What to do with the stuff you don’t keep? Donate, discard, recycle, sell and shred
Most of these are local to the San Francisco Bay Area, but a few are more global.
Never assume! Many places do take non-working electronics, old textbooks and torn or stained clothing. Conversely, many places don’t take toys. Call first before you load up the car and make the trip.
- Craigslist, Post your items here for sale or to give away. Your leftovers may be someone else’s treasures.
- East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, Accepts donations of art and craft supplies, educational materials, paper goods and more.
- Ecumenical Hunger Program, Drop-off location in East Palo Alto. Will do pick-ups in mid peninsula areas.
- Freecycle, Freecycle groups let you offer your items for free to anyone in your area who is willing to come pick them up. There are several Bay Area groups, some of which are found at Freecycle.org; for a more complete list, use your favorite search engine (Google, Bing, etc.) and search for the name of the your city plus the word freecycle. You’ll need to register with the group and be approved by the moderator before you can post.
- Goodwill, This site includes a handy list of suggested values to assist you if you itemize charitable contributions for tax purposes. Goodwill accepts computers and TVs.
- Hope Services, Southern peninsula and south bay drop-off locations and pick-ups.
- PARCA, Call to get on PARCA’s list for its regularly scheduled pick-ups. You will receive a postcard every six to eight weeks telling you when the truck will be in your area. This is a great motivator to do regular decluttering. You can also call for an individual pick-up if you can’t wait for the next scheduled neighborhood pick-up.
- Peninsula Humane Society, A unique list of items that other organizations often don’t take, such as large shoeboxes and untreated wicker baskets. Does not do pick-ups, so you’ll have to be willing to take items to the site, which is just south of San Francisco International Airport.
- RAFT (Resource Area for Teachers) Accepts donations of all sorts of hands-on teaching supplies to be sold at low cost to teachers. Located in San Jose.
- ReCARES, Collects gently used medical equipment and home health supplies to distribute to those in need. Limited donation drop-off hours in Oakland, San Francisco and Marin.
- Salvation Army, This is a faith-based organization and I don’t agree with some of its stances, but it’s often the best resource for donation pick-ups of large furniture.
- SCRAP (Scrounger’s Center for Reusable Art Parts) Accepts all sorts of art and craft materials as well as construction materials such as Plexiglas, floor tiles, wood and trim.
- St. Vincent de Paul, in San Mateo County
- The Stuff Shop, Nationwide community resource website that provides information to match up your unwanted stuff with local charities, ministries and companies that connect it with people in need. Information is also provided that will enable you to recycle or dispose of your unwanted stuff in a green way rather than having it end up in a landfill. Started by a professional organizer in St. Louis.
Start with a phone call to your local waste management system, or check its website. Many communities have excellent curbside recycling, hazardous waste and bulk pick-up services.
- Baywise, Information about how to properly dispose of things that ought not be flushed down the sink or toilet, such as expired medications or cooking oils.
- GreenCitizen, Accepts all forms of ewaste. Some items require a small fee ($10 or less in most cases), but this is the only organization on the peninsula that is a pledged eStewards recycler, which ensures environmentally responsible disposal of all wastes. For $30, GreenCitizen also offers hard disk erasing and destruction, with a certificate of hard disk destruction when the process is complete.
- RecycleWorks of San Mateo County, In addition to information about recycling and reuse programs, this site has information about disposing hazardous wastes, reducing junk mail, living green and much more. Also includes links to curbside garbage and hauling services in the county.
- SF Environment, Information about household hazardous waste disposal as well as other environmental programs in San Francisco.
- Universal Waste Management, Inc., Accepts most items for free.
- Urban Ore, Accepts a wide variety of donations such as furniture, doors, plumbing fixtures, art, appliances and much more for onsite resale. Located in Berkeley.
It’s well worth it to pay for shredding a large backlog of paper. There are numerous service options available, either at your location or at the shredding company facility. Some mailing and office supply stores now offer shredding services, as well. Here are some options:
- Automated Response Systems, Witnessed shredding in Berkeley, no appointment necessary. Pick-up and other services as well.
- Level 6 Shredding, Witnessed shredding by appointment at two locations in San Francisco. Pick-up and other services as well.
- Shred Center, Witnessed shredding in San Mateo and Walnut Creek. No appointment necessary.
- Shred Works, Witnessed shredding in Oakland. Non-witnessed drop-off in San Francisco and Burlingame. Mobile shredding and secure pick-up throughout the Bay Area.
- No-cost options:
- Watch for free shredding events in your community, often sponsored by the local waste management company, schools, youth groups or religious groups
- Your financial institution may offer free shredding to its customers
- Your employer may allow you to use their shredding facilities
Be careful! For most people, selling their items is rarely worth the time and effort. It usually just becomes a distraction and avoidance tactic. If you’re still determined to try, here are some options:
A proliferation of online selling sites, apps and professionals have come and gone. Interpret that information however you like. I recommend you stick with the established sellers:
- Craigslist, Online classified ads. No charge to post an ad. Requires frequent reposting to keep your item near the top of the list. Good photos and a complete description will help you make the sale.
- eBay, Online sales and auctions. To bring the best price, post pictures of your item and be as descriptive as possible.
- Michaan’s Auctions, For high-end items.
No specific recommendations, but it may be worth it to call a local consignment store and find out whether your items have resale value.
You can try your local independent bookstore. Some, like Green Apple Books in San Francisco, will buy good-quality used books. There are also many online resellers who will buy your used books, and pay for the shipping. Here are two options: Cash4Books.net and sellbackyourBook.com.
I have never organized a garage sale, but this site looks like a great resource: yardsalequeen.com.
What resources have you found that make it easier to let go of your stuff?
Share your resources on my blog post about environmentally conscious de-cluttering.