You have no idea the good your old stuff could be doing! Rather than letting things you no longer have use for decompose and off-gas in a big, heaping pile of trash , ethically purge. It’s easier than you think! There is nothing better than the feeling of a good, deep cleanse. Remember – “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” think about the excitement you’d feel if someone surprised you with a vintage, storied handbag or a fun piece of antique jewelry. There is almost nothing from your home that needs to go in a garbage can, except cat hair.. and some people knit sweaters of that beautifully! If there is something you don’t know what do with – you will after reading this list!
20 Ways To Ethically Purge Your Stuff
- Give away items to someone you know would love or could use a particular thing. For example; let’s just assume you have a 4 year old boy – find a friend with a 2 year old boy and give her all your small boys clothes and out-aged toys. Hand me downs are called “pre-loved” for a reason! Better yet, join a facebook “swap” group and dole out your outgrown sizes/ stuff for things that are of use to you.
- Hold a clothing swap with your crew, but open it up to include housewares, toys, etc. Serve refreshments, play fun music, and make it a girls-night-in sort of gathering!
- Sell your clothing to a local consignment/ resale shop, make some cash and clean out your unused duds. Note, there are upscale consignment shops who are very picky, and ones who are open to all brands in good condition. Google consignment shops in your area and visit their websites to get a vibe for what they are looking for before you waste your time bringing in 5 garbage bags of clothes.
- Order a ThredUp bag and toss everything (mens/womens/kids/ shoes/ bags) you no longer want in it and ship it back (free) to them – You can opt to have them recycle all items they don’t accept so you don’t end up in the same conundrum you were originally in. There are many other apps and sites like Poshmark that you can sell your stuff on, but with those you have to upload the pix and run the sale yourself – which may take more time than you’re interested in spending – you most likely however, make more money. Buffalo Exchange is now offering selling by mail too.
- Send high-end items to The RealReal and make some dough or webstore credit – only send in big name designers for this one though – but working with them always pays off. The great thing about selling to The RealReal is conscious eco-fashion designers like Stella McCartney offer you incentives to earn $100 to shop Stella when you consign any Stella McCartney item on The RealReal.
- Sell your items yourself on eBay – there’s no end to what you can sell. You can choose to donate that additional income to your favorite charity to keep motivated to listing more items.
- Have a yard sale.
- Use GiveBackBox – which will allow you to print out a free shipping label to donate your old items to a local charity in need.
- Donate to any local shelter, hospital, home for women/ children, homeless shelter, church, synagogue, mosque, pre-school, local public school, library, police or fire station etc. My kids schools were always more than overjoyed to take any toys or books my kids had outgrown. Before presuming your local school isn’t interested in your gently used items, ask! Covid precautions mean that many non-profits aren’t currently accepting donations – so make sure to call or email before donating.
- If you have a handful of items of the same kind, google the type of item you want to donate – example: “donate old shoes,” sure enough – up pops soles4souls.org which allows you to ship your old shoes (for free) to be distributed in poverty stricken countries. “donate old glasses” turns up Lions Eyeglass recyling where your old glasses become someone else’s best hope at seeing.
- Ethically recycle non-working/ destroyed items. There are textile (clothing) recycling bins all over – google your local one if you can’t find it easily. The same goes for electronic equipment. There are often free shipping programs you can use to ship items to recycling centers not close to you. TerraCycle will take nearly anything you could possibly imagine recycling, and more!
- Sell your old electronics. Gazelle makes it so easy – simply go to their website and they’ll send you a box and/or a free shipping label. Send them your old working (or even non working depending on product!) electronics (mainly phones and computers and ipads) and these items don’t sit in a landfill forever, and you get paid for your conscious efforts!
- Donate old sheets, towels, carpets, rugs, teddy bears, crockery, heating pads, baby gates/ baby play pens, and rags to any animal shelters, rescue groups, or animal foster families. There is a company that accepts old teddy bears which they use to make into new dog toys! Same with old sheets! Wildlife rescues will also accept old fur coats to rehabilitate orphaned wildlife.
- Sell anything using your social media accounts, instagram or facebook etc. – this keeps buyers close by and the sales easier, and more trustworthy if from your inner circle or friends of friends.
- Take your penny jar/ spare change to the bank and put it in your account or give it to your kids to bring to their school to donate to a “penny fundraiser.”
- Offer your goods up for free on Freecycle or CraigsList – you’d be shocked what people want! Extra 2 packs of shower caps? Half a mannequin? A used cat tree? All these things are prime Freecycle fare and bonus – they pick up and you don’t have to deal with pick up or booking a goodwill pick up! Live in a neighborhood where people drive your front yard? Leave your items on your lawn with a “Free to a good home!” sign for people to grab what they want.
- Ever seen the waste that gets tossed in the trash after a catered event? There are groups like Rescuing Leftover Cuisine that will physically pick up every leftover and disseminate them to the homeless! You can also call ahead to your local shelter or boys & girls club and offer them your leftovers so they can expect them and be ready to receive them the day of your event. Want a more hands on approach? Drive your leftovers to an area where there are homeless folks, and give them out.
- Donate old clothes/ shoes/ bags/ accessories to Schoola to benefit your school or the Malala Fund – shipping’s on them.
- Be creative: reinvent and repurpose old items. Example: We had an old bookshelf of about 5 years that was useless and broken as a bookshelf so we turned it on it’s side and used it as toy storage for the kids. It stayed that way for at least 5 years before we recycled it. Use pinterest to come up with new ideas to reuse items that have overstayed their welcome in their current incarnation.
- Finally; Maybe you don’t actually need to get rid of it – maybe it just needs a repair or a facelift. Example; I once had a stained old faux-leather beige knapsack from college. I loved this knapsack and didn’t want to let it go, so I brought it to the shoemaker and he dyed it chocolate brown and voila – my old backpack lasted another 10 years til I decided to donate it to a clothing drive.
Moving forward: Be more mindful about your consumerism. Be sure to ask yourself “Is this something I truly need/ Will it truly give me joy/ Does this piece have longevity in my life” before you bring anything home. The less clutter you accumulate, the less you’ll have to reassign to the landfill in future.
Chloé Jo Davis is the Director of Digital Content at The Kind Life, a Mom of 3 human little boys, and 4 rescued pets in NYC. Nothing makes her happier than upcycling.