Spring cleaning: Here's what to do with that unwanted stuff

After you've cleaned, de-cluttered and Marie Kondo-ed your house, do this.
by Mary Parisi /  / Updated 
Image: Charity collection of clothes
If your local charity's donation bins are overflowing, try Facebook swap and sell groups, consignment Web sites or give them to people in need another way. Reimphoto / Getty Images
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Spring cleaning season is in full swing, and there are so many great tips out there to help you purge belongings and tidy up your space. But what happens next?

Massive closet cleanings always come with the age-old question: Now what do I do with all of this stuff? If throwing away your old things feels wasteful (newsflash: it is, unless those things really are trash), and your local charity bins are overflowing with more hand-me-downs than they know what to do with, there are so many other things you can do with your old clothes and other items that might help someone — and might save you some money in the process.

While your well-intentioned self might have a pile of newly purged junk sitting in your house left over from your spring cleaning waiting to be dropped off at your neighborhood Goodwill or Salvation Army donation center, not everything is likely destined for your local distribution center. Donation isn’t the only option — but you also don’t have to throw perfectly good things away.

So, what should you do with all of your spring-clearout leftovers? Here are a few ideas:

1. Offer them up to locals

The town I live in and all surrounding towns have Facebook groups for giving away free or selling gently-used things, kind of like an online, city-wide tag sale. If you have things like old toys/children’s items, furniture or decor, or even clothes and shoes that you don’t want to keep but are still in good shape, consider one of these local groups and offer them up. You can charge a few bucks for bigger-ticket items, but if you really just want to get rid of things and send them to a good home, you can do the neighborly thing and pass them on for free.

2. Give them to friends (or swap with them so you benefit from the deal, too)

Clothing swaps are one of those ideas that always show up in articles on how to save money/revamp your wardrobe, but no one really ever actually does. Here’s my pro tip: just do it. It’s awesome. I’m the local queen of offering big garbage bags full of old clothes, shoes, and accessories to friends and Facebook acquaintances. I even recall a time in college where I brought them in boxes to my dorm lobby to let people pick them over.

If you let some of your pals know about this in advance, ask them if they want to pick a few things from their own closet and do a little swap with you. That way, you’re ridding yourself of items that have been sitting around untouched, and replacing them with things you might actually love.

3. Repurpose and DIY

Maybe an old candle that you ended up not loving the scent of made its way to your garbage pile. But what if the container it came in looked really cute? With a little patience and creativity, it could become a pencil cup for your desk, a container for your makeup brushes, a utensil holder in the kitchen, or any number of things. Same goes for so many other items you might find yourself feeling “meh” about in your house. I recently made an old clothes hamper into a basket to hold pillows and blankets in my living room, and an old office trash can into a plant pot. If you can’t find a way to DIY or repurpose your clothes or other household items for yourself, see if anyone in your life might be interested in taking a stab at any of it — your old trash could be their DIY treasure.

4. Bring them to places that can properly dispose of them, or make them useful to others

If you ended up purging a lot of tech/electronic items, or ended up with a trash bag full of old medications that have expired or aren’t of use to you anymore, bring them to the right places instead of tossing them in the dumpster. Old meds — whether they’re expired, or just ones that you are no longer taking — should be disposed of at a collection center for drug take-back (which there is actually an entire day for in April). Donate electronics to organizations that will actually fix them up, or will recycle and/or repurpose their materials. All of these are better options than throwing them in the can with your kitchen trash.

5. Sell or consign

It’s hard to finally let go of that one piece of clothing hanging in your closet that you aesthetically loved, spent a lot of money on and brought home only to realize that it...just isn’t you. And even though you shouldn’t be holding onto items of clothing that you simply don’t wear, it’s hard to take that hit of tossing it in your donate bag knowing that you wasted money on something you got no use out of. But through websites and apps like Poshmark and ThredUp (or local consignment stores) you can sell your gently (or not-at-all) used clothes and actually recoup a few bucks from your original purchase. Just make sure you wash them first — you don’t want to be that person.

6. Swap them in exchange for discounted merchandise

Popular stores like H&M and Madewell are incentivizing donation by actually offering you something in exchange for it — namely, discounts at their stores. Bring your bag of goods to an H&M recycling location and get a 15% coupon to shop for something new, and bring your old jeans to a Madewell Denim Forever event to earn $20 towards a new pair that you’ll actually wear.

SPRING CLEANING GUIDE

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