, see if any crafty people want the items for free. They may be able to use the buttons or scraps of fabric. Just be clear about what you are giving away.

Some animal shelters will take old towels and blankets. Don’t assume your local shelter does, though. Call first to see if they are in need of anything.

4. Single socks

I know what you’re thinking. “The match for this sock is here somewhere.” Except it’s not. Just like the proverbial dad who went out to buy cigarettes, the matching sock is never coming back.

Adult-sized socks can be worn over your hand while dusting furniture. If you travel, you can also store jewelry, coins, and other small items inside socks in your suitcase. Random socks can also be used as protective wrapping for any fragile seasonal decorations that you store away.

5. Knick-knacks and chintzy souvenirs

The best way to deal with cheap, plastic schtuff is to not buy it in the first place. But I totally get how it happens. You were on spring break, went drunk-shopping, and came home with five snow globes and a shot glass. So what now?

You have to ask yourself, “How useful is this item? And what are the odds another sober human being wants it? You can always place a “Free” box in front of your door or in your yard and see if you have any takers.

Another solution, if you have the money, is to order a Terracycle Zero Waste Box. Terracycle is a company that recycles everything from toothbrushes to action figures to cigarette butts. Their boxes are not cheap, but you can team up with another household to buy and share a box. (This is not an affiliate link. I just think Terracycle is awesome.)

Getting your unwanted items into the right hands means few things end up in a landfill. But the absolute best and guaranteed way to have less garbage is to buy less. If you don’t bring stuff into your house in the first place, you won’t have to sort through it five years from now.

Woman. Mother. Writer.

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