In Westchester, the time is ripe for ridding yourself of all that stuff you’ve been saving for reasons you no longer recall.
If you somehow missed the opportunity 2020 presented to make space in your place — or if you’ve accumulated a whole new batch of things you don’t really need, want, or know what to do with — spring is the perfect time to clean out anew. While the thought of cutting through the clutter may cause you to cringe, consider the clean slate that’s well within reach (plus all the closet space you’ll reclaim). