Spring Cleaning! The Philadelphian’s Guide to Getting Rid of Everything
From appliances and antiques to TVs and yoga mats, how to responsibly purge all the unwanted stuff from your life.
You’ve done it. You finally went full-on Marie Kondo and spent a weekend sorting and sifting. Look at you!
But wait, don’t go celebrating just yet. There’s a second chapter to this shedding, and that’s figuring out the best way to physically part with all the stuff you just mentally divorced yourself from. Today, with charities that do pickups, apps that connect you to neighbors who crave your old waffle iron, and smarter ways to dispose of all that toxic junk, filling up a trash bag should be a last resort. Here’s where to go, whom to call, and how to make some bank back on your stuff.
If you’re upgrading, most stores you buy from (including Lowe’s and Home Depot) will take away your old clunkers, although sometimes they charge a fee. Also consider calling a charity, which will come collecting as long as the items are working — try Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity. GreenDrop takes small stuff.
Art and Antiques
Dust collecting on Grandma’s prized pair of Staffordshire dogs? Reputable auction houses like Locati in Maple Glen and Freeman’s in Rittenhouse will evaluate your goods (fine art, pedigreed furniture, watches, rare books and porcelain) for possible sale; Locati also offers consignment sales for furniture. Material Culture in Manayunk not only has a vast warehouse of shoppable goods; it does consignments and auctions. Recently sold items include an 18th-century Chinese robe and a Georg Jensen silver coffeepot. Take less valuable stuff to your neighborhood antiques shop for consignment or sale. Three standouts: Nannygoat Antiques in Narberth loves shabby chic; Phantastic Phinds in Chestnut Hill takes vintage Pyrex dishes and old-school toys; and M. Finkel & Daughter on Antique Row collects needlework.
Savvy parents are always out to buy used kid gear, so there are some serious cash-back opportunities to be had. The Nesting House has three Philly storefronts and one in South Jersey; you can sell, consign or trade strollers, high chairs and clothes (including maternity stuff). The awesome CityKids Consignment Sale happens twice a year in South Philly, but you can donate to the organization year-round. Proceeds benefit parenting resource Lilypad. You can drop off gently used baby gear and goods (no cribs) 24/7 at the Cradles to Crayons West Conshohocken warehouse — make sure to grab a tax receipt. If you don’t want to brave the Conshohocken Curve, there are other drop-off points in the area.
Newer alkaline batteries can be thrown in the trash, though it’s best to recycle them (properly) to play it safe. Rechargeables should always be recycled. Luckily, supermarkets like MOM’s Organic Market (Bryn Mawr, Cherry Hill) and Wegmans will take care of that for you. Just toss your old cells into the bin on your next food run. Also, places where you’d normally buy batteries, like Staples, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Radio Shack, recycle them, too. Or save them all until your town announces its next hazardous-waste collection day.
West Philly’s Neighborhood Bike Works is an amazing organization that — among other things — lets kids “earn” bikes by teaching them how to rehab them. Donate your old ride (as long as the wheels are larger than 20 inches) at their community shop. Gearing Up is a local group that empowers women to ride and will take donations of hybrid or road bikes made after 2000 in their Center City office. Or trade up: Many neighborhood bike shops (like Liberty Bell Bicycles in the Northeast, Fairmount Bicycles and Brewerytown Bicycles) take trade-ins.
Kindle, schmindle: Books are still the coolest home accessory — that is, until you run out of shelf space. Consider your local library, school or day care. The Friends of the Free Library have the Book Corner in Fairmount, a secondhand shop that takes anything but textbooks, reference books, periodicals and encyclopedias. Or search for a nearby Little Free Library; these sweet birdhouse-looking boxes have a “take a book, leave a book” philosophy. You could also send reads to Philly-based Books Through Bars, a nonprofit that connects prisoners with titles. Operation Paperback helps you send books to overseas troops and military families directly. Or if you want to trade-in, Mostly Books in Queen Village and the Book Trader in Old City rarely refuse a volume (or 20) — they’ll give you store credit on the spot.
