Donate and Recycle

It’s spring cleaning time, and if you’re anything like me, there are a lot of items that you’d like to give away, but it’s not as simple as loading the car up for a trip to Goodwill.

This is what happens to me when I go through closets, boxes in the basement, my office: “I know I was saving this magazine for something, I’ll have to put it aside and see what it was…” or “Maybe my niece would like this bracelet that I haven’t worn in twenty years” or “I didn’t like this shampoo, but one of my friends might…”

You can see how this doesn’t exactly make decluttering projects easy. Sure, the quickest way to get rid of stuff is to toss it in the trash. But most stuff IS usable, and I don’t want to send anything to the landfill that might be useful to someone else. So decluttering can be a much more complicated and lengthy process when you’re concerned about where all this trash is going.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the past few years as I’ve been slowly getting rid of STUFF…

1) If you’re ready to let go of something, put it in a box or an area you’ve designated as such. Don’t mix it back in with your current wardrobe, etc.

2) Hold clothing swaps. That super-cute top you just love but never wear might be perfect for someone else.

3) Baby steps and the 15 minute rule work better than trying to declutter your entire house in one weekend.

4) Decluttering is an ongoing process and it’s important to keep an eye on what’s coming in.

5) Don’t be too ruthless, you might actually regret getting rid of every single thing your parents or grandparents left you when they died. By the same token, you don’t need to keep everything.

One thing I’ve always had trouble getting rid of is toiletries. Goodwill won’t take them, but just because I wasn’t crazy about the scent of a lotion doesn’t mean it should be tossed into the trash. I’ve found that women’s shelters will take opened shampoo, lotion, and makeup, as long as you don’t include that neon eyeshadow you’ve had since Madonna burst onto the scene. The items in the photo above were in our bathroom cupboards, and most of them were perfectly usable, but for one reason or another I wasn’t using them anymore. So I included these bags with some clothing that I donated to My Friend’s Place in Hollywood, an organization that feeds and clothes homeless youth. If you have nearly full bottles of shampoo or lotion, I’m sure a similar organization near you would be happy to take them.

As for the empty or nearly-empty bottles and jars, Origins will accept containers of any brand and recycle them for you. Just drop them off at any store location.

Used tennis shoes are another item I’ve always wondered if there was any alternative to tossing in the trash. I’ve been bringing mine to the drop off centers at Nike Reuse-a-Shoe. They take even the most broken-in old running shoes and turn them into basketball courts, playgrounds, and sports tracks. And they don’t have to be Nike brand! So your old sneakers never have to go into the landfill again. Click here to find a drop-off center near you.

Naomi at Simpler Living wrote a great post called Eight Ways to Share Your Stuff with the World, and if there’s anything you’d like to find a home for but you’ve run out of ideas, check it out. She covers everything from books, magazines, and CDs to clothing, sports gear, and furniture, along with those miscellaneous items we all have. I’m sure you’ll be more inspired to get rid of your things when you know they’ll be useful to someone else.

Are you spring cleaning? Do you have any tips for getting rid of stuff you no longer use? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section.


  1. Jeanne says

    I know this is nothing new, but I just discovered freecycle. OMG, I am getting rid of so much stuff this way. I especially liked listing things that Goodwill won’t take; such as, houseplants, potting soil, chicken wire, etc. The best part is that I don’t have to do anything but put it on the porch for pickup.

    • Angela says

      Jeanne, I too am a big fan of freecycle. It’s great for those odds and ends that we no longer need, as you say. I have gotten rid of old magazines that way, which is one more usage before they hit the recycling bin. And that’s a great idea to use it for gardening supplies and projects. In fact, I did get two tomato cages through freecycle, and I think I’ll pass them on the same way since I receive so many tasty tomatoes in our CSA I can’t possibly compete with on flavor.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. says

    Thank you so much for this post Angela, both for responsibly passing on unwanted items, and encouraging others to do so.

    In addition to charitable thrift donation and co-hosting seasonal clothing swaps, I started a freecycle shelf in our office kitchen, where people have left unwanted CDs, DVDs, perfume, etc., all scooped up (if not given to charitable thrift). Someone also started a book swap.

    As for the unwanted beauty items, lotions and such are great to leave in the ladies’ room. Women have left items like nail polish too they didn’t want and someone took them.

    • Angela says

      Catherine, That is such a great idea if you work in an office to make a freecycle shelf, and leaving lotion in the ladies’ room is brilliant! There is almost always a better choice than the trash can. Notice I say ALMOST because there are some things that are trash, no matter how you slice it.

      Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation!

  3. says

    I just went to a clothes swap and was able to get rid of a bunch of clothes I never wear – and it was great to see my friends, happily taking my old items back home!

    Love the idea from the comment above re: leaving lotion in the ladies’ room. I work in an all-female office, and I bet that would go over well.

    I also find that the more stuff I get rid of, the more I use the things I own. It also helps me remember what I do own – once it’s not buried under piles of stuff I never use.

    • Angela says

      Annabelle- I love seeing my friends wearing and loving my clothes that I wasn’t wearing- it’s one of my favorite things about a clothing swap. I agree that getting rid of stuff helps me use more of what I do own and not forget about it. The worst is not being able to even find something, that’s when I really know I’ve got too much.

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. says

    We’ve been doing a lot of decluttering recently too. Its so refreshing to get rid of things that were just taking up space! Thanks for the tip on getting rid of old sneakers! I was going through sneakers frequently thanks to playing softball in college and all our extra workouts…they look good on the outside so I dont want to throw them away, but any time I wear them my feet are killing me in less than an hour! I’m going to look for a Nike drop off now!

    • Angela says

      Beth Anne, I do love the space after all the effort! And it’s so much easier to find things! I’m hoping for eventually not cluttering in the first place. Glad to put you in touch with the Nike drop off, it’s brilliant! I go through a lot of running shoes too.
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Jean says

    See if your local library has a booksale as a fundraiser–our Friends of the Library holds a major one twice a year, and you can drop donations off at any library branch. They are happy to take books, audio books, cd’s, dvd, vhs tapes and magazines. I’ve noticed at sales that magazines such as Popular Mechanics, and sewing and quilting magazines are very popular, probably because the information in them is timeless and new magazines are expensive.

    • Angela says

      Jean, That’s a good idea. My husband and I donate books and cds to our local library all through the year. And you’re right about the magazines, that’s why I have no problem giving them away on freecycle. A lot of the info is “recycled” over and over, and is always relevant.

  6. says

    Hi Angela-
    We also have an area in our breakroom for freecycle items.
    As for clothing and household items i donate them to The Woman’s Resource Center Shop.
    I also purchas clothing there, I’ve scored some really nice items.
    Perhaps I should send you a photo for Thrifty Threads.

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