It’s not all garbage! What to do with your discards

[Image from Pixabay]

[Image from Pixabay]

Wait! Just because you’re on a toss-your-junk spree, doesn’t mean your crap should go in the trash. Whether your are getting rid of a few things, or purging your entire home of all the junk you no longer need, there are many alternatives to adding those items to our overflowing landfills. It may be tempting to toss everything you don’t want in the trash and call it done. However, spending a little extra time and energy can actually make you some money off of your “junk”. That AND it’ll keep useful stuff in the cycle so that people don’t have to buy new and/or it can go to people who actually need that item. Heck, it could even help out a local charity. It’s like a win-win-win-win….win? There are LOTS of options, so let’s get to it.

Note: This list will be updated as new viable options come to light. If you have suggestions, please email me at


Yes! You CAN actually make money off the crap you don’t want!
Note: If you are interested in the difference between the different types of secondhand stores and your options, this is a great article that goes into detail on the subject.

Resale shops
They pay you cash for clothing, shoes, bags, and accessories, and sometimes even other items that are in good condition. Name brand items will fetch more, but it’s not a requirement at most places. The only downside is that many of these stores only buy for the current and upcoming season, so you may have to hang on to off-season items for a bit if you want to sell them this way.

Some resale stores you can find all over the country:

Many cities and towns have local, independent resale shops as well, so I recommend checking your local listings or Yelp.

Also, there are resale shops that buy and sell furniture and other non-clothing items, but I am not aware of any that are nationwide yet. Please share if you know of any.

There are loads of resources online for selling just about anything that’s still usable.

  • Craigslist is great for furniture and other household items, and you can list everything in one post if you like. The big benefit to this is that the buyer typically picks up the item from you, so no shipping required. Helpful tip: pictures, prices, and accurate measurements will help items sell faster.
  • OfferUp lets you sell just about anything as well, and it’s slightly more intuitive than Craigslist, and allows you to post items from your phone in a snap. The major bonus of this service is that the buyers are rated so you can beware of those who tend to flake out.
  • Amazon lets you sell just about ANYTHING. And it offers more security and a little more flexibility. The upside is that you don’t have to individually ship everything to your buyers, you can send it all at once to Amazon’s warehouse and they will take care of distribution. The downside is that it costs 99 cents per item. But if you have a bunch of stuff that’s worth more than a couple dollars and not much time, this may be totally worth it.
  • ThredUp is fantastic for selling items that are like-new. The best part is that they pay for all the shipping. Simply order a “cleanout” bag from them, fill it up, and send it back. They’ll evaluate your goods and pay you immediately for anything they list under $60. If it lists for over $60, you’ll be paid once it sells. Payments are processed with PayPal.
  • Vinted Kids Similar to OfferUp, but focused on kid’s stuff.
  • lets you buy, sell, and swap baby and kid’s items and women’s apparel, including maternity. Check the link for more information.
  • eBay is a good option for most things, including clothing and collectibles (no matter how strange) if you don’t mind a little competition. It’s also a great place to get an idea for how much money some of your belongings can bring. Just make sure the items you sell are shippable.
  • Facebook groups can be a decent place to sell relevant items. Here’s a how-to article to help you do it.

Garage/yard sale
The good ol’ fashioned way. This is great if you have a very large amount of stuff to get rid of. Or maybe you don’t have a ton, but you have some friends who each have some things they’d like to sell, you can get together and have one sale. I recommend advertising your sale on craigslist and

Thrift Stores
Many thrift stores will buy items, but you won’t get very much money for your things.

Pawn Shops

Instead of selling, exchange or local game/video stores or book stores will let you exchange your goods for things in their stock or “store credit” for future items.
Also, consider having a “swap night” with friends. I’ve done this a couple times, and it’s always a good time. You get to “shop” each other’s wardrobe and come away with a few “new” items to love. Then just donate whatever is left.


Donating is a worthy cause, and not just for the stuff you couldn’t get any money for. Consider donating for these reasons:

  • Tax write-off
  • You can help someone who needs it right now, in your area, which strengthens your community
  • Others may find new uses and new life for something you no longer need
  • Keeps it out of the landfill

Here are some ways to donate:

Charity stores/Thrift stores
Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul, Salvation Army and the like. They take a wide variety of items in almost any condition.