Boxes and Packaging
FreshDirect junkie? Amazon addict? Just moved? You have more options than curbside recycling. Most U-Haul stores have leave-a-box, take-a-box programs, while their website helps you sell (or give away) used boxes to those who need them.
When your car is parked in the shop more than in your garage, it might be time to let it go. A handful of junkyards clustered around the airport will pay cash (not a lot) and do pickup. If you’d rather get a tax deduction, WXPN and WHYY (yes, the radio stations) will hook you up. (They also take boats.) Other charitable organizations include Purple Heart, Wheels for Wishes (through the Make-A-Wish Foundation), Habitat for Humanity and even Philly AIDS Thrift.
CDs, DVDs and Tapes
Until someone comes up with a smart way to turn these relics into t-shirts or something, Philly AIDS Thrift in Queen Village, Whosoever Gospel Mission Thrift Shop in Germantown and Lighthouse Thrift Shop in the Northeast will happily take them off your hands. The Book Trader in Old City will take LPs, DVDs and CDs for store credit.
Clothes and Shoes
There are almost too many ways to get rid of your old duds, including standby charities like Purple Heart and Salvation Army, both of which will come to you. Also, check any neighborhood organizations, religious and not; they often hold drives. The Narenj Tree Foundation, a four-year-old charity out of Norristown, gets goods directly to Syrian, Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian refugees and has drop bins all over. You can donate more upscale goods to haute thrift shops like the Junior League in Ardmore, which recently was selling Burberry and Blahnik. Some orgs collect very specific items, like coats (One Warm Coat and Burlington Coat Factory), business attire (Career Wardrobe), running sneakers (Philadelphia Runner), and running sneaks plus all other shoes (ShoeBox Recycling). H&M and North Face will recycle old goods (North Face will give you a $10 credit toward a $100 purchase), while Patagonia will take its own used stuff. Target will set you up with a Clean Out Kit, which it coordinates through website thredUP. There are also many opportunities to sell stuff outright or through consignment — and thanks to a million new sites and apps, it’s easier than ever. Check out our guide on page 112.
Computers and Cell Phones
Gazelle is an e-shop that will send you a check for your old device, especially if it has an apple on it. Staples and Best Buy will safely recycle your old personal electronics — but first, see if they’ll make you an offer. Both take trade-ins. Donate your old laptop to CommuniTech, a student-run organization at Penn that provides computers to community members in need, or head over to National Cristina Foundation’s website, which will tell you which local schools and charities are in need of tech. Donate any brand of computer at Goodwill — they have a partnership with Dell, which will recycle or refurbish anything they get. And a reason to save the original packaging: Pack up old Apple computers in the boxes they came in and send them back to the company for safe disposal.
You should consign your designer jeans (see page 112 for ways to make money back), but don’t just toss the rest; denim can be remade into other consumer products. MOM’s Market takes pairs during its annual drive, while Madewell hands over any brand of used denim you bring in to a company that turns it into insulation, and gives you a $20 credit toward a new pair.
Donate pairs that don’t quite, ahem, work as well as they once did to GreenDrop (which has trailers and depots all over the region and also does pickups), who gets them safely to the National Federation of the Blind.
Furniture,Fixtures and Decor
Rugs that don’t tie the room together, a sofa from your first apartment in Manayunk, an ugly-ass lamp: Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army and Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles will all pick up your bounty for charitable causes, though some require photo evaluations and descriptions beforehand. If you’ve got something that looks like it belongs in a Michael Schulson restaurant (think: old tiles, plumbing, doors), drop your architectural salvage off at Philadelphia Salvage Company, in North Philly. Of course, if you just need it out, stat, hire a junk-lugger (see page 115), or check if your township will collect it. You’d be surprised.
