The Big Sweep--Resources for donating unused or unwanted items
by Mary Leigh Wallace
You're about to stuff a lifetime of belongings into boxes and move from one location to the next. Ask any professional organizer what you should do before you pack that first box, and the answer will be, "Purge!"
There's no better time to sort out your belongings than during a move. You have to pack everything in the house anyway, so why not take a little time to decide what really needs to go with you, and what items should find another home.
Clothing is undoubtedly the number one item on the purge list. We all keep items for sentimental reasons or future fitness fantasies. But the reality is, those items sit in a closet gathering dust when they could be given to someone who can really use them.
The most common donation sites for clothing are Goodwill Industries and The Salvation Army. Both organizations have drop-off sites across the nation. Visit their websites and type in your zip code to find the location nearest to you. Make sure to wash or dry clean items before you drop them off.
Helene Segura of Living Order recommends donating women's business wear to Dress for Success, an organization that provides career assistance and professional attire to disadvantaged women. It accepts clothing that is appropriate for job interviews, including suits, purses, brief cases, shoes and coats.
Out-of-date computers, inactive cell phones and VCRs are just a few electronic items you can donate or recycle, keeping e-waste out of landfills.
Cell Phones for Soldiers is a nonprofit program that provides deployed and returning troops the ability to communicate with family while serving in the U.S. Military. Visit its website to find a drop-off location, or to download a shipping label.
Crystal Sabalaske of Cluttershrink directs her clients with unwanted cell phones to the wireless telephone industry's Call to Protect program, which supports environmental initiatives. You can download a pre-paid mailing label from its website. Just deactivate your service, turn off your phone (keeping the battery inside) and pop it in a box or envelope.
Check your local Goodwill Industries location to find out the standards for accepting computer equipment. Most Goodwill sites will accept and refurbish your e-goods, giving them a second life. You can also visit the Cristina Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the reuse of technology. Its nonprofit locator connects donors with local nonprofits and charities that can use their unwanted electronics.
Although your VCR still functions, it's probably not the most used item in your house. Donate this and similar electronics in good working order to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. If the item no longer functions, call your local electronics superstore. Many of them will recycle these products for you, no matter where they were purchased.
Household Hazardous Waste
Leftover paint, batteries, chemicals, and medications all need to be disposed of carefully. Many municipalities have their own hazardous waste facilities, so check with your city or county waste management department for locations.
If you're not sure where to turn, Barry Izsak of Arranging it All recommends Earth 911. "It's a great resource for finding recycling sites for hazardous items." The website is a comprehensive database of recycling locations across the U.S. for more than 300 recyclable items — everything from glass and plastic to automotive parts and chemicals.
Toys and Games
Moving is a opportune time to say goodbye to toys and games that your kids have outgrown or no longer use. It's best to discard items that are tattered, threadbare or have missing parts. But for those that still have useful lives, several organizations can put them to good use. "Toys in good shape can be donated to women's and homeless shelters," says professional organizer Janet Taylor. To find the one nearest you, visit Women's Shelters, a nationwide directory of resources for women and families. If you have toys that have never been used, donate them to your local Toys for Tots program or a children's hospital.
Mary Leigh Howell specializes in communications for the home, furnishings and garden industries.