Su Clauson-Wicker special for the Roanoke Times
Spring is the time for cleaning. After a long winter indoors, we’re ready to get rid of the clutter. In the age of tiny houses and Marie Kondo books, throwing away things you don’t like is as fashionable as it was 20 years ago.
Whether you sell it, give it away, recycle it, donate it, or carry it curbside with a “free” sign, knowing your choices makes the process less difficult — and sometimes profitable.
Organizations are hungry for things you never considered recycling. Used mascara wands make handy combs for wildlife rescuers that remove parasites from animal wings and fur (wandsforwildlife.org). Brarecycling.com embraces old bras because they allow girls in shelters and developing countries to play sports and go to school without discomfort. And Christiansburg’s Wonder Universe Children’s Museum is soliciting greeting cards, loose beads, CDs and other unlikely gifts to use in crafts (facebook.com/NewRiverCreativeReuse).
People also read…
Responsibly disposing of old electronics is often the biggest problem with decluttering. Of the 50 million tons of electronic devices produced annually, only 20% are recycled. In North Carolina and 13 other states, it is illegal to throw away electronic devices and waste their valuable components. For every million cell phones recycled, for example, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold are recovered, according to the EPA.
In the New River Valley, you can drop off your phones, computers, TVs, VCRs, etc. at the Virginia Tech YMCA Thrift Shop. Volunteers will repair them or recycle the parts. (Note: Admissions tables behind the store close on rainy days.) You can also send your old tech devices to ComputerswithCauses.org, who pass them on to people and groups who need them.
If you prefer to sell your devices, Decluttr.com will give you money. Amazon and Best Buy’s trade-in programs compensate in gift cards.
You can also sell metal – copper, aluminum, brass, steel and bronze. Do you have a broken water heater, clothes dryer or aluminum ladder? They can make money. At 77 cents a pound, a bag of 400 aluminum cans can fetch $10, and copper tubing sells for $3 a pound at the right scrapyard. Montgomery County Solid Waste Authority, New River Recycling, Rider Scrap Iron and Metals, and D&M Auto Parts & Recycling all buy metal. As a last resort, you can bury your old washer or dryer to use as a drop-down root cellar.
Let’s say you have wires that look better on the hangers than on you. Many New River Valley thrift stores await them: Goodwill, MCEAP stores in Blacksburg and Christiansburg, VT YMCA, Giles County Christian Service Mission Thrift Store and Second Time Around Humane Society shop, as well as Radford Clothing Bank and Pulaski County Free Store . Radford University’s Career Closet (540-831-5373) and Virginia Tech Career Outfitters (career.vt.edu/advising/CareerOutfitters) are also looking for professional care apparel for students.
If you’re hoping to make money for your clothes, a good way to determine their value is to visit a physical consignment store. Area stores, which pay upfront or when the item sells out, include Pulaski’s Lis De La Valle, Blacksburg’s downtown VTThrift, and fashionable Plato’s Closet and Once Upon a Child, both in Christiansburg. Online, there’s eBay, where listings are free and commissions are 12.55%. A host of eBay alternatives abound, such as Depop, Poshmark and Etsy.
Tired of that wedding dress in your closet? Stillwhite.com offers cash for your dress. NeverLikedItAnyway.com will also sell it, along with engagement rings, Prada sunglasses and other items the sellers claim are their ex’s leftovers. (The stories shared here make engaging, Jerry Springer-style reads.)
To avoid commissions and shipping costs, try marketing your products closer to home through online community platforms such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Next Door, or Montgomery County Yard Sale. Buyers pick up their purchases at a mutually convenient location. Or not. No-shows are sometimes as frequent as sales.
It can be easier to avoid the hassle and donate your stuff. There are many good reasons, from lightness in your mind to the relief effect of a tax deduction.
The Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Christiansburg can even come to your door for donations of furniture, appliances, and building materials. Pickup is free if you live in Blacksburg or Christiansburg; mileage charges apply for other areas. Or you can leave donations at the ReStore receiving dock Monday through Saturday.
Goodwill, VT YMCA Thrift Shop, Second Time Around, MCEAP stores and Pulaski County Free Store accept all kinds of household and recreational items, but call before delivery. Some have very limited admission hours and your donations will end up in the dump if left out in the rain for a week.
You can give with a personal touch. The global Buy Nothing project has groups in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Floyd, Giles and Radford. Through the Facebook group, members give gifts to other members, offering items they no longer want and asking for things they need. The Blacksburg group rallied around a family that arrived here with nothing; enthusiastic donors donated almost everything they needed to organize housekeeping, said Darla Bray, founder of Blacksburg Buy Nothing.
If your stack of books is tipping into dangerous security territory, it might be time to send them – preferably to a place where they will count. At least two Blacksburg bookstores – Bookholders and Virginia Tech Bookstore – donate outdated textbooks to charitable causes such as Prison Libraries (libguides.ala.org/PrisonLibraries/bookstoprisons), Books for Africa (booksforafrica.org) and the public libraries (betterworldbooks.com/go/donate).
Local libraries accept used books for their book sales, usually fairly recent books in good condition. Ditto for the VT YMCA Thrift Shop, Second Time Around Shop and Goodwill. Or consider dropping them off at one of the small, mailbox-sized free libraries. (Most NRV towns have one, and Blacksburg is home to more than a dozen.)
You can sell books online, at Amazon, Half Price Books or Powell’s, or at a few local bookstores, but don’t expect to make a killing. Blacksburg Books periodically accepts books for store credit. Old New River Books (facebook.com/oldnewriverbooks) sells rare books and first editions, but owner Ken Vaughan says age is not an indication of value.
“Books like school spellings, hymns, and small Bibles belonged to almost every household and were so mass-produced that they are still plentiful today and usually worth no more than a few dollars at best,” a- he declared. “The more specialized the subject, the fewer copies there are in print and generally the more valuable it is. This is the most basic rule of thumb for books and applies to all ages of publication.
Vaughan recommends checking sites such as Abebooks.com and eBay.com to determine selling prices for books. He notes that Google can direct potential sellers to dozens of used book e-commerce sites.
The streets of Blacksburg are a surprisingly good place to donate, especially during spring cleaning. All April, vans roam the city, scanning an assortment of furniture, flower pots, scrap metal and building materials. Often they make a real find – a perfect Queen Anne chair or enough metal to fund dinner at the Mountain Lake Hotel. It’s there for the picking.