Right at Home: Marie Kondo Helped, but What About the Extra Stuff?

Right at Home

Marie Kondo Helped, but What About the Extra Stuff?

You may find that donating or recycling your unwanted possessions is harder than it might seem.

CreditCreditTrisha Krauss

Clean out your closets and cupboards, and invariably you are confronted with a pile of possessions in need of a new home. They have to go somewhere, ideally somewhere special, because otherwise you have to face the uncomfortable truth that all this stuff is headed for a landfill.

Perhaps, as part of your urge to purge, you try to foist these rejected items on unwitting loved ones. But you know what? Your friends, relatives and neighbors do not want that little black dress you’ve owned for over a decade but have worn only twice. They don’t want your tattered copy of “Ulysses.” Or your vinyl records, even the David Bowie ones.

Strangers on Craigslist probably don’t want these things, either.

“People just think a Pink Floyd album is going to be worth money someday,” but it’s not, said Zach Cohen, the owner of the Junkluggers franchise serving Brooklyn and Manhattan, which hauls about 250 truckloads of unwanted possessions every month. “Vinyls are not worth money — no matter who it is, somebody is selling it on eBay for $2.”

So you move on to your next option: charity. You toss the broken blender into a bag with that little black dress, your worn-out sheets and a dozen other random items, and haul everything down to Housing Works. But charities are not merely empty vessels eager to take your junk. They have standards, and would appreciate it if donors put a little thought into what they passed along, and how they did it. Those standards vary, and you have to do a bit of homework about who accepts what.

Some dos and don’ts should be obvious, though. A manager at the Housing Works Hell’s Kitchen Thrift Shop recently found a sharp knife tossed into a suitcase full of clothing, presumably by someone unaware that humans physically sort through the stuff that gets donated. Don’t do that, people. Don’t throw your knives in with your dress shirts.

Housing Works is busy this season, with donations up more than 15 percent now that New Yorkers (along with the rest of America) are in the midst of a Marie Kondo-inspired decluttering blitz. The city’s Department of Sanitation said the organizations it partners with have reported an increase in business, too. The Goodwill store on West 72nd Street, for example, received so many items during its big January drive that the staff ran out of space to sort donations and had to send them off to a facility in Astoria, Queens.

Junkluggers’ January haul was up about 25 percent in New York from the same time last year. The company, which Zach Cohen’s brother, Josh, started in Connecticut in 2004, has franchises in 16 states. The New York location charges around $1,000 to remove 15 cubic yards from a Manhattan apartment. How much can you squeeze into 15 cubic yards?

“It’s more than you think,” Zach Cohen said — about the contents of a studio apartment, depending on how much of a pack rat you are.

The company takes the stuff to a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in Long Island City, Queens, where it is sorted and disseminated to various charities, recycling centers and hazardous-waste facilities. About 16 percent ends up in landfills. The company aims to recycle or donate 100 percent of the items it collects by 2020.

“Most people think, ‘OK, my clothing is stained, it’s garbage,’ ” Mr. Cohen said. But it doesn’t have to be thrown out. There are “a ton of textile companies” that will take clothing, rugs, “anything that is made out of fabric and reuse it and recycle it.”

The city, which would like you to stop throwing recyclable items in the trash, suggests you turn to its online list of alternative destinations (or call 311). Your tattered towels and worn-out socks, for example, can get new life as upholstery filler or insulation. Look at the city’s textile map for the nearest recycling location. (You might even have one of the city’s refashionNYC bins for textiles in your apartment or office building.) Your broken vacuum cleaner, however, should go out on the curb. Take old electronics and hazardous materials, like latex paint, batteries and fluorescent light bulbs, to special waste drop-off locations. (If your building is one of the 8,800 in the city with an ecycleNYC bin, you can drop off your old electronics there.)

And while much of what the average person purges is worth little or nothing, some of your stuff may actually have value. Worthy, an online auction house, buys people’s gems, jewelry and watches. Sometimes, your grandmother’s ring isn’t worth nearly as much as you hoped — or maybe it’s worth more. Roy Albers, the chief gemologist for Worthy, recalled a Florida man who sent in a yellow diamond ring that had been appraised locally at around $30,000. Worthy appraised it for far more, and it ultimately sold for $78,000.

But most of us don’t have a $78,000 pot of gold waiting at the end of our decluttering rainbow. Instead, if we have the patience, we may scrape together a few hundred dollars selling odds and ends on Craigslist or at a consignment shop. As for the rest of our unwanted possessions, getting rid of them responsibly means spending more time with things we no longer want. Since that’s no fun, we’re apt to just toss them in a bag and hand them over to Goodwill, or Freecycle them.

Gretchen Rubin, the author of the forthcoming book “Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness,” describes this behavior as decision fatigue. “If I give it away, I don’t have to decide if it’s actually junk or not,” she said.

Getting rid of belongings we once cherished, or bought impulsively, or received as gifts, is an emotional burden, too. That’s partly why we still have so many of them.

Maybe you bought that little black dress with your mom right after you graduated from college. But now it doesn’t fit and your party days are behind you anyway. Letting it go means saying goodbye to the past, too.

Stare at that pile of rejected items long enough and you have to accept that you’ve acquired too much. And now you have to grapple with the reality that your little black dress may end up as upholstery filler. Doesn’t it deserve a more dignified fate? Which is how you end up bringing it over to your sister’s apartment with the hope that she’ll take it, and all the accompanying guilt, off your hands.

As for your sister on the receiving end of said dress, Ms. Rubin suggests she accept the item with a smile, which often allows the owner to get rid of it. “They just want to hold something up and say, ‘I remember when my mother and I went to pick this out,’ ” she said. “They want to recognize that something is important and has value.”

Once that’s done, your sister can donate it to Housing Works, so it can become someone else’s burden.

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A version of this article appears in print on , on Page RE8 of the New York edition with the headline: Somebody Is Going to Want This Stones Album, Right?. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


Published at Fri, 15 Feb 2019 16:50:09 +0000