Decluttering offers chance to reuse, recycle

December 13, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Habitat for Humanity Store volunteer Cindy Clark (left) and merchandising supervisor Molly Jacobson work in the Bellevue showroom, moving and assembling previously owned furniture donated to sell. By Greg Farrar

The items relegated to closets, crawlspaces, garages and junk drawers need not be banished to the landfill during a home decluttering effort.

Local recycling and reuse experts said the trick is to find fresh uses for old and unnecessary items, either through donations or repairs. Items in good condition make ideal candidates for donations to thrift stores. King County and local businesses offer recycling services for many household goods and items in not-so-good shape.

King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson said options abound for unloading the items cluttering the nooks and crannies in a home.

“Always consider donation, because reuse is better than recycling,” Watson said. “Someone else can use it — family, friends,” online classified services and thrift stores.

Watson adds another R to the time-tested mantra to reduce, reuse and recycle — repair. Often, furniture and other household items in otherwise good condition can be repaired for less expense and hassle than replacement. Old furniture, for instance, is a candidate for reupholstering.

Arie Mahler, donations manager for Seattle Goodwill, said sending items to a thrift store is a solid choice to reduce clutter — and aid a local nonprofit organization in the process, too.

“We’re pretty forgiving when it comes to donations,” he said.

Homeowners in the process of decluttering should set aside still-functional items to donate and damaged or irreparable items to donate or toss.

What to know

King County experts and organizations offer numerous options to donate and dispose of items rounded up during home decluttering efforts.

The county Solid Waste Division offers the What do I do with…? website, solidwaste/wdidw, to answer questions about old microwaves, say, or half-empty paint cans taking up space in the garage.

For outdated TVs and other electronics destined for the landfill, the state coordinates the E-Cycle Washington program. AtWork! in Issaquah offers electronics recycling through the program at no cost to consumers. Find detailed recycling information — including a list of accepted items — at the organization’s website, Find a complete list of locations in King County and statewide at the E-Cycle Washington website,

Support Habitat for Humanity of East King County and donate to the Habitat Store, 13500 Bel-Red Road, Bellevue.

Customers can donate appliances, building materials, furniture, home furnishings and décor in good condition at the store.

The store is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 641-2643 to schedule a donation pickup on the Eastside.

Find a complete list of acceptable and unacceptable items to donate at store_donate.html.

Seattle Goodwill accepts many household items, including bed frames, books, clothing, electronics, furniture, toys and more.

Find a complete list of donation guidelines at donate/canidonateit.

Seattle Goodwill operates a donation center at 228th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Eighth Street in Sammamish. The center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

“The rule of thumb is, if you would give this to a family member or a friend or pass it on to somebody, that’s the kind of condition that we’re looking for,” Mahler said. “It doesn’t have to be brand new. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Is this something that you would, when you go into one of our stores, something that you’d buy? Is this something that would appeal to you or would you cringe?”

Seattle Goodwill is on a constant search for donations of clothing, electronics, furniture and household items, such as kitchen utensils.

The organization does not repair donated items, so Mahler reminded potential donors to offer items in decent condition. Seattle Goodwill also does not accept used mattresses or box springs. Donating a used bed frame is acceptable.

Donation is also a more “green” option for decluttering, because items repurposed for another use do not end up in the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill near Issaquah.

“That’s always going to be better than recycling, environmentally,” Watson said. “The order to consider it would be donate, recycle, throw away.”

Sometimes, however, actual garbage is donated to Seattle Goodwill and other thrift stores. Mahler recalled unpacking bags containing kitchen scraps and soiled diapers.

“Nothing surprises me anymore,” he said. “Those are extreme examples. That is very much the exception and not the rule.”

Habitat for Humanity of East King County opened a Bellevue store not long ago to accept donated building materials and household items. The store places particular emphasis on appliances and furniture, but organizers also need electronics and decorative objects, such as paintings and candleholders, to meet customer demand.

“The purpose of the store is to raise money for Habitat, but it’s also to divert things from the landfill and then make home items affordable for people in the community,” Merchandising Supervisor Molly Jacobson said. “I think it’s a vital resource because it comes full circle for everyone.”

The area also offers a strong market for recyclables. Consumers can recycle old batteries, foam blocks and packing peanuts at local retailers or drop-off sites.

Nowadays, Watson said, recycling or tossing some small appliances is simpler, because such items can be more difficult or expensive to repair than in the past.

“Being in the Seattle area, we have some good markets for some of these products that other places might not have,” Watson added.

The statewide effort to recycle electronics, E-Cycle Washington, is also available for consumers to get rid of unwanted TVs and the like. Statewide, consumers recycled more than 100 million pounds of outmoded computers, monitors and televisions between January 2009 and July 2011.

AtWork! in Issaquah is a drop-off site for outmoded TVs and other electronics.

Watson advised people not to stress if a decluttering effort means some items need to be tossed into the trash.

“Especially in our region, Issaquah and Seattle, some people are just so ‘green’ and it just kills them to throw something away,” he said. “They’ll write me and they’ll ask, ‘What can I do with an old plastic lawn chair?’ Rather than feeling guilty about it, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and toss it.”

Increasingly, manufacturers and retailers provide options for recycling, although some items, such as the aforementioned lawn chair, remain difficult or impossible to recycle.

“It’s not the public’s fault when you have to throw something away,” Watson said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

Bookmark and Share
Other Stories of Interest: , , ,


Got something to say?

Before you comment, please note:

  • These comments are moderated.
  • Comments should be relevant to the topic at hand and contribute to its discussion.
  • Personal attacks and/or excessive profanity will not be tolerated and such comments will not be approved.
  • This is not your personal chat room or forum, so please stay on topic.