Recycle Holiday Lights

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How to get rid of holiday lights? Older holiday lights can be fickle: one minute they work, the next they don’t. Or maybe you’ve replaced all your old Christmas lights with new LED versions.

If you have holiday lights to get rid of, don’t throw them out: take them to the Home Depot. According to their website, they “offer recycling programs for rechargeable batteries, CFL bulbs and old incandescent holiday light strings.”

With Home Depot locations all over, this seems like a great option for recycling lights.

 

How Do I Get Rid of: Dance Costumes

My daughter has been dancing (so far) for 8 years. 8 years = many, many dance costumes.

When she was little we recycled dance costumes into dress up outfits, and costumes for Halloween and parties. But after all these years, the little kid costumes aren’t going to fit anymore.

We decided to save a few (like one of her first outfits, pictured right) as keepsakes. We also donated a few costumes to a friend with two young girls for their dress up box at home.

Could we donate dance costumes? This year at my daughter’s dance school we learned about a great charity, Traveling Tutus, which donates dance wear to children overseas. Traveling Tutus partners with orphanages, children's homes, hospitals, foster care centers, and non-profit organizations in different countries. Their mission is “to provide gently used dance attire to children around the world to instill confidence, self-expression and joy through the gift of dance!”

After hearing about Traveling Tutus, I started to research a bit more and also found another organization, From Our Hearts to Your Toes, which aims to “Bring smiles, uplift spirits, and build confidence by collecting, donating, and distributing gently used costumes and shoes to dance programs serving children in challenging environments.”

I really love the idea of our outgrown costumes helping other children. Consider sharing your unwanted dance costumes with these organizations. If you find more options for donating, please let me know.

Creative Clutter Solutions: Race Mementos

I’ve only been running for three years and I’ve already amassed a collection of race bibs, medals, t-shirts and other finisher gifts. While some of the items (beer glass and t-shirts) are useful, some end up cluttering my closet.

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On a recent run I was chatting with my running gals about what they do with their mementos. Several said they toss out their race bibs and don’t always keep the shirts, which is definitely OK! For the first time I just donated a few of my early race shirts. But for some reason I’ve been holding on to all of the bibs and medals—so far.

This got me thinking and searching online for creative ways to use and display race mementos, so they aren’t simply more clutter in your home. Here are my favorite ideas:

  • Make your t-shirt collection into something else. My amazing and talented friend Barb Patrick at Bitty Birdie Design can turn shirts into a quilt or pillow.
  • The company Mile 22 can take your bibs and create a custom messenger bag, tote, or backpack. For crafty DIYers, there are also instructions for making a tote bag yourself on Pinterest.
  • Also on Pinterest I found ideas for turning medals into a wind chime!
  • You can also use medals as holiday ornaments.
  • For those who really want to organize their race bibs, put them in a scrapbook or use the  album.
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You can also donate your marathon, half-marathon, or triathlon medals to Medals 4 Mettle, a non-profit which gets earned race medals into the hands of others fighting life challenges, such as serious illness.

How Do I Get Rid of: Trophies

Soccer trophies. First place medals. Work recognition plaques. These tokens may be wonderful at the time we receive them, but years later they tend to be big dust collectors (aka clutter), sitting on shelves or packed away in boxes.

If you aren’t displaying them, then it may be time for them to go! (If you do want to display some, use a shadow box, hooks, clear case, or check out Pinterest for more creative ideas.)

First sort through all the awards. You may want to keep one or two, and that’s fine. You may want to toss them all, and that’s fine too.

How to get them out of your house:

  • Take a few photos of the awards as a keepsake; you can even create an online photo book
  • Consider calling a trophy shop near you to see if they could recycle or use the award
  • Mail them off to an organization that will re-use or recycle them - Awards Mall or Trophy Recycler are two choices
  • Goodwill and The Salvation Army may take them too

If you can’t give your awards away, see if you can break apart the materials to recycle the pieces. You also have my permission to toss them out!

