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Writing by Susan Trumpbour

Artwork by Phoebe Polk

Ready to embark on a  spring cleaning journey?  Here’s what to do with  all your “trash.”

Spring is in the air, and you know what that means—it’s time to give your home a good old-fashioned cleaning. It’s the perfect opportunity to declutter, organize and freshen up your living space. 

According to the 2023 American Time Use Survey (ATUS) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends over 240 hours per year on cleaning tasks like laundry, decluttering and tidying up. But the good news is that other studies have found that just an extra 20 minutes of housework each week can increase happiness by over 50 percent. 

Yes, you read that correctly. Cleaning can have a positive impact on your mental health. In addition, according to the American Heart Association, giving is good medicine; it can lower your blood pressure, help you sleep better and boost your mood. Combining the two together is a win-win. So, put on your favorite playlist, grab a glass of water (or pour yourself a glass of wine) and get to work. 

A quick decluttering primer 

Before we explore all the places you can donate your spring cleaning finds, here’s a quick “primer” on how to make this year’s clean-up effort as effective as it can be.

Start off with a personal cleanse: take a deep breath in, exhale slowly and repeat until you feel mentally prepared to tackle the clutter.

Volunteers at The Community Studio working with donated materials.
Volunteers at The Community Studio working with donated materials.

Create a system

Devise a sorting system that works for you. Your goal is to organize all the items you plan to discard, making piles along the way. Your piles can be in the room you’re decluttering or in one central location. You can sort by condition, places you’ll donate to, or whatever system makes the most sense to you. 

Then, set a timeframe for when you would like to complete this endeavor. It’s okay if it takes several days or weeks; after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

Purge wisely

As you sift through your belongings, it can be tricky to decide which items to release and which to keep. What if that style returns? This was a gift—should I really get rid of it? 

Instead, ask yourself different questions: Have you or your family worn or used that item in the past year (or more)? Is it damaged or a duplicate? This goes for everything, including shoes, clothing, books, home decor, accessories, electronics and kitchen gadgets. 

Begin by rummaging through closets, storage areas, basements and attics. Once you’ve tackled these tough spots, give yourself a therapeutic break by moving to the kitchen. According to ATUS, the kitchen is the least stressful room to declutter. 

One piece of advice: Save the garage for last, as it’s known to be the most stressful spot to clean. You may need a martini for this daunting task.

Once you’ve got your piles or areas set, you’re ready to reorganize them according to your plan, whether it is donating, selling, giving away, recycling or discarding.

Purging through all the clutter

Once you’ve sorted through the items that have lost their spark or spot in your home (or on you!), what’s next? Let’s reduce your carbon footprint by donating as much as possible to avoid filling our landfills. 

Globally, we produce over two billion tons of waste per year. Experts predict that if we don’t begin to change our ways, our worldwide waste will increase by 73 percent (that’s 3.9 billion tons) by 2050. 

Let’s be kind to planet Earth and responsibly get rid of mostly everything. Here’s how. 

Donate in person

Items in good condition can be donated to people truly in need. You can drop off clothing, shoes and other household items in good (or gently used) condition to local charities or churches for the benefit of others in our community (see the sidebar). Local charities rely on donations to support their community programs and provide necessities for less fortunate individuals and families. 

According to Lisa Brotmann, communications manager at the Community Center of Northern Westchester (CCNW), nothing goes to waste. 

“Our volunteers sort through all the clothing donations and distribute items to specific areas, like our internal clothing boutique for clients, The Community Shop, The Community Studio, the fabric recycling center or the HELPSY organization, which helps manage unwanted inventory and upcycles, reuses or recycles 95 percent of the clothing they collect,” she explains.

CCNW also accepts bedding and towels, and what they don’t recycle or use goes to animal shelters that need these items. You can also donate linens directly to organizations such as the SPCA Westchester in Briarcliff Manor or Rescue Right in Bedford. 

Brotmann says CCNW does not accept housewares, toys or furniture. Instead, she recommends you bring such items to local thrift stores (Katonah Thrift Shop or TWIGS Thriftree in Mount Kisco are two options).

Another local place to donate your gently used items is Bedford 2030’s Take It Or Leave It (TIOLI) Shed. Started in 2018, the beauty of the TIOLI Shed is that you can “take” as well as “leave.” In other words, if you see something you’d like to have during your drop-off, you can take it with you. 

The physical shed is in the Bedford Hills train station parking lot and is open May through October every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. They accept clean items that are in good working condition, including tools, plants, toys and school supplies. They do not accept dirty or broken items, sports equipment or anything larger than what would fit in a standard shopping cart. When the Shed is closed or items are too big, you can turn to their Facebook page.

“In 2023 alone, we had over 400 shoppers,” says Allison Hague, Bedford 2030’s community engagement director. “And we diverted 95 percent of the donated items from the waste stream, responsibly recycling the remains. The TIOLI Shed also serves our community members who could not afford these goods.”

Sell or give away online

Social media platforms offer excellent opportunities to sell your used items locally or even give them away for free. There are many local Facebook groups dedicated to buying, selling or gifting pre-owned goods. 

“Facebook Marketplace is a quick and easy way to get rid of things,” says Stacey Winnick, a sustainable downsizing influencer who created the Chappaqua Moms Sales (CMS) Facebook page, which has over 10,000 members. “These transactions are speedy, with no commissions or shipping fees, since the winner claims their goods at a mutually convenient spot.”

According to Winnick, members of Facebook groups like hers sell everything from clothes and toys to furniture and electronics. Winnick says she moderates her group to ensure listings follow guidelines and members have positive experiences. 

