Pandemic Divestment Tips
Happy December 26th Friends!
Did you have a good holiday season? We went with the flow, stayed home, and found joy in the small moments. A good life lesson born of this difficult, scary time.
I felt compelled to write this blog post after I received multiple texts and emails from friends asking how to donate various things. This is what can best be described as a “dashed off” list and will no doubt have categories omitted.
Donating items like furniture was already tough prior to the pandemic. (A bedbug epidemic five years ago made donating upholstered furniture almost impossible.) Then most thrift stores shut down mid-March and didn’t reopen for three months. Now, with pandemic restrictions in place, regular venues such as Goodwill make donating harder than ever. But don’t despair! I have paid attention to who is taking what, who is NOT taking what, and come up with some creative work-arounds.
Donating furniture remains a challenge. Rumor has it that both the Salvation Army and Uhuru take furniture donations now and then, but I have yet to have that verified. At one point Habitat For Humanity ReStore was accepting solid wood furniture only, but that was a maybe and you had to transport the furniture to them and face possible rejection. Your best bet for pick up is Urban Ore. They will need photos of the furniture you’re looking to donate, but if it’s a go, I’ve had success getting them to take more items. In other words, once they get to your home, work it.
Stained, shredded, smelly broken furniture need to go to the landfill.
Let people in your social circle know that you are looking to divest your item. To have a chance of success, it is important to list the full dimensions and add photos of that item from all angles.
I am a huge fan of Facebook’s Buy Nothing groups. They are specific to your area and are VERY active communities. I’ve seen furniture come and go in short order. I’ve also seen people in search of a specific piece of furniture find what they need in less than 24 hours. Once again, list the full dimensions and add photos of that item from all angles. Then make arrangements for a contactless pick up by either leaving the piece outside, or putting it just inside your garage door, then opening the door from a safe distance.
I am a HUGE fan of Nextdoor and Craigslist Curb Alerts. You leave your furniture on your curb, photograph it, and list it for free on Nextdoor and Craigslist. Pro Tip: List it early on a non-rainy Saturday morning to give people a chance to stop by over the weekend. Go to For Sale/Free to make your post, and click Furniture for the subcategory. Choose the widest area possible. Title the post “FREE Furniture!!!” In the description box add the dimensions, the photos, and write “In front of (your address)”. I kid you not, this works! Since you’re not opening the door to strangers, this poses no more risk than a pedestrian walking by.
Most thrift stores are still taking donations of clothing, hats, and intact pairs of shoes that are clean and in good repair. Here’s what this means. You can donate clean clothes that you no longer need. They don’t even need to be folded! I simply toss clothing donations into tall kitchen bags then tie the bags up. Please don’t be THAT PERSON who donates stained, torn, smelly and mildewed clothing and beaten up sneakers. Here’s what they DO NOT accept: Used bras, underwear, and socks.
If you live locally, my friend Marianne Henry, a kid’s sewing teacher in Albany, will take your old t-shirts, button downs that have seen better days, mismatched socks and beaten up denim. Let me know if you’d like her contact info. As a courtesy, please make sure items are washed before being given to her.
The thrift stores and donation centers welcome your donations of kitchen items in good condition. They accept pots, pans, dishes, utensils. silverware, knives, glasses, china, crystal, serving pieces, gadgets, and small appliances. Here’s what they don’t accept: Broken appliances, microwave ovens, cracked dishware, stained mugs, super chipped dishes, mismatched and stained tupperware, and dirty or rusty pans.
Reduce items to their basic recycling components. Metal items that are not good enough quality to donate can go to metal recycling. Additionally some municipalities will recycle plastic food containers. Check the numbers on the back. Small broken appliances go to E-waste with the exception of microwave ovens. They get dropped off at Hazardous Waste or taken to the landfill.
Opened packages of paper plates, plastic silverware, straws, skewers and napkins can be tucked into Ziplocks and donated through your local Facebook Buy Nothing group. In fact, let's expand this to include anything that’s been opened such as half used rolls of saran wrap, tin foil, and certain food items. These are exchanged on the Buy Nothing groups all the time.
As difficult as it is to give away furniture, giving away rugs is even trickier. Right off the top, I’m going to say forget thrift stores, unless you have a personal contact.
Your best bet is your local Facebook Buy Nothing group. Smaller rugs have a greater chance of being picked up, and clean area rugs have the best chance overall. Large remnants have the lowest chance of being taken unless they’re cleaned. If you are determined to give away a large rug, rent a rug cleaner and give it a good shampoo. If that’s too much work, send it off to the landfill.
Garden Pots, Tools, Potting Soil Etc
I have had my best luck downsizing my garden stuff by listing it on Nextdoor as a curb alert. You simply group everything on your curb or in your driveway, take several photographs, then list it under Nextdoor’s For Sale/Free category, with the subcategory of Garden. I usually title it “FREE Garden Pots & MORE!” I then give a brief description and say “In front of (my address)”. As with most curb alerts, you will have the best success if you list it early on a Saturday morning. My personal best from posting to everything being snapped up was 15 minutes. Yes, you read that right!
Right now might be a good time to divest your holiday decor. If it’s in good shape, you can take it to charity. If it’s a mish-moshy tangle of holiday stuff, consider giving it away on your local Facebook Buy Nothing group or a Nextdoor curb alert. I take broken Christmas lights to E-waste.
Kids Toys, Games & Bikes
Unless you are looking to donate brand new toys, etc, I recommend giving away kid stuff through your local Facebook Buy Nothing group. First off, it’s easy. You just take a photo, list it, and choose who you’d like to give it to. And here’s the thing. The recipients are always grateful! Who doesn’t love that?
When games, puzzles, etc are incomplete, I simply reduce them to their basic recycling components - cardboard and paper. Bikes become metal recycling. Hard plastic bits get tossed in the garbage.
Art & Books
To donate books or art that is not valuable, simply drop off at any charity store. You can also give art away through your local Facebook Buy Nothing group, which I personally find more satisfying. I recently divested a client's entire collection of “art fair” art this way and the reactions of the recipients made it so much fun! When it comes to art, every pot has its lid! There is also a book bin at the El Cerrito Recycling Center. If you live locally, I have a friend who will pick up bagged books from your home. Message me for the details.
All the thrift stores are taking decor. Simply drop off.
Bedding, Towels, Tablecloths and Curtains
The thrift stores are still accepting tablecloths and curtains that are clean and in good repair. Most thrift stores are not taking bedding and towels for the same reason as upholstered furniture.
Vet clinics pet adoption centers are always in need of bedding and towels. GRIP in Richmond CA, a non profit shelter is now offering shower services. Contact me privately to donate clean towels. Marianne Henry, the kids sewing teacher also takes tablecloths, sheets and towels which her students repurpose into purses, dresses and beach coverups.
Alright! There you have it. Comment down below with any specific questions or if you have more good ideas. As I wrote before, I know I forgot something, so don't hesitate to ask! This stupid pandemic pushed me to get scrappy, which I resented at first, but now see as a blessing.