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  • Jenica Barrett

The Zero Waste Way to Get Rid of Stuff After Decluttering

Updated: Mar 5, 2020

We all love to start the New Year with a clean house and a nice decluttering of the closets (or at least I do!). It always amazes me once I start pulling out the boxes how much stuff I actually don't need anymore. And that stuff adds up! Last year when moving from Portland to Bellingham, I filled up close to 10 grocery bags full of stuff I didn't want to take with me.

So when you find yourself with a pile of things to purge, where should you send them? Do they belong in the trash can? Donated? Recycled? It's tempting to take the easy way out and fill up your can full of perfectly good items...but I'll encourage you to instead find a zero waste way to declutter your home! Here is a guide to rehoming items you are ready to pass on.

One man's trash is another man's treasure, and the by-product from one food can be perfect for making another. Yotam Ottolenghi

Clothing + Accessories

Thrift Stores - Clothing is just about the easiest thing to rehome because so many places accept it. Just to give you some examples of the many places that will accept donations of clothing, shoes, and jewelry, in Seattle there is Goodwill, Value Village, Buffalo Exchange, and St. Vincent de Paul. Some communities will also have thrift stores run by non-profits to help fund their mission, so check for those!

Buy Nothing - If you haven't yet joined your Buy Nothing Group on Facebook, now is the perfect time! It is a hyper-local gifting economy and perfect for offering up items you no longer need, including clothing. Just post a description with general sizes and someone will surely be happy to try them.

Community Shelters - Many shelters will take clothing donations, especially outdoor clothing and winter gear. Always make sure to check though before dropping items off!

Sell Them Online - For items that are in good condition, it might be worth it to try to sell some of them online via websites like ThredUp or Postmark.

Donation Town - If you live in a large city in the U.S., Donation Town is a great website to search for charities that will come pickup items from your doorstep! No need to take a trip yourself.

Clothing + Shoes (that are beyond wearable!)

Hopefully you find that you keep many items until they are filled with holes and stains. If you're ready to purge those on too, there are some places that will take clothes and shoes that are beyond wearable or repairable.

USAgain - These free drop-box locations accept clothing and shoes in any condition. They grind them up and process them into insulation and stuffing for furniture. The drop-boxes are located across many cities in the U.S. and free to access.

Nike - The Reuse-A-Shoe program through Nike offers drop-off options at many of their stores. The shoes are typically processed into turf for sports fields.

Blue Jeans Go Green - For jeans that are too ripped up or stained to donate, the Blue Jeans Go Green initiative has a variety of partners that offer drop-off options, such as American Eagle, Levis, and Madewell. You can also get a free shipping label from Zappos to mail your jeans in for recyling.

Make Cleaning Rags - Another great option for shirts that are too stained to use anymore is to cut them up into little rags. These rags can be used to clean your house or make a zero waste tissue box.

Furniture + Home Appliances

Thrift Stores - Assuming your furniture is in relatively good condition and your appliances still work, most of the thrift stores such as Good Will and Value Village will accept them as well.

Habitat for Humanity - If you have gently used furniture, home appliances, or building materials, Habitat for Humanity will accept donations. They then resell the items to fund their projects!

The Arc - Gently used furniture and clothing can be donated to many chapters of The Arc, an organization that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. To find out if your local chapter accepts donations of physical items, contact them directly.

Donation Town - For charities in large cities that will come pick up furniture from your house, visit Donation Town.

Sell Them Online - Through Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, it can be very easy to resell your furniture and appliances. It will take a little more time than simply donating them, but also might give you some cash in return.


Goodwill - Whether you have items that still work or items that are broken, Goodwill will accept them! Just make sure to let them know if the item is broken. They have partnered with E-Cycle Washington to offer electronic recycling at their stores for free.

Donation Town - For information on charities that will come pick up your electronics, visit Donation Town.

Best Buy - National wide Best Buy offers free recycling for a variety of electronic devices and home appliances. For those items that Goodwill won't take and are beyond repair, visit your local store to drop them off for recycling.

Expired Food

Food Banks - Many food banks will take canned food up to two or three years past its expiration date. The exceptions are usually any type of baby food and canned tomatoes (apparently the expiration dates on those items really do matter!).

Buy Nothing - I have given away many expired items to my neighbors through Buy Nothing. Some people are not as worried about expiration dates as others. I have even seen people take cake mixes over 10 years old! Just make sure to always disclose that it's expired before posting.

Toys + Children's Things

Thrift Stores - Just like clothing, most thrift stores will accept some form of toys. Places like Goodwill and Value Village have large toy sections. But please, no broken toys!

West Side Baby - I've included a Seattle based store on here because I want to promote how much they are doing for our communities. As a home-based speech therapist, we actually partner with West Side Baby to provide our families with toys, diapers, clothes, and home items free-of-charge. There are so many organizations that accept donations for children in Seattle, and across most communities, so do a quick google search!

Buy Nothing - If you haven't figured it out yet, Buy Nothing can be a great place to give away just about anything! When you pass along toys via these groups, you are giving them to a child right in your neighborhood. And helping a family cut down the costs of raising children!

Legos - Unless you have kept your children's legos in a complete set, some thrift shops won't resell them. The Brick Recycler though takes mail-in donations of legos and redistributes them to children around the world.

Crayons - The Crayon Initiative collects used crayons via mail and then melts them down to make new ones. The new ones are sent to schools and organizations that need coloring supplies!

Things to Recycle

Before you go and assume that "junk" belongs in the trash, make sure to check out some recycling options! Here are some of the bigger items you might find hiding around your house that you want to pass along.

Holiday Lights - Sets of Christmas lights that have burnt out can be sent to HolidayLED to be recycled. Some recycling companies will also offer curbside pickup of holiday lights (such as in Bellingham, WA) but always check before leaving them on the curb!

Markers/Pens - If you've got dried out pens and markers filling up your desk drawers, send them to The Pen Guy. He makes beautiful art pieces out of all kinds of writing instruments.

Through programs like TerraCycle, you may also be able to recycle old cosmetic products, toothbrushes, wine corks, and other items hiding behind your cupboards.

Remember, cleaning out your house is a chance to rehome items, not add to our growing landfills.

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