Games and Toys
There are always the tax-deductible donations to Toys for Tots and Cradles to Crayons, but also check your nearby day-care center, preschool or church.
What to do with all those dead leaves, branches and old mulch? If you put it in paper yard bags, most township garbage collectors will oblige. If detritus includes plastic pots and plant trays, Lowe’s will happily up-cycle those.
Hazardous and Toxic Stuff
Paint (although not the latex variety), bathroom cleaners, antifreeze, mothballs, stain removers — you don’t want this stuff lying around. Most towns and cities hold hazardous-waste collections throughout the year.
Staples, Target, Best Buy and Office Depot accept drop-offs at their stores so the toxic matter from your printer doesn’t wind up in our water.
Jewelry and Accessories
If your karats aren’t fit for auction (see “Art and Antiques”), consider one of those “we buy gold” spots, like Max Weiner Fine Jewelers, near Jewelers’ Row; Main Line Precious Metals in Ardmore; or Doylestown Gold Exchange & Jewelers. If you’re looking to switch out some J.Crew statement necklaces (or clutches, belts or sunglasses) for a new pair of tassel earrings, try consigning baubles at the Attic (Manayunk), Plato’s Closet (various locations), 2nd Time Around (Rittenhouse), Clothes Mentor (various locations), Revivals Boutique (Narberth) or Greene Street (various locations).
Consider donating old towels, blankets, sheets and pillows to animal shelters — they’re always seeking soft bedding for fur babies. Some local notables: Last Chance Ranch (Quakertown), Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals (Radnor), PSPCA (various locations), PAWS (Old City), ACCT (North Philly) and Morris Animal Refuge (Center City).
If you seal your mattress in the right bag (Lowe’s, Home Depot, Kmart and Amazon should have them), you can take it right to the curb, although some townships will take them regardless. Philadelphia Mattress Disposal Plus will collect your mattress right from the room it’s sitting in — for a fee. (Prices start at $85.)
It’s smart to get over-the-counter and prescription drugs out of the house if they’re not needed, but they shouldn’t go into a landfill. Your local police department will most likely take them in its MedReturn box. Long-term care facilities like nursing homes and hospitals will collect as well. Or you may be able to dispose of meds in a coffee tin filled with dirt, kitty litter or unused coffee grounds that you put in your trash — just check the small print on your scrip.
Nearby schools might be in need of pianos, drums and more — give them a ring. The Free Library also takes instruments in good condition for its new lending program. If you just don’t have room for that set of keys anymore, Pianoadoption.com has a list of local-to-you people and places that are looking for them. Then there’s Play on, Philly!, a nonprofit with a mission to give all students access to instruments. Strings, brass, pipes and percussion are all accepted. Got a guitar? Guitar Center will buy or offer store credit for your axe, keyboard, amp or mic.
Pans, Pots, Dishes and Kitchen Stuff
Charities and thrifts like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, Salvation Army, GreenDrop, Purple Heart, Philly AIDS Thrift and Hamper Shop of Lankenau Hospital are always looking for stuff like this, but you may be able to get some dough (cough, cough) for that bread machine you only used once by selling to neighbors via online groups — see our handy list on page 112.
The bazillion Target and Acme bags you have shoved in closets, under the sink, in the pantry — it turns out they can be recycled, but most likely not through your curbside pickup. Check your town’s local sanitation website for the rules. To play it safe, drop used bags at Whole Foods, Wegmans, MOM’s Organic Market or Lowe’s.
Baseball last spring, football in the fall? If you’ve got a child who’s tried every sport under the sun, Cradles to Crayons and GreenDrop will get that used gear to kids in need. Hockey equipment, specifically, can go to the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation at the Flyers Skate Zone in the Northeast, or arrange a pickup.
Power tools, snowblowers, nuts and bolts can go to the West Philly Tool Library, which lends tools to community members for their home and garden projects. Philadelphia Community Corps could also use your tool (and tarp, and box-cutter) donations. The group provides career-training programs while also rehabbing vacant buildings in Philadelphia.
