In the wake of Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, based on her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, wherein people of varying degrees slovenliness are shown how to improve their lives by decluttering their homes, a surplus of joy-free junk has filled thrift and consignment stores in the last couple of years.
The popularity of Kondo’s method—in which one rids oneself of items that don’t “spark joy”—also kindled a renewed interest in “Swedish death cleaning,” which is more about paring down items both for oneself and with an eye toward what you’ll leave behind when shuffling off this mortal coil.
Whatever method you use, chances are you’ve made some kind of resolution, intention, or commitment to offloading some of your extraneous possessions in the new year. In that spirit, here’s a local guide to the best ways and places in Austin to get rid of things you no longer have room for in your life.
First things first: No one wants that
If you find yourself holding on to things that are broken, empty, dirty, damaged, deteriorating, or incomplete because you think you or someone will find a use for it: First, forgive yourself. Second, accept that no one is going to have a use for it. Third: Figure out the best way to get rid of it.
The website for the city’s curbside recycling program, run by Austin Resource Recovery, can go a long way toward helping you do all that. The site offers very specific lists of what you can recycle in your big curbside bin—complete with a fun (?) waste-sorting game, if you’re into that, and a “What Do I Do With ... “ search function for hard-to-pin-down items.
Austin Resource Recovery’s site is a wonderland, really, of information on best disposal practices, including how to find out when your address is scheduled for its bulk item collection day (that’s when you toss large items such as furniture and appliances that are absolutely beyond repair), where to take household hazardous waste such as paint and motor oil, and what you can drop off at its Reuse and Recycle Center, including electronics, clothing, housewares, tires, and other items not eligible for curbside recycling. It’ll even tell you where to recycle your old Christmas tree.
(While the goal here is presumably to get rid of stuff, not collect more, note that you can also pick up free, still-usable items at the center’s ReUse Store—including things such as art supplies, cleaning products, household chemicals, and automotive fluids. There’s also Austin ReBlend paint recycled from paint dropped off at the center and free yard mulch.)
Clothing, shoes, accessories, and jewelry
Should you not have a penchant (or money) for style or high-end items, there’s an abundance of other sites and apps where you can vend your more pedestrian (but still nicely kept) clothing, jewelry, and accessories: ThredUp, Mercari, Etsy, Ebay, Crossroads, Buffalo Exchange, Facebook Marketplace, Next Door, Instagram (of course), and quite a few more (let’s not forget OG Craigslist). They all have different methods for selling and product focuses, so research is warranted.
You can also try hawking threads at local brick-and-mortar used-clothing stores such as Buffalo Exchange (which selects attire based on season, style, label, and wear and tear), Uptown Cheapskate, Moss Designer Consignment, and more.
It’s never a bad thing to donate (sellable) goods to national organizations such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, both of which have many Austin drop-off locations. There are also vintage and thrift stores that contribute to local organizations and causes—especially good for special items and for direct, local impact. Top Drawer Thrift, Assistance League of Austin, St. Vincent de Paul, and Treasure City Thrift are a few of them.
Please keep in mind that donations centers are not garbage cans—you cannot throw away unwearable, ripped, or soiled clothing at these centers. However, you can leave cloth and household items for recycling at such collection centers as the city’s Reuse and Recycle Center or American Textile Recycling Service at Lowe’s.
Books and paper
Kondo recommends getting rid of unnecessary books (and all paper) as part of her decluttering process. That can be daunting, especially for book lovers, but remember that you get to decide what’s “unnecessary.”
You can try selling your books, comics, and magazines (as well as music, movies, games, electronics, and collectibles) at one of Austin’s Half-Price Books locations as long as you don’t expect to make a mint. If you’re in possession of bona fide collectibles, try South Congress Books or Austin Books & Comics (or Ebay).
For donating books, try an Austin Public Library branch for smaller donations and Recycled Reads—which is the libraries’ used-book store—for larger ones; Inside Books Project, which sends books and educational materials to prisoners in Texas; and Bookspring for children’s books.