“When selling items, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the price,” she cautions. “It must be reasonably priced, which means the price should reflect what it recently sold for at auction, not the item’s current retail price. And when listing an item online, be sure to be clear about what you are selling. Take a perfect picture of the item, and not with you in it! Keep the copy short. And lastly, wait and have patience.”

But the downside to selling items piece by piece or donating is that it can become a time-consuming endeavor. To save yourself some time, Winnick recommends doubling up on drop-offs.

“To ensure donations get out the door, load them into the car at the same time you’re packing up the sold pieces to ensure everything reaches its destination.”

Other popular online yard sale platforms that operate in the area are:

“Buy Nothing” groups 

Local yard sale pages, such as the ones for Bedford and Pound Ridge

TIOLI Facebook page (as part of the TIOLI Shed)

Stacey Winnick, sustainable downsizing influencer and creator of the Chappaqua Moms Sales Facebook page.
Stacey Winnick, sustainable downsizing influencer and creator of the Chappaqua Moms Sales Facebook page.

Have your items picked up

If you have large, heavy or bulky pieces, you will likely need to call someone who can take them away in a truck or van. It’s no fun trying to lug that old sofa atop your car and then attempting to unload it at the local thrift store.

If you can’t sell it, Winnick recommends contacting the Ossining Padres Hispanos. You can drop off small items like kitchenware, clean and gently used clothing and baby equipment/toys; books, puzzles and sports equipment are not accepted. For larger pieces, Padres Hispanos can arrange for a deserving family to come collect them directly from you. 

If you find yourself with one big pile at the end of your deep clean, and perhaps need more time to work through your sorting system, you can save your goods for the Bedford Village Chowder & Marching Club’s annual Clean-Up Weekend. 

For over 30 years, this big clean-up event, which occurs in early May (this year’s dates are May 10 & 11), helps find a “second home” for everything the club can pick up; the drop-offs are made at the Bedford Highway Yard on Crusher Road, where the club’s tag sale is also held at the same time. 

The donations are limited to residents of Bedford Village and most of Katonah, but anyone can shop the sale. For those who can donate, the club recommends scheduling a pickup time six weeks in advance by making a reservation via their website. There’s no formal charge, but they do ask for a donation. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to projects that support Bedford youth, such as Fox Lane youth football and girls’ lacrosse.

Another option is to host your own tag sale so that everyone comes to you. Consider partnering up with neighbors or friends in the area to increase the goods offered and potential buyers.

How to recycle your electronic waste 

Did you rediscover your old DVD player, a broken laptop, batteries or even a fax machine while rummaging in the attic? Electronic recycling deserves its own category, given that e-waste is “the fastest growing waste stream in the world, increasing three times faster than the world’s population,” according to the World Economic Forum. 

You should avoid putting these types of items in the trash because they contain hazardous materials that can leak into the groundwater when buried in landfills. So, for the good of the environment, take them to your local e-waste/recycling center. 

Most towns have specialized facilities that accept old TVs, laptops, cell phones and batteries, where they properly dismantle the electronics to recycle or dispose of the components safely. Check with your town for their designated recycling days. 

You can also reach out to your local Staples store. Many accept old computers, laptops and monitors for recycling. Check their website for acceptable and non-acceptable items. 

If you still cannot find a place to recycle a particular electronic device, call the Household Material Recovery Facility (H-MRF) recycling helpline at (914) 813-5425. In addition to electronic waste, their location in Valhalla also accepts, among other things, expired or unused pharmaceuticals, light bulbs, flammable liquids, pesticides and paint.

Give yourself a pat on the back

Once your hard work is complete, take a victory lap and bask in the glow of your productivity and generosity—you’ve earned it. The 2023 World Happiness Report gives a big shout-out to all you do-gooders out there: as it turns out, acts of kindness, like giving to charities and community support, can really boost your happiness.

After giving yourself proper kudos, it’s time to celebrate. If your spring cleaning was a family affair, why not treat yourselves to a celebratory meal at your favorite restaurant? You certainly don’t want to tarnish the immaculate kitchen you just created. And if you worked solo, reward yourself with a well-deserved spa treatment (or whatever you most enjoy). 

And be sure to take a moment to appreciate your accomplishment: this year, your purge was about more than just you. You were kind to the planet and to others in need. Well done, you. Well done.

This article was published in the March/April 2024 edition of Connect to Northern Westchester

Top ten items that sell quickly 

(courtesy of Stacey Winnick)

  1. Everything designer
  2. Mid-century modern furniture
  3. Keurigs
  4. Ray-Bans
  5. Lululemon
  6. Music equipment
  7. Herman Miller office chair
  8. Anything reasonably priced
  9. Anything new with tags
  10. Signed artwork

Can’t donate hyper-locally? 

Here are Winnick’s top five favorite donation sites in Westchester:

  1. Hitchcock Church in Scarsdale
  2. IFCA in Ossining
  3. Opportunity Shop in Chappaqua
  4. Treasure’s Thrift Shop in Armonk
  5. Twigs Thriftree in Mount Kisco
Susan Trumpbour

Susan Trumpbour, a.k.a. ‘Dear Beauty Editor’, has spent over 20 years as a beauty editor, new product development executive and trend consultant. If she isn’t writing about beauty, she’s creating shades and formulas for top cosmetics houses like L’Oréal, Maybelline and Neutrogena. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking the beautiful trails in Bedford, where she lives with her husband, two sons and their white fluffy rescue dog.