Su Clauson-Wicker Special in the Roanoke Times
Spring is the time to clean up. After a long winter indoors, we’re ready to let go of the clutter. In the age of tiny houses and Marie Kondo books, throwing away things you don’t love is just as trendy as buying them was 20 years ago.
Whether you’re selling, donating, recycling, giving away, or taking it to the curb with a “free” sign, knowing your choices makes the process less challenging — and occasionally profitable.
Businesses are eager for things you never thought of recycling. Used mascara wands are handy combs for wildlife rescuers to remove parasites from animals’ wings and fur (wandsforwildlife.org). Brarecycling.com adopts old bras because they allow girls in shelters and developing countries to exercise and go to school without embarrassment. And the Wonder Universe children’s museum in Christiansburg is asking for greeting cards, loose beads, CDs and other unusual gifts to craft (facebook.com/NewRiverCreativeReuse).
People also read…
Getting rid of old electronics responsibly is often the biggest problem for suppressors. Of the 50 million tons of electronic devices produced annually, only 20% are recycled. It is illegal in North Carolina and 13 other states to throw away electronic devices and waste their valuable components. For example, for every million cell phones recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, and 75 pounds of gold are recovered, according to the EPA.
In the New River Valley, you can drop off your phones, computers, TVs, VCRs, etc. at the Virginia Tech YMCA Thrift Shop. Volunteers repair them or recycle the parts. (Note: the admission tables behind the shop close on rainy days.) You can also mail your old tech devices to ComputerswithCauses.orgwhich she passes on to people and groups who need her.
If you prefer to sell your devices, Decluttr.com will give you cash. Trade-in programs at Amazon and Best Buy offset gift cards.
You can also sell metal – copper, aluminum, brass, steel and bronze. Do you have a broken water heater, dryer or aluminum ladder? You can bring in money. At 77 cents a pound, a bag of 400 aluminum cans can fetch $10, and copper tubing will sell for $3 a pound at the right junkyard. Montgomery County Solid Waste Authority, New River Recycling, Rider Scrap Iron and Metals, and D&M Auto Parts & Recycling all purchase metal. As a last resort, you could bury your old washer or dryer to use as a hinged root cellar.
Let’s say you have some threads that look better on the hangers than you do. There are many New River Valley thrift stores waiting for you: Goodwill, MCEAP stores in Blacksburg and Christiansburg, VT YMCA, Giles County Christian Service Mission Thrift Store, and Second Time Around Humane Society Shop, as well as Radford Clothing Bank and Pulaski County Free Store. Radford University Career Closet (540-831-5373) and Virginia Tech Career Outfitters (career.vt.edu/advising/CareerOutfitters) also looking for professional application clothing for students.
If you’re hoping to make money off your clothes, the best place to find their value is at a consignment store. Area stores that pay upfront or when the item sells include Lis De La Valle in Pulaski, VTThrift in downtown Blacksburg, and trendy Plato’s Closet and Once Upon a Child, both in Christiansburg. Online there is eBay where listings are free and commissions are 12.55%. There are a variety of eBay alternatives such as Depop, Poshmark, and artsy Etsy.
Tired of that wedding dress in your closet? Stillwhite.com offers cash for your dress. NeverLikedItAnyway.com will also be selling it, along with engagement rings, Prada sunglasses, and other items that sellers claim are left behind by their exes. (Stories shared here are compelling reads, in a Jerry Springer sort of way.)
To skip the commissions and shipping costs, try marketing your stuff closer to where you live through online community platforms like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Next Door, or the Montgomery County Yard Sale. Buyers collect their purchases from a mutually convenient location. Or not. No shows are sometimes as common as sales.
It may be easier to skip the hassle and gift your stuff. There are many good reasons for this, from the lightness of mind to the brightening effect of a tax write-off.
Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Christiansburg can even come to your home for furniture, appliance, and building material donations. Pickup is free if you live in Blacksburg or Christiansburg; A kilometer fee applies to other areas. Or you can drop off donations at the ReStore collection point from Monday to Saturday.
Goodwill, VT YMCA Thrift Shop, Second Time Around, MCEAP Shops and Pulaski County Free Store accept all types of home and leisure items, but call before delivery. Some have very limited cut-off times, and your donations will go to landfill if left out in the rain for a week.
You can give with a personal touch. The worldwide Buy Nothing Project has groups in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Floyd, Giles and Radford. Through the Facebook Group, members give gifts to other members, offer items they no longer want, and request things they need. The Blacksburg group gathered around a family that arrived with nothing; Eager donors have given almost everything needed to keep the house running, said Blacksburg Buy Nothing founder Darla Bray.
If your stack of books ends up in a security risk area, it may be time to send them away – preferably to a place where they matter. At least two bookstores in Blacksburg – Bookholders and Virginia Tech Bookstore – donate obsolete textbooks to charities such as prison libraries (libguides.ala.org/PrisonLibraries/bookstoprisons), Books for Africa (booksforafrica.org) and public libraries (betterworldbooks.com/go/donate).
Local libraries accept used books for their book sales, generally relatively new books in good condition. Ditto for the VT YMCA Thrift Shop, Second Time Around Shop and Goodwill. Or drop them off at one of the small, free, mailbox-sized libraries in the area. (Most NRV cities have one, and Blacksburg has more than a dozen.)
You can sell books online, at Amazon, Half Price Books, or Powell’s, or to a few local bookstores, but don’t expect to make a lot of money from it. Blacksburg Books regularly accepts books for store credit. Old New River Books (facebook.com/oldnewriverbooks) deals in rare books and first editions, but owner Ken Vaughan says age is no guide to value.
“Books like school spellers, hymnals, and smaller Bibles were owned by almost every household and were so mass-produced that they are still plentiful today and are usually worth no more than a few dollars at best,” he said. “The more niche the topic, the fewer copies have been printed and the more valuable it tends to be. This is the most basic rule of thumb for books and applies to all years of publication.”
A surprisingly good place to donate, especially during spring cleaning, is on the streets of Blacksburg. Throughout April, pickup trucks drive through the city scanning a hodgepodge of furniture, flower pots, scrap metal and building materials. They often make a real find—a perfect Queen Anne chair, or enough metal to fund dinner at the Mountain Lake Hotel. It’s out there to pick.