Think getting rid of your old boob tube is a cinch? Think again. Thanks to a Pennsylvania law enacted in 2013, it’s nearly impossible to part with your old TV. (You can forget bringing them to places like Best Buy or putting them on the curb.) So what to do? The city hosts HHW (that’s household hazardous waste) events throughout the year where you can drop off your old TVs, or find a specialized recycling center (read: not free) near your house at earth911.com. Or head over to the Garden State — the Goodwills there can accept them.
Donate gowns to Brides Across America, which gives military brides free dresses for their big day. If you’d rather consign, try Sabrina Ann’s in Ardmore.
When your mat has seen one too many sweat sessions, take it to Lululemon, which hosts collection drives throughout the year. Mats in good condition go to communities in need; everything else gets repurposed for animal shelters and garden centers.
10 Ways to Make a Little ROI: Consign and sell, online or off
Consign: Philly doesn’t lack consignment boutiques. The Attic (Manayunk) is geared toward juniors and 20-somethings, and Clothes Mentor (various suburban locations) and 2nd Time Around (Rittenhouse) have solid upper-end collections. But super-designer duds should go to Revivals Boutique (Narberth) or Addiction and Je Ne Sais Quoi (Washington Square West) — the process could take a little longer, but this is Hermès and Louis Vuitton, people. Kids’ stuff can go to As They Grow (Berwyn) and the Nesting House (various locations), and of course there’s Greene Street (various locations), which has the loveliest stores. If you’d rather not leave your house, there’s the popular site thredUP as well as the RealReal, which takes only top-of-the-line brands (think Valentino and Burberry) and lets you keep up to 70 percent of the sale price. You ship off your goods; they handle the rest.
Cash In: The most hassle-free thing is to try to sell to your neighbors. Download the letgo or Nextdoor apps, or head over to hyper-local Google Groups (think Kids South of Washington) and Facebook Groups (try Internet Yardsale Philadelphia) or Philadelphia Yard Sale, each of which has some 20,000 members. However, you can also make some good money swinging by secondhand boutiques, many of which are more than happy to pay cash on the spot for your old stuff. Try Plato’s Closet (various locations), Buffalo Exchange (Center City) and Clothes Mentor (various suburban locations). Sites and apps like Tradesy and Poshmark let you sell your goods (women’s, men’s, kids’, accessories and more) directly to others, with a fee taken upon sale. They even email you a free shipping label.
16 People and Places that Come to You: Remove or repurpose without breaking a sweat
Person-to-Person: Your local “Buy Nothing” Facebook group, Facebook Marketplace (accessible on your Facebook app), Craigslist Free Stuff, neighborhood/town Google Groups, the Nextdoor app and your local Freecycle page have thousands of people within miles of your home who are willing to swing by in, like, 20 minutes and take that Ikea dresser, fondue set and old stroller off your hands.
Charities That Do (Free) Pickup: National organizations Purple Heart and Habitat for Humanity (via ReStore) do pickups. Local spot Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles (which supports the nonprofit African People’s Education and Defense Fund) picks up furniture, home goods and some appliances.
Junk Haulers: Sometimes, a job calls for professionals. 1-800-GOT-JUNK, TaskRabbit, College Hunks Hauling Junk, JDog Junk Removal & Hauling and Suburban Solutions are usually worth the cost. If none of that is in the budget, you might need to seek out your town’s sanitation center, or a nearby dump — there are a few in the city and a bunch in the ’burbs. (Most are closed on Sundays.) Oh, and don’t forget your ID — you might have to prove you live in the area. Or check out the Bagster from Waste Management. You buy these giant tarp bags, which hold up to 3,300 pounds, from Amazon or Home Depot for around $30 apiece, fill them up at your convenience, then schedule a pickup from WM. That’ll run you around $175.
Published as “Purge!” in the May 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.