You can also shelve them inside one of Austin’s many Little Free Libraries.
Posters, magazines, historic flyers, and that sort of thing might appeal to some of the many collectors of such items, both online in places such as Ebay and at local purveyors of same.
Getting rid of personal papers requires individual struggles with your own demons (though some can be donated—see “sentimental items,” below). Preventing future pileups, however, is a straightforward matter: You can start by switching your bills and bank notifications to auto-pay and e-statements. You can also check out sites such as Catalog Choice to find out how get removed from junk mail lists. Consumer Reports and other sites offer information about how long you should keep paperwork, what you can store electronically or not at all, and what should be stored only on paper.
Furniture and home goods
As with used clothing in good condition, there are many online options for offloading your furniture and home goods (from rare and high-end items to cookware to tschotskes), including our current favorite, Chairish, as well as sites such as Let Go, Offer Up, and Shopify (the last one more focused on people who sell used items on an ongoing basis). Many are the same sites as those listed above under “clothing,” including Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, and so on. While sources close to home (such as Next Door and Craigslist) might seem to work better for large items, many online stores now offer moving and shipping services. (For a deeper dive into online furniture selling, read this primer on Millennial Monkey.)
Locally, you can try selling at some of your items to stores on Curbed Austin’s vintage and thrift shop list (call first to see if they buy from walk-ins) or donate—again, only items in good shape—to the local charity stores listed under “clothing,” above, or national thrift chains such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army.
In addition to furniture and homewares, the Habitat for Humanity Re-store accepts donations of building materials, tools, and pretty much anything related to home building, maintenance, and renovation—just be prepared for scrutiny, since what they accept depends on quality and their current inventory. Habitat also offers pickup for very large donations.
Tech and electronics
Any device tied to a personal account, from computers and phones to tablets and smart home devices, should be scrubbed of data before selling. (Facebook, Next Door, and Craigslist have portals for selling tech gadgets.) Big-box stores like Best Buy, Office Depot, and Staples all have buy-back programs for their own products. Apple will recycle any Apple device for proper disposal. (Who knows—your Apple device might even be eligible device for a gift card or a partial refund.)
The city picks up bulky items, including electronics, from your curbside twice a year; you can also take such items to its Reuse and Recycle Center year round. Goodwill of Central Texas is certified by the state an authorized collector of electronic waste (as well as working with the city and local corporations to handle their e-waste on a large scale), so it’s one of the best places to donate such items responsibly.
Art and craft supplies and materials
Austin Creative Reuse accepts donations and promotes the use of items and materials for reuse in creative projects (as the name implies). As with Habitat for Humanity, be sure to check lists on its site to make sure it’s looking for the items you want to donate.
Items of sentimental or possible historical value
Sentimental items such as old family photos, correspondence, journals, heirlooms, jewelry, and other miscellaneous items of interest that you no longer want can be passed on to other family members or friends, listed on sites for free items, or possibly donated to Austin Creative Reuse for use in art projects.
The Austin History Center might also be interested in some items for its archives, which contain objects and histories of everyday life and specific local communities in addition to more official records. Similarly, school districts might want to take a look at your old yearbooks, graduation programs, photos, or other times items to add to their historical records. And don’t underestimate the value of your old club posters, ticket stubs, and other entertainment memorabilia. Even if you can’t make a mint on them, a cruise around Ebay or Craigslist reveals that there are audiences for all kinds of such items—meaning you can get them out of your house while handing them off to someone who appreciates them.
This Popular Science article will tell you how to recycle a myriad of odds and ends, from toothbrushes to worn-out Converse sneakers.
A final note
Finally, the city’s Reuse Directory provides a network for people to:
- Donate or sell used items
- Buy used or upcycled items (which you won’t be doing since you are decluttering, right?)
- Rent or repair items.