Spring cleaning: How to sell, donate or recycle unwanted items

Goodwill donations

Goodwill Donate Movement (© John Froschauer/AP Images)

If you can’t smell that fresh spring air, then maybe it’s time to air out your mattress and living space! Like houses and cars, college dorms need spring cleaning too. After all those “what to bring to college” tips you got before you moved in, I’d bet few people have suggested to you “what to get rid of.” Here are some tips to clean out your dorm room or apartment not just for the spring, but any season, especially on move-out date at the end of the school year.

Sort clutter

What exactly is clutter? Your roommate may think your pile of DVDs and video games is an eyesore, but to you it’s a treasure. Take a minute to sort through your collections. If you haven’t watched, listened or played with them since you moved in last August, maybe it’s time to store them away from your immediate living space or get rid of them altogether. The same goes for your clothes, shoes and accessories. Just think, if you eliminate what you don’t use or are tired of, you’ll have room for new stuff!

Consider donation

Just because you’re sick and tired of looking at clothes that are a year old, doesn’t mean they’re ready for the trash heap. Consider donating your clean and undamaged clothes, furniture and appliances to a thrift shop or church charity. They can resell the items to people in need and make some money to do other charitable work.

In her March 31, 2008 article at ApartmentTherapy.com, “How To: Donate and Recycle Common Household Items,” Sarah Coffey breaks down the various items that the Salvation Army, Goodwill and Brown Elephant take as donations such as furniture, computers, electronics, bicycles, clothes, books and toys.

Charity Navigator charity search API – A resource for deciding what to give to which charity, Charity Navigator offers an API feature so you can create a charity search tailored to your needs.

Donation Town – They match your donation to a charity that will come for free to pick up your items and distribute them to people in need. They accept books, clothes, appliances, household items, magazines, prom dresses, shoes and even cars.

Clothing donation bins

Some charities offer clothing donation bins in public places such as gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies. These make donating clothes, books and shoes very convenient.

Planet Aid – Maybe you’ve seen the large yellow bins for Planet Aid which collects clothes and shoes in its efforts to protect the environment and provide international development aid. Check online to locate a bin near you.

Goodwill accepts clothing, household items and furniture which it sells to carry on its mission of training people for meaningful work. They also have a locator feature.

Salvation Army is an organization that collects clothes, household items, food, books, furniture and cars for charitable work. They have red collection bins in various locations.

Book donations

Recycle to save resources

All those empty cans and bottles from your recent party can be recycled. Check near your dorm or cafeteria to see if there is a recycling bin. You can also recycle food containers, glass, cardboard, metal, plastic grocery bags, newspapers and even car batteries, motor oil and computers at various facilities.

Recycle Finder is a mobile app and website that lets you find a recycling center near you. Simply input your zip code and select your material (bottles, clothing, appliances) and it gives you GPS directions to the facility.

The Recycling Center, Earth911 and Recycling Centers also offer to search for a recycling facility near you.

Make some money on the side

If you decide not to give away your unwanted items for free, there are some outlets where you can sell your stuff that is in good-condition and make some spending money.

  • eBay is a great place to sell collectibles or unique items.
  • On Craigslist you can sell clothes and common household items and furniture.
  • Yard sales or flea markets – churches, local organizations (Lions, Kiwanis, Girl Scouts, etc.) and perhaps even your school periodically offer tables or booths for a nominal fee ($10-25 and up) where you can sell your stuff.
  • Pawn shops will take electronics, jewelry and other items, although you probably won’t get too much money for them

Now that you have some ideas, what do you plan to do with your unwanted items?


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