How Do I Get Rid of: TVs & Computer Monitors

Older TVs and computer monitors can be heavy and bulky, and because they have cathode ray tubes, or CRTs, with toxic chemicals they can’t just go out with your trash. This means they end up in the corners of our homes gathering dust. I find often find them tucked under a chair or table in the family room, the office, or even the basement.

So how do you get these out of your house?

  • If you are getting a new TV delivered, many companies (like Best Buy) will remove and recycle the old one for you.
  • If you can’t take advantage of a take-away service, then check with your town to see if they offer a CRT recycling program. In my town you can bring your TV or monitor to the Department of Public Works and for a small fee, they will dispose of it for you. For a larger fee, the DPW will pick up the TV curbside in front of our homes, a few times a year.
  • Want to donate your old TV (especially if it still works) or computer monitor? The Salvation Army also accepts electronics/appliances, including TVs and computers, and many Goodwill locations are now taking computers.

You’ve got no excuses now to get your TVs and old computer monitors out of your house.

How Do I Get Rid of: Cell phones

While working with clients to de-clutter, we inevitably come across old cell phones that are no longer used but are just sitting around. How to get rid of them?

My husband and I tackled this question recently. As we continue to clean out our basement, we found four ancient cell phones (see photo!) that were ready to go. These phones had been hanging around for years, so we finally decided to get rid of them.

First we made sure any data and personal information were erased from the phones. We knew that the photos and contacts were backed up, and were able to set the phones back to their factory settings, getting rid of the data (a quick online search helped us figure out how to do the re-sets, especially on the ancient Nokia phones, but it worked). Don’t forget to take out the SIM card if your phone has one. Good information about cleaning data off your phone is here.

Then when I was doing a bunch of errands, I dropped off the phones at our local Sprint store. So easy.

There are many options to get rid of your unwanted phones. If your phone is a newer model, you can:

  • Trade it in – check with your phone carrier.
  • Sell it, through a service like Gazelle.
  • Pass it on to a friend.
  • Donateit to an organization like Cell Phones for Soldiers or find a drop-off location near you that supports a local charity through this website.
  • Many schools and non-profits offer an “electronics recycling day” where you  drop off your phone (and other electronics) for free.  My town has a recycling day every spring and fall, so check with your local city or town.

Usually I see cell phones (like mine) that are just too old to sell or trade it, so they really have to go. Check with your cellular company about their recycling programs. Other places to recycle phones include Staples, Best Buy and even Target.

How Do I Get Rid of: Paint

My husband and I have been working to clean out and better organize our basement this summer. In the process we found many cans of paint that we wouldn’t use again (old colors), or were nearly used up and didn’t need to be saved.

Many people think that latex and acrylic paint is considered to be a hazardous material, but in my town like many communities, you can toss dried up paint right in the regular trash. Sounds easy…but how to dry out the paint? I had heard that cat litter would do the trick, but could take a while.

I investigated options at our local hardware store and found that we could simply get a paint hardener to add to each can of paint. This is the one we used, but the hardeners are also available (and probably cheaper) in bigger containers. This was super easy and we cleaned out shelves of old paint from our basement.

Note: oil-based paints (and paint solvents) should be disposed of as hazardous waste. Check with your local town hall for more information for hazardous waste collection in your area.

How Do I Get Rid of: Bicycles

Last year my daughter outgrew her bicycle. As I started to stash it away, I realized that we had 3 bicycles – all too small for her - taking up much-needed space in our basement. I had been hanging on to her first “real” bicycle for purely sentimental reasons, but it was finally time to let them all go.

