If you’ve been at home for over a year, you may have taken the opportunity to go through all those tech devices, books, old clothes, and other detritus that has piled up over the years. Or perhaps you’ve upgraded a bunch of your possessions recently and have suddenly realized you don’t have room for the stuff you’ve replaced.
Whatever the reason, if you’ve got bags of tech, clothing, books, and other stuff that you need to get rid of, you want to get rid of them responsibly. Where do you go from here?
As you must know by now, just dumping it isn’t an option. Reusing and recycling old and unneeded stuff has become an important aspect of the push to preserve the world’s environment. Many states and urban areas are mandating the recycling of tech, metals, paper goods, or other substances, but even if you live in an area where the law doesn’t require it, you probably don’t want to add more to the world’s trash.
The problem is finding how and where you can get rid of your stuff with the greatest advantage to you and the least amount of damage to the environment. This may have been more difficult than usual over the last year or so, because many resources for recycling have been suspended during the pandemic, and they may be slow in coming back. However, there are still a number of online services that can help you figure out how to responsibly get rid of things — and possibly make some money in the process.
Here are some sites to check out, depending on what you want to dispose of and how you want to do it.
If you don’t like the offer from the vendor, you can sell your tech. There are online vendors that will take your used device off your hands and give you something for it. Decluttr, for example, will give you a tentative quote on your phone or tech. (It also takes CDs, DVDs, games, books, and Lego.) You can also sell through a service like Swappa, which charges the buyer, not the seller, a fee (but the seller does have to pay PayPal’s transaction fee). Amazon also has a trade-in program, although payment will come in the form of a gift card.
You can also give it to charity. There are several programs that give computers to people or organizations that need them. For example, Computers with Causes passes tech on to individuals who need them; World Computer Exchange sends refurbished desktop and laptop computers to schools, libraries, community centers, and universities in developing countries; and Globetops lets you choose who will get your refurbished laptop using online descriptions (or you can just donate your tech and let Globetops decide). As with any charitable institution, it’s a good idea to check them out before giving. (There are several charity info sites online.)
If you’ve got tech that is so old that nobody wants it, then it’s time to dispose of it — in an environmentally conscious way, of course. In fact, if you just throw away your computer or TV set, you may be breaking the law, depending on where you live. According to a 2018 article written for the National Council of State Legislatures, “25 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation establishing a statewide electronic waste, or e-waste, recycling program.”
If you live in an urban area, chances are there’s some kind of recycling program available (or even mandatory). In many cases, stores that sell electronics will also offer recycling (occasionally for a fee); all you have to do is bring your stuff to the store. Or you can try Earth911 to find the nearest recycling center. However, always check directly with the center or store before you go there; many recycling programs may still be on hold because of the pandemic.
Disposing of batteries safely can be a pain. Call2Recycle can help you find out where to drop off that bag of batteries you’ve been accumulating. If there aren’t any facilities within reach of your home or office, BigGreenBox will dispose of it for you — but not for free. Prices begin at $36 for a box that will hold up to 10 pounds of batteries (which includes shipping and handling).
Finally, if you’re still holding on to your parents’ old BlackBerry PDA or Commodore 64, you may want to see if you can donate it to a museum. There aren’t as many tech museums that accept contributions as there used to be, but if you’ve got something old and / or unusual, it’s worth a shot for the tax breaks. Both the MIT Museum and the Computer History Museum have forms you can fill out.
You can divide clothing sites into three categories: ones that handle the latest stylish and expensive clothing and jewelry, ones that handle major middle-level brands, and dealers in traditional discount leftovers.
At the high end are consignment companies that act as go-betweens for those who want to sell designer clothing, jewelry, and other valuable objects, and those who want to buy them. Most of these, such as TheRealReal, Rebag, and Vestiaire Collective, authenticate all of the products that are sold through them and will only take recent fashions, so they are not where you go to get rid of that jacket that’s been hanging in your closet for 10 years. However, if you’re the kind of shopper who buys the latest styles every season, these may be where you want to sell and buy.
A side note: if you have business clothing that you no longer wear, there are a number of organizations that accept office wear in good condition for people who are job hunting. Most of these are locally based; for example, in the NYC area, there is Bottomless Closet for women and Career Gear for men. The best way to find an organization in your area is to try charity guides such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar.
For less upscale clothing, sites like Tradesy handle both upscale and mid-priced clothing, shoes, and jewelry. Tradesy takes a straightforward commission from the seller, although it will check if there is any question about the authenticity of the label. You can also try sites like ThredUp, which handles thousands of major brands; you send your gently used clothing directly to the service, and if it accepts (and sells) your clothing, you can choose from cash or credit from either ThredUp or an associated retailer.
If you want to get rid of your older clothing, you may find it a bit harder than it used to be. Many charities that used to accept worn or outmoded clothing have become pickier, partly because the business of reselling old clothes overseas is waning. In addition, savvy consumers are becoming wary of the omnipresent drop-in clothing bins since many actually belong to for-profit companies.
If you can’t make it to your local Goodwill store, one place to try is Vietnam Veterans of America. Its website will let you schedule a pickup (assuming it services your area). GiveBackBox encourages you to use the box your new clothes were shipped in to send your old stuff (it asks that you send five or more items) to a charity; the site provides a prepaid shipping label.
Books made of paper rather than pixels are still around, and if the piles are getting too high for your home, then you probably want to get rid of at least some of them.
One solution is to sell your books through a site such as Amazon, although that can get complicated. As an individual (as opposed to a business), you have to set up a seller’s account and pay Amazon 99 cents per book. And your chances of actually selling may be slim to none; there are a lot of professional booksellers who use Amazon to get rid of extra inventory, so they will sell their books for the 99 cents plus the shipping fee, making it difficult for individuals to compete.
You can also try popular resellers such as Powell’s or AbeBooks. You give them the ISBN and the condition of the book(s), and they will give you a quote. Then, you mail the books to them and reap your reward.
If you’ve got textbooks you don’t need anymore — and we all know how expensive those can get — you can try AbeBooks, Bookbyte, or GoTextbooks. BookScouter will show you the prices offered by a variety of booksellers, along with user ratings, and you can choose which one to sell to.
If you just want to get rid of your books and aren’t worried about getting paid, there are sites like Better World Books, a for-profit company with drop-off boxes around the country, that uses a percentage of its earnings to promote literacy. There are also specialized organizations online that help you send books to people who need them, such as Books for Soldiers.
You can also go local. Libraries and used bookstores have traditionally been good ways for people to unload books they no longer want. Many libraries still take books that they can add to their collections, sell, or give away. However, it’s a good idea to go online and check with your library’s website to make sure they accept donations. (You can also go really old-fashioned and call them.) Used bookstores will usually accept books for either a small payment or for credit toward book purchases. The best way to find out if there are any in your area is to go to Google Maps and search “used bookstores.”
Finally, you can build your own library. The Little Free Library site provides all the information you need to start a tiny book-lending program right outside your house (or how to find the nearest one). And if one of your neighbors has already started one, maybe you can donate to them!
When you want to sell your stuff, one of the places people still think of is eBay. And rightfully so: this is where a lot of buyers go when they’re looking for a deal. People who sell on eBay range from one-time-only folks to professional retailers. Here’s how it works:
- You get up to 250 free listings a month for most product types; after that, it’s 35 cents per listing.
- Once your item has been sold, eBay collects 12.55 percent of the final value up to $7,500 and 2.35 percent on any value over $7,500.
- There are several exceptions: 5.85 percent for guitars and basses (with 2.35 percent on any value over $7,500); 3 percent for heavy equipment (with 0.5 percent for values over $15,000), and 14.55 percent for movies and TV, except for vinyl records (with 2.35 percent on any value over $7,500). There are other exceptions; you can find them all here.
(Note that eBay also has different fees for people who have what is called “managed payments” and for various levels of professional sellers.)
Selling on eBay takes time, effort, and patience, but it may be worth it. The best way to start is to do a quick search and see the range of prices your object (or a similar object) is selling for.
There are other places you can sell your stuff. If you’re on Facebook, you can sell stuff using its Marketplace. It’s easiest to sell locally, where you can meet the buyer to do the exchange or arrange for a drop-off. You can also arrange to ship your item; if so, there are a number of rules to follow. Other sites that help you sell or give away items locally include NextDoor and that old standby, Craigslist.
For giveaways only, Freecycle is a service that introduces local people who have stuff to other local people who want that stuff. Once you find your community Freecycle through the main site, you are instructed on how to advertise what you are giving away. Freecycle sends out your email to all of its subscribers and anyone who wants the object replies. Their email is pushed to your personal email, and after that, it’s up to you to contact the person and arrange for the giveaway. And you’ve made two people happy — you and the lucky recipient.