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Don’t Toss It- Recycle These 5 Things During Your Decluttering

We’ve all heard about spring-cleaning, but what about pre-holiday cleaning? That should be a thing, too! After all, with the holiday season right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to clear out your old stuff and make way for the new—and it might even make your space feel larger. Yes, even when the in-laws are visiting.


But before you start chucking things in the waste bins, consider this: Today is National Recycling Day (there’s a day for everything, isn’t there?), the perfect time to declutter and give your stuff a second chance for someone in need.


So if you’re in the mood to end the year with a clean(er) slate, check out these tips on the best ways to get rid of your stuff and declutter with a purpose this holiday season.


1. Books

If your home library has started to overflow in a way that can no longer be considered a style choice, then it might be time to downsize your collection. But instead of trashing your old books, give them away to someone in the community.


“The best way to recycle books is to donate them to a charity or institution of your choice,” says Antonia Korcheva, creator of Escape Waste. “They might enrich someone else’s life. Search for libraries, schools, retirement homes, or prisons near you. Theaters also accept old or damaged books as they can use them for props.”


National organizations like Operation Paperback will also help you make sure your old books wind up in good hands.


2. Clothes

Donate old wearable clothes to places like GoodwillAndrei Stanescu/iStock


Much like your unwanted books, getting rid of old clothes can free up a lot of space in your home and help someone in need. Any clothes that can still be worn should be donated to organizations like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Look for drop boxes near grocery stores and in mall parking lots.


For clothes that can’t really be worn anymore (anything torn or ratty), consider recycling them.

“Each year, an average of 80 pounds of textiles per person end up in landfills,” says Laura Durenberger, owner of Reduce, Reuse, Renew. “Finding a recycling option is a great alternative.”


Organizations like American Textile Recycling Service and Recycle Nowboth accept textile donations for recycling.


“If your clothing textiles are made from nonsynthetic materials (think 100% cotton, linen, wool, silk, hemp, etc.), then you can remove any tags, buttons, or zippers and compost the fabric yourself,” adds Kait Schulhof, founder of A Clean Bee.


3. Appliances and furniture

Old appliances and furniture take up a ton of space, but you can’t (or shouldn’t) just toss them in the garbage.


“Many old appliances have freon and other hazardous chemicals, so waste disposal sites just won’t take them, says Amos Mallett, owner of Duke’s Junk Recycling, in Austin, TX. “To recycle furniture, items have to be broken down to separate out the materials that can be recycled, and most waste disposal sites don’t take the time to do this, and just send it to the landfill.”


If your old furniture or appliances are still in working order, you might consider giving them away to friends, or even just leave them outside with a “free” sign to see if anyone in the neighborhood wants them. (Just make sure to check your local city or town ordinances, since many have rules about what can be left on the curb.) Otherwise, use this free online search tool to find the nearest facility that will actually recycle them.


4. E-waste



Americans get rid of 7 million tons of old electronics, or e-waste, each year, according to Jeremy Walters, sustainability ambassador for Republic Services. That adds up to about 42 pounds per person.


Get your 42 pounds of old phones, laptops, and other electronics out of the house this season by donating or recycling them.


Many local charities can make use of working devices, Walters says. He points to two national programs: Cell Phones for Soldiers, which provides free airtime minutes to service personnel, and the 1Million Project, which helps connect low-income students to the internet.


For things that will never work again (like your Game Boy from the ’90s—sorry) check out this mail-in recycling program from Republic Services, or find a local drop-off site for your old electronics using sites like TerraCycle.


5. Toys

This one is especially relevant, considering the season. Unwanted toys have a way of taking up a lot of space in our homes—even long after anyone has a use for them. But someone still might, as Kaelyn Lee of Toycycle reminds us.


“We sell quality pre-owned toys and baby gear, and offer free shipping on many of them,” she says. “Building sets, STEM toys, books, infant toys, games, and baby gear. It’s a great way for people to rid themselves of those unwanted items that may be another person’s treasure.”


Get started decluttering your home this holiday season by selling unwanted toys and baby gear to Toycycle, or consider donating them to charities like Toys for Tots.



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