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If you have old bikes that could use a new home, here are a few ways to pass them on:

  • Donate: The local organization, Bikes Not Bombs, comes to my town’s annual Community Collection Day and was very happy to receive our bicycles. Bikes Not Bombs collects used bikes and bike parts, and then sends them to countries overseas as part of economic development projects. If you are in the Boston area, this is a great way to feel good about passing on your bicycle.
  • Another organization to try is Bicycles for Humanity, which has a chapter in Boston and other chapters across the US. Also check out this website with organizations that may take used bikes.
  • Of course, you might know of a friend, neighbor or relative that could use your old bike.
  • Bike Swap: Recently a bike shop in my town held a bike swap event; the money raised went to support our local education foundation. I think “sellers” donated their used bikes for sale, and the funds from the purchase went to the foundation. It’s not exactly a bike swap, but is a creative idea. Check with your local bike shop to see if they have any programs to help sell or pass on used bicycles.
  • Sell: If your used bicycle is in good condition, consider selling it on Craigslist. Check out the Bicycle Blue Book website for their database of bicycle values.

How Do I Get Rid Of: American Flags

Do you have a torn or worn out American flag that’s been in your basement or garage for ages? In honor of Flag Day this month (June 14th), I’m sharing ideas for the proper disposal of the American flag.

US Flag Code states that unserviceable American flags should be “burned in a dignified manner.” I’m not sure how often this is feasible (or allowed by local law), so here are several places to bring your unusable flag for appropriate disposal:

  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post
  • American Legion post
  • Your local post office or police station
  • Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops may be able to help
  • This flag company will take your flag for proper disposal, and will give you 10% off the purchase of a new flag

And for more American flag etiquette, check out this site from the VFW.

How Do I Get Rid Of: Formal Wear & Wedding Dresses

Graduations, first communions, weddings, and prom—it’s the time of year for those special celebrations.

But what to do with all the special occasion dresses and suits that you (or your kids) no longer wear? It’s time to de-clutter your closet and regain that space.

Here’s how you can get rid of your unwanted formal wear:


If you want to save that special outfit for years to come read how to preserve your clothes by guest contributor, Gabby Burgman, an archivist, professional organizer and busy mom.

How Do I Get Rid Of: Running Shoes

This month I’m thinking about running shoes. Not just because it’s Spring, but because here in Boston it will soon be Marathon Monday.

In 2013 I started running, and ran my first 5K. I kept signing up for 5K races, and kept on training. This new athletic activity means that I’m now buying and wearing out running shoes fairly regularly.

So what do I do when I’m done with a pair of running shoes? I discovered that the Greater Boston Running Company - Lexington has a handy bin to collect shoes for re-use in Africa. They also have other locations.

Soles4Souls is a non-profit organization that aims to fight poverty by distributing clothes and shoes, both in the US and globally. Some items go to micro-enterprise programs in developing countries (Haiti, Honduras, Tanzania) where participants recondition shoes and sell them locally. You can drop off shoes at locations here, or mail them to Soles4Souls.

Nike also offers a Reuse-A-Shoe program where shoes are truly  “recycled” into their basic components, and reused. The rubber from the soles, for example, is turned into rubberized surface used for playgrounds and running tracks. Find locations to drop off your shoes here.

How Do I Get Rid of: Shredding

This month I’ve been helping many clients get their financial files set up for the year, and get organized for tax time. Part of the process is getting rid of important or sensitive documents that you no longer need. The best way to do this is to shred the papers.

It seems easy to get rid of shredding, but so many times I see piles of papers left “to be shredded” on top of shredders. As it turns out, the shredders often don’t work, and the papers pile up.Staples Space-Saver 10-Sheet Cross-Cut Shredder

Got shredding? Here are some ways to get rid of it:

1. Get a new shredder that works. To keep up with once-in-a-while shredding needs, basic shredders work fine. This model is available in several fun colors and fits right on a small shelf with easy access.

2. If you have boxes and boxes of old documents to shred, outsource the shredding.

  • A great local resource is Doc Shredding Corp. They will come to pick up your boxes of shredding, and also destroy computer hard drives.
  • Check to see if your town offers any shredding days. My town holds a spring and fall Community Recycle Day and always offers free shredding services.
  • Bring your boxes of shredding to Office Depot or Staples for in-store shredding.

