As soon as the snow melts, I’m ready to trade my parkas and boots for shorts and flip flops. This means time for my bi-annual closest swap, which, as an organizing fanatic, is one of my favorite times. This is also a great time to purge my unused/unwanted items and send them off to charity.
- Only donate items that are clean and in good condition. Many charities raise money by selling their items at thrift stores. If you’re thinking it’s in good condition but just needs a small repair, then repair it. If it’s not worth your time, it’s not worth the charity’s either.
- Check to see what items the charity is accepting. Most charities have a list of acceptable and not acceptable items. Mattresses and large appliances are commonly not accepted. This is where Freecycle or Kijiji can be useful (see below).
- No one wants your old textbooks. Unless the edition is still be used in schools, your textbooks are worthless. I have done a lot of research on this. The library doesn’t want them, Goodwill doesn’t want them, and developing nations don’t want them (too expensive to ship). Better World Books will take them, if you are willing to pay for the shipping costs. I heard that somewhere they will recycle them into shingles, but I haven’t found a place who will accept them yet. For now, they go into regular paper recycling.
Picking a Charity
- Goodwill and Canadian Diabetes’s Clothesline are my favorite places to donate, because it’s easiest on me. They take (almost) EVERYTHING, because they sell it in the store, and they will even pick up from you.
- For teen or “cool” clothes, I give them to YESS. It’s pretty hard for them to get clothing for their clients. Image you are teenager who has to accept donated clothes. Mom jeans and grandpa’s sweater are not helping.
- If I do a big purge and have a lot of good condition clothing (like when the husband lost 25 lbs, and he got rid of entire wardrobe), then I’ll give it all to a nearby shelter. Mustard Seed, Bissell Center, and Boyle Street give them directly to their clients.
- Freecycle is best if you have a big, damaged or unusual item. People will take almost anything if it free. If you have an item that needs a repair, just be clear about it in your description. This is a great litmus test, because if no one wants it for free, then its garbage. Charities won’t normally take mattresses (because of bed bugs and cleanliness), sofas, or large appliances (because of storage and delivery), but if yours is in good condition, then offer it up. You can also search the wanted ads, maybe you can answer a request. Here are some specific Freecycle tips:
- Post a detailed description. The more details the better so you don’t get bothered with email questions.
- Post a general location. Also to prevent more questions.
- Only respond to polite, well written inquiries. In my experience, people who respond in “text language” or with poor spelling or grammar are not reliable.
- Arrange an indirect pick up. This is more for your convenience, but it’ll work for safety too. Once I find a taker, I tell them I’ll leave it at my front door for them after a specified time. Since it’s free, they sometimes flake out, so I don’t want to be waiting around for them. Plus, they are strangers and I don’t need to meet them in my home.
I have Freecyled broken bicycles, old (but working) washer and dryer, unused/uninstalled carpet, rain barrel, hockey net…
- The Reuse Center takes all your weird bits. If it can be used for a craft, they will take it.
- The ReStore (Habitat for Humanity) accepts building materials, books, collectibles, antiques, and artwork. They will pick up large items, and I understand they will even uninstall kitchen cabinets or fixtures.
- The Eco Station is the last stop. They take your household hazardous waste, anything broken, big, landfill worthy, and recyclables.
Not sure who’ll take what? Check the Reuse & Recycle Directory. They can even tell you where to take your llama. No seriously, type llama into the search.