When I was a college student, and an English major at that, my apartment was furnished with mostly overturned cardboard boxes and plastic milk crates, unless we got lucky and found a couch on the side of the street. While it was easy to move between apartments, it was difficult to entertain friends and family with milk crate seating and cardboard end tables. So we eventually had to move on and get real furniture. And then, as soon as we can afford furniture that we’re not ashamed of, we have to get rid of the furniture that we are ashamed of. If you’re at that point, then this article is for you.
There are better ways to get rid of unwanted furniture than by chucking it off a cliff Arlo-Guthrie style, filling up landfills, and generally killing the whales (and whatever it lands on). And we don’t want to kill those whales. Also, furniture sucks to move. And there are better options available for getting rid of home furnishings than just tossing them in the backyard and waiting for that next tornado to get rid of it. In fact, there are a lot of ecologically friendly, cheap, and easy ways to get rid of that old stuff. Some of them can even be tax deductible. And you won’t be killing the whales. It’s win-win: tax write offs and you get rid of the extra garbage around the house.
Courtesy first when donating furniture.
The words “donate” and “dump” are not interchangeable. If you donate your old household furnishings, be sure they are clean and in good working order. Make sure your furniture does not have rips, tears, “friskiness” stains, odors, pet hair, burns, wobbly bits, splinters, graffiti, or the like. However, some nonprofits have refurbishing available for any “well-loved” pieces of furniture. Just be sure to ask before dropping off an unusable piece of furniture.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Old Furniture
Get rid of furniture by donating it to a charity or nonprofit.
There are millions of local, state, and national charities or nonprofits that you can donate your furniture to. Consider donating to your church, or any church, to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, a senior citizen center, or a local charity, like Bridging (see conclusion for link) in MN. These pieces are redistributed in the community and often go to victims of fires, natural disasters, domestic violence, or other tragedies. Depending on who you donate it to, it may be tax deductible or even picked up curbside. Just be sure that the furniture is clean and in good condition.
Donate unwanted furniture to a local theatre.
Most communities have a local high school, college, or community theatre group. This is a good place to get rid of furniture, keep it out of landfills, and promote the arts. Sometimes, it can be tax deductible, and sometimes, they’ll even send over some strapping teenagers to take it away. And it’s always fun to see your old window seat in the local production of Arsenic and Old Lace. You can be all like, “Yep, that’s my old window seat Mortimer shoved that body into!”
Use the Internet to get rid of furniture.
There are many places online to buy, sell, trade, and exchange unwanted furniture. Craigslist may be one of the first websites that comes to mind, but there are others available as well. Freecycle (see conclusion for link) is a nonprofit, grassroots organization dedicated to the redistribution of goods. It’s free, local, keeps perfectly good stuff out of landfills, prevents further waste of resources, and helps develop community. You decide to whom you donate your furniture. It really helps to know where your beloved college futon goes. I mean, really, if you’ve shared love on the same futon as another person, you’re practically family.
Get rid of ugly, old furniture by refurbishing it.
For structurally sound but fugly pieces of furniture, don’t donate them just yet. Many pieces can be stripped down and redone for a more “you” look. Reupholster that comfy couch with stains. Sand off the finish of that old bookshelf and stain it. Add new cushions, new fabric, new knobs, and different paint, stain, finish, or other frills to a piece of ugly furniture, and it can become almost new and loved again. It could not only save you the money of having to buy all new furniture but also having to move that couch up three flights of stairs. Again.
Get rid of furniture by repurposing it.
Yes, I mean the toilet bowl planter in the backyard. Or front yard, for those brave enough. There are a lot of things you can do with old furniture, anywhere between the skill levels of Martha Stewart and Jeff Foxworthy. Use your old claw-footed tub as a planter. Make an old television into a fish tank. Make that old bookshelf into an elaborate ferret hotel. Just think of what you could do with all those old toilet seats, mattresses, kitchen tables, and recliners. And if you can’t use that toilet seat photo frame, maybe your mother-in-law could.
Where to Get Rid of Your Old Furniture
Bridging is a Minnesota nonprofit dedicated to redistributing donated home goods to families in need. Serving hundreds of families a month, Bridging accepts home furnishings, such as mattresses, tables, chairs, lamps, shelves, and more; they then provide these articles to eligibility-screened applicants.
This is a worldwide, nonprofit network whose mission statement reads: “Our mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.” Can’t argue with that.
And of course, Craigslist is a for-profit organization that offers online classified ads for everything from romantic partners to jobs to old furniture sales. You can barter, buy, sell, trade, or donate via Craigslist. Just be sure to read the posted sections “Avoid Scams” and “Your Safety” before making any deal. Your intuition is your friend. You could also check out books like Using Craigslist to Earn Money at Amazon for more tips.
Human Psychology and the Stump
An ex-boyfriend of mine—let’s call him “Eustace”—tried to get rid of an old stump once. It had been sitting outside of his employer’s business for quite some time, and they decided to put a “FREE” sign on it and hope that a customer would take a liking to it and get rid of it for them. There was nothing special about this stump of wood; it was just an unvarnished chunk of tree trunk that was sawed flat on the top and bottom. After having this stump sit outside with a “FREE” sign and no takers for some time, Eustace and his coworkers put up a sign that identified this particular stump as a wood-splitting block that was for sale for five dollars. Two men began haggling over the stump. One man eventually purchased it.
The lesson here, of course, is that a “FREE” couch is junk with no value. But a couch with a cheap listed price is worth at least something. It should be haggled over. Or, if you have plenty of rowdy teens in your neighborhood, it can be stolen. And stolen equates to one thing: free delivery.
Restoring Old Furniture and Selling it
I’ve got a friend out in Portland who does this. She picks up junk furniture from craigslist, pawn shops, or Re-Stores, and then brings it home and redoes it. She then brings the furniture to a consignment store and sells it. That may be something for you too…in order to help out, this kindle book on How to Restore Your Old Furniture by Lewis Carter is a good place to start!