What To Do With All that Stuff!

messy room

Raising kids creates clutter. Most families do regular sweeps to get rid of outgrown clothes and toys.  And most have favorite places to take donations—the rummage sale at the church, the food pantry for the community, the drop off center for Goodwill. Some community organizations will even pick up the things you no longer need or want. (To find one of these agencies, enter your zip code at donationtown.org.)

And then there are the things that are hard to give away. Perhaps they were expensive—think cellphones and carseats. Or perhaps they are sentimental—think trophies, stuffed animals, books and puzzles.  Either way, you feel a twinge when you think about letting them go, so they get stuck in drawers and closets.

The best solution is to find the right destination for these items. Donate to someone who will appreciate them. Get them to a company or organization that can recycle them safely and perhaps creatively. Either way, parting with certain kinds of stuff can be easier if you go the extra mile.  With the options listed below, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you made a responsible choice that clears the clutter for you and does something good for others.

Athletic and other shoesSoles4Souls.com has distributed over 30 million pairs of shoes since they were founded after Hurricane Katrina. You can purchase a mailing label or find a drop off site on their website.  They also accept gently used clothing.OneWorldRunning.com sends still-wearable shoes to runners in developing countries. Anything that can’t be worn goes to the Nike-Reuse-A-Shoe program to be recycled into running tracks and playgrounds. Their website also includes drop-off locations in many parts of the country.

Binders: At the end of the school year, most families have a stack of ragged binders. If you turn them in at Staples or Office Max, you’ll get a $2 credit toward a same day purchase of a new binder. Then they’ll recycle the binders with the help of Terracycle, a company that is has partnered with major manufacturers to create innovative recycling programs for everything from toothbrushes and guitar strings to juice pouches and the blister packs from contact lenses. (terracycle.com/en-US/brigades)

Books.  Better World books has drop off boxes where they accept books of all kinds. Some are sold on their website and some go to literacy programs overseas. (betterworldbooks.com)

Carseats.  A few organizations are trying to get used carseats into the hands of families that need them.  A state-by-state list is available at recycleyourcarseat.org.

Crayons: Crazy Crayons collects broken, worn or loose crayons.  They will melt them down and turn them into new Eco Star crayons or multi-colored crayons shaped like worms.   (crazycrayons.com)

Cellphones.  Even after you’ve disconnected your phone service, the phone can be used to make 911 calls. Secure the Call takes advantage of this fact, collecting phones and then distributing them to senior citizens organizations, domestic violence shelters, police departments and other agencies that can get them into the hands of people who need them.  Their website includes a free mailing label as well as a list of community partners in every state.  (securethecall.org)

Eyeglasses. Lions International collects used eyeglasses as part of their effort to improve vision for people around the world.  A list of their recycling centers is available at tinyurl.com/donateglasses.  

Legos. The plastic in Legos is a kind that can’t usually be recycled, so don’t mix them into the bin. Instead, ship them to Brick Recycler. No need to sort the bricks. They will repackage and get them to hospitals, schools, orphanages and other places where kids will be very happy to have them. (www.brickrecycler.com)

Markers.  Crayola collects markers of all kinds and turns them into a clean liquid fuel for vehicles. They pay for shipping via Fedex but your local school will have to set up the collection system. (crayola.com/colorcycle)

Puzzles. Puzzle Warehouse recycles old puzzles by donating them to schools, homeless shelters, churches and jails. If you’re pitching a puzzle because it’s missing a piece or two, they also have a helpful list of piece replacement policies for major puzzle manufacturers in the More section of their website. (puzzlewarehouse.com/Recycle-Your-Puzzles)

Stuffed animals. Stuffed Animals for Emergencies gets gently used stuff animals into the hands of children and even service members who need a little comfort. Their website lists chapters in many parts of the country, and they also have advice about how to clean stuffed animals in preparation for donation. (stuffedanimalsforemergencies.org)

Trophies:  Some companies that make trophies reuse the parts to make new trophies. If nobody in your community does this, you might want to ship surplus trophies to the National Trophy Recycling program. (Tinyurl.com/donatetrophies)

Everything else.  Freecycle runs a grassroots network made up of over 9 million members, organized into  5,298 local groups. Membership is free, and each group is moderated by a local volunteer.  Once you sign up, you can list almost anything and, in all likelihood, it will be discovered by someone in your community who will be delighted to have it. (freeycle.org)

Of course, you aren’t the only family that has stuff you want to discard. Many of the groups listed above provide everything you need to start a community collection drive—an activity that might double as a fundraiser or a community service project.  Whether you donate on your own or with your neighbors, all of these programs do three important things: Keep useable stuff out of the local landfill. Get things into the hands of people who can use them. And get all that clutter out of your house! That’s a win-win-win!

Carolyn Jabs, M.A., has been writing about families and technology for over twenty years. She is also the author of Cooperative Wisdom: Bringing People Together When Things Fall Apart, a book that describes a highly effective way to address conflict in families, schools and communities. Available at Amazon and  cooperativewisdom.org.    


Posted in Featured Articles

«       Dec 2017       » loading...
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1. Brunch with Santa

    December 17
    December 17, 2017  |  12:00 am - 11:59 pm
    Harvest Cafe
    Call for time and reservations
  2. Nutcracker 2017 with Staten Island Ballet

    December 17 @ 2:00 am - 5:00 pm
    December 17, 2017  |  2:00 am - 5:00 pm
    College of Staten Island
    Sat. December 16 at 2pm & 5pm Sun. December 17 at 2pm & 5pm Click here for more information or call 718-980-0500
  3. NYRR Open Run

    December 17 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am
    December 17, 2017  |  9:00 am - 10:00 am
    Conference House Park
    Participants are encouraged to arrive 15 minutes before the start of the run and to leave their valuables at home – bag check is not provided. No need to do anything before the run, just show up. Open to all
  4. Art Studio

    December 17 @ 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    December 17, 2017  |  1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
  5. Science Time

    December 17 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    December 17, 2017  |  2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Join us for this daily program on problem solving, inquiry and creative thinking. Activities include meetings animals from our Bugs exhibit, playing with solar cars, solving puzzle and games or building structures. Time is subject to change each day
  6. Merry Music Series

    December 17 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    December 17, 2017  |  2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    From 2-3PM and again from 3-4PM Celebrate Hanukkah with a special Jewish cultural music performance and sing along.
  7. Sea Shanty Sessions

    December 17 @ 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
    December 17, 2017  |  2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
    Noble Maritime Collection
    Led by the Folk Music Society of New York, this program is really gaining in popularity and offers a great opportunity to experience authentic, time-honored maritime songs in an appropriately historic setting. The sessions are free and family friendly, and
  8. Story Time

    December 17 @ 4:00 pm
    December 17, 2017  |  4:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Join our staff each day to share and listen to a story related to this months theme, the Letter M. Books about Music, Magnets, Monsters and other fun themes. TIME SUBJECT TO CHANGE, check by calling the Museum for daily
  9. Toddler Time

    December 18 @ 10:30 am
    December 18, 2017  |  10:30 am - 10:30 am
    Huguenot Library
    Join us for some Toddler Time fun! This is an interactive program featuring songs, story time, crafts and unstructured playtime. *​Pre-registration ​is ​required
  10. Baby Time

    December 18 @ 10:30 am
    December 18, 2017  |  10:30 am - 10:30 am
    South Beach Library