MADISON, Wis. (4/4/11)--This time of year sees a flood of donations to thrift stores as people clear their homes in the annual spring cleaning ritual. Those resale charities are getting pickier about what they’ll accept (AARP Bulletin
March 25). Some resale agencies now reject or send to the landfill items that used to be welcome. And the landfill may reject some of your offerings, too. For example, many electronic items contain mercury or lead, making it hard to dispose of them. Here are alternative outlets for your surplus:
* Electronics--The Environmental Protection Agency keeps a list of programs that take computers, television sets, mobile phones, and similar devices to recycle, trade, or buy back. Look for local chapters of organizations such as Computers for School, or find out if your school district participates in a similar program. * Large appliances--See if your local utility has a pickup program as part of the Energy Savers effort. Or your city trash collection may have special arrangements for large items, sometimes for a nominal fee. * Linens--Shelters for homeless or abused individuals may be able to use bed linens. For items past their prime, the March issue of Consumer Reports suggests offering them to an animal shelter for use as pet bedding or cleaning rags. * Toys--Condition is key; if stuffed animals and toys are clean and in good shape, they might find a second home at a women’s shelter, day care center, or Ronald McDonald house. * Clothes--Condition matters here, too. For career-grade clothing in good condition, consider Dressed for Success for women and the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive. Both programs help disadvantaged job seekers prepare for job interviews.
If you strike out on these venues, or they’re not available where you live, look into Freecycle or the “free stuff” category of craigslist. Just be safe, says Cassie Holman, writing in “Cash In Your Clutter” for the Credit Union National Association’s MoneyMix
: “If you…decide to complete the sales transactions face to face, be smart about meeting specifics. Take someone with you when meeting the buyer, meet during the day, and in a public place. If the buyer comes to your home, have someone there with you so you're not alone.” For more seasonal ideas, read “Spring Clean Your Records” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center