A local charity
Which you can find here.

Food pantry
If you have any usable, unopened food items, please consider donating them to a food pantry. Great for canned and boxed goods.

Homeless shelter
Not every shelter takes items, but it can be a great place to donate toiletries (that bag of hotel shampoos you’ll never use...), blankets, sleeping bags, coats (when in season), and other essentials.

An online community–that you have to apply to get into (it’s not difficult, but may take a little while)–of people who give their items away to each other. Similar to Craigslist, but totally free.

Stand-alone bins for clothing and shoes
You know, those brightly painted dumpster-like bins that you see in grocery store or Wal-Mart parking lots. Though I can't say much for where these items go...

Upcycling warehouses
These are a little harder to find. The best example I can think of this in Chicago is Rebuilding Exchange where you can donate reclaimed building materials. They sell it, but also make things from it, and teach workshops to others on how to upcycle reclaimed wood into useful household items that you can make and take.

In the ideal world, many more of these would exist and take a wide variety of items, and teach those who need jobs how to make them into new and beautiful things. Just riffing… :)


When all else fails, or it’s just garbage to begin with, toss it. But not all garbage is fit for the dump. Here’s some things to consider:

Hazardous waste disposal
If you are getting rid of anything that could be considered toxic, they should be taken to a hazardous waste dump and NOT thrown in the garbage. They can do serious harm not only in landfills but in garbage trucks and to the workers who have to deal with the trash. Here are some items that should go to hazardous waste disposal facility and NEVER go in the trash:

  • Automotive products (antifreeze, fluids, motor oil, oil filters, gasoline, polish and wax)
  • Batteries (home and vehicle)
  • Fluorescent light bulbs and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
  • Household cleaners (ammonia, drain cleaner, rust remover, tile/shower cleaner, bleach and almost any conventional cleaning solution)
  • Universal materials (include mercury containing items: thermometers, thermostats)
  • Paint products (oil-based paint, latex paint, spray paint, caulk, wood preservative, wood stain)
  • Garden chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, insecticides)
  • Sharp objects (needles and lancets)
  • Swimming Pool Chemicals

If you have a recycling bin issued by the city or a local organization, it’s likely to have a sticker on it telling you exactly what you can and cannot put into it. (Here’s a picture of ours.) Here’s a guide of general recycling rules.
(Though every area is different and may not have the facilities to recycle all of these items. Check your local recycling centers.)

  • Electronics (TV, computers, laptops, cell phones, printers, fax machines, MP3 players, DVD/CD/tape players, and more) - these can go to an electronics recycler (many will take more than the few items listed in that link).

Yes, your unwanted, unusable food should be composted. In addition to the traditional items there are a lot more things that can go in the compost bin as well. Here’s a list with some surprising items on it. (Though some of these items may add unwanted chemicals to your compost, so stay away from anything with synthetic dyes in it.)

  • Paper napkins and paper towels
  • Unwanted or old mail (just nothing glossy)
  • Shredded newspapers
  • Shredded cardboard (not glossy)
  • Wood ashes
  • Wood chips
  • Sawdust
  • Wooden toothpicks
  • Brown paper bags
  • Burlap bags
  • Pet hair, human hair
  • Electric razor trimmings
  • Q-tips (cotton swabs: cardboard, not plastic sticks)
  • Bird cage cleanings
  • Lint and dust bunnies
  • Leather wallets, watchbands, gloves, anything that’s not usable anymore
  • Expired flower arrangements
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags and grounds
  • Freezer-burned fruit and vegetables
  • Old spices
  • Old, dried up and faded herbs
  • Stale bread, potato chips, pretzels, cereal, pasta, etc.
  • Egg shells
  • Nut shells
  • Shrimp, crab, and lobster shells
  • Bread crusts, pie crust
  • Cooked rice

I hope this helps you find the proper home for your discards. If you have anything to add to any of these lists, or any comments about anything listed, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

- Sarah