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Before I moved last year, I did a giant declutter. Less to pack = less to pay to move = less to unpack at the other end. Win-win! However, I really didn’t want to just throw hundreds of individual items directly into the bin, so I tried to make a conscious effort to get rid of things sustainably.
While some people would think you can just take everything to a charity shop, the facts remain that there are some items charity shops don’t want, and will have to pay to get rid of themselves.
When I was a teenager I worked in an Oxfam bookshop. While a lot of donations made it to the shop floor, not everything did. They told me that there are a couple of things they do with books they can’t sell, they either send the books to needy people overseas (usually these were things like annuals and children’s books) or they get pulped and recycled into new books (think of the thousands of copies of 50 Shades or The Da Vinci Code that get donated every day).
There are also items that just aren’t sold in charity shops. How often have you seen second-hand makeup, food or used small kitchen appliances in a Cancer Research? The Red Cross have a good list of what they can’t accept here.
Here’s how I got rid of my unwanted stuff, landfill free:
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Giving things away
It’s always good to make money, but sometimes it’s not worth the effort. Plus, it’s cool to be kind!
The Olio app was designed to cut food waste, BUT it has a busy non-food section where you can offer up your unwanted to belongings to strangers in your neighbourhood. It’s very quick and easy to use. When I lived in London I could get rid of most things within the hour.
Most of my interactions through Olio were good, but their moderation system is terrible! A woman got angry I didn’t reply to her quick enough and when I told her my item had already been claimed she called me a b*tch and gave me a bad rating, which means Olio deleted my account. I think because nobody uses their real name or photo on the app they think they can be rude and nasty to you despite being given something FOR FREE.
When they delete your account you can go straight back and make another one (which defeats the purpose really!). However, it is something that makes the app very annoying to use.
I gave away ornaments, a popcorn maker, nail polish, stationery and loads more.
Random acts of kindness/Facebook
More and more people are using Facebook Marketplace to sell items, it’s how I bought a lot of the furniture for my house! It’s also an amazing way to pass on your unwanted possessions.
There are a couple of ways you can go about it – either just post it to Facebook Marketplace as free, or add it to a Random Acts of Kindness group.
Each Random Acts of Kindness group will have its own rules, so search for one in your local area for more specific instructions. In my group, you’ll post a description/photo of what you have and people will comment asking to be considered. Then you can message whoever you decide to sort out collection.
I’ve given away a washing machine, cat toys, birthday balloons and a slow cooker over Facebook.
Recycling services for clothes
If you are getting rid of clothes or fabric items that would NEVER resell – I’m talking old underwear, stained jogging bottoms, tights that have seen better days, you can get rid of them without throwing them in the bin.
Look out for clothes recycle bins in supermarket carparks, or at council waste recycling centres. If you shop at H&M or & Other Stories you can get a money off voucher for handing in bags of old textiles too!
I’ve given away beauty products I no longer wanted to friends and family, as well as shared them with my neighbours through Olio. However, old beauty packaging and items past their best can still be saved from the bin. Some companies will even give you freebies for recycling your packaging.
Have stuff from a company not on that list? You can recycle many types of cosmetics packaging through Terracycle, I explain how to get involved in my guest post on Your Best Friend’s Guide to Cash.
If you don’t have a car (or just can’t drive, like me) then getting rid of furniture can be a nightmare. If your items are in saleable condition, many local furniture charity shops are happy to arrange collection if you donate to them.
Charities that may offer collection near you:
These are all charities I know operate in the South East and South West, however, there are loads of worthy charities elsewhere if you don’t live near me!
I’d be wary of putting bits of furniture on the street for people to collect, BUT if it’s something people do in your area, it’s worth a shot. I got a brand new IKEA clothes rail off the street once!
Many councils offer furniture collection – sometimes it’s free, sometimes there will be a small cost. It can be a good idea if your piece is beyond repair. Furniture can be recycled – find out more on the Recycle Now site.
Making money from your old items
You don’t have to give things away for free to save them from heading to landfill – you can also use a growing number of selling sites and apps to make yourself a bit of spending money too!
Books are usually pretty difficult to sell. They’re heavy, so postage is expensive, and it’s hard to know which ones are worth listing. Some of your books will be worthless, but others could be very valuable.
This is why I really like Ziffit. All you need to do is download the app then scan the barcode of your books. It’ll tell you what it is willing to pay for each item (WARNING: many will literally be pennies).
Once they’ve offered to buy 10 items (or a total of £5 or more), you can print off the postal label and take it to a Collect+ point to send it off. You can also use Ziffit for CDs and DVDs if you still have a lot of those.
I’m no expert on selling online (ask Emma Drew for that) but I’ve had reasonable success with eBay, Shpock, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. I’m not cool enough for it, but lots of people do really well on Depop too.
Always make sure you’re using a secure payment method, and factor in the costs of postage before you list your item.
There you go! Now – feel free to Marie Kondo your home with a lighter conscience. Have any other ideas? Pop me a comment below, I’d love to hear them.