Don’t let piles of shredding build up in your home or office. Get a new shredder and get rid of the paper, or have someone else do the shredding for you.

How Do I Get Rid Of: Children’s Clothing

It’s a constant challenge to keep up with growing kids’ clothing. Pants that fit my daughter one week are suddenly too short the next. Sound familiar? 

As a parent it’s critical to have a place or two to pass on the outgrown clothes that you don’t want to keep. It prevents your attic or basement from getting filled with bins of clothing (like mine was for many years) and most importantly, your quality clothes can be used by someone else.

Here are some of my favorite resources:

  • Cradles to Crayons: This Boston-based organization helps kids in need (ages 2-12) with “kids packs” of clothing, shoes, toys, and books. My daughter and I enjoy volunteering in their Giving Factory, and now it’s our #1 place to bring her outgrown clothing. You can bring donations to their office or other locations, find drop off boxes, or set up a clothing drive.
  • The Little Fox Shop (Arlington): Donate your good quality clothing (and toys) to this re-sale shop and all proceeds will benefit the Fox Library. 
  • Goodwill: With many drop off locations, including a box in Arlington, it’s easy to donate to Goodwill.
  • If you want to try to sell your kids’ clothes, try consignment stores like Pink Dolly (Arlington) or Liena’s (Winchester). The Children’s Orchard (Locations include Billerica, Brookline, and Rowley) will also buy your high-quality, gently used clothing. And don’t forget about the LexFUN Annual Consignment Sale (Lexington) each May, with 50% of proceeds going to sellers and 50% to the LexFUN Preschool Scholarship Fund.

Need help organizing the kids clothing you’ve got? Check out my tips on the That’s Neat! Blog.

Sentimental About Stuffed Animals? Try This!

After reading my post, How Do I Get Rid of Stuffed Animals, a friend shared her creative idea for what to do with stuffed animals when you aren’t ready to let them go. She said she was too sentimental to part with any stuffed animals yet, but she also didn’t want them taking over her kids’ rooms.

Her solution was to purchase a bean bag cover (cover only, no filling), and then load up the inside with the entire stuffed animal collection! The bean bag sits near the books in the room, and if her boys really want one of the animals, it can come out. What a fun idea!

For a similar idea, Boon makes an Animal Bag, a cover specifically for stuffed animals, but with a window, so you can see what’s inside. Once it’s filled it makes a cozy seat.

There are also stuffed animal hammocks, but I really love the bean bag chair cover idea.

What are your ideas for keeping control of a stuffed animal collection?

How Do I Get Rid Of: Stuffed Animals

Last year I had fun with monthly posts in my “Favorite Container” series. For 2014, I’m staring a new monthly series, “How do I get rid of….”   Each month I will share tips and resources to help you get specific items out of your home; those hard-to-get-rid-of items that clients always ask me about.

This month I’m tackling a tough one: stuffed animals. Clients ask me all the time how to get rid of stuffed animals, since many of the organizations we typically donate to don’t accept stuffed animals.

Here are some local organizations and thrift stores that do take donations of stuffed animals:

  • Solutions At Work/Children’s Clothing Exchange – Cambridge, MA. This organization seeks to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness by providing business attire, computers, and children’s clothes and toys to those in need.
  • Global Thrift Store – Waltham, MA + drop off boxes.
  • Savers – various locations. This chain of thrift stores also works with non-profit community partners.
  • Urban Renewal Thrift Store – Allston, MA.
  • Project Smile – Hopedale, MA. This non-profit organization donates stuffed animals, coloring books/crayons, small toys and children's reading books to police and fire departments for police officers, fire fighters and paramedics to give to children involved in traumatic situations.
  • You can also ask your local shelter, fire station, or police department to see if they take donations of stuffed animals to give to children in emergencies.

Be sure the stuffed animals you are donating are in great condition and clean.

Have I missed someplace? Email me at elizabeth@thatsneatorganizing.com and I can add the organization to the resource list.

Thanks to my colleagues in NAPO-New England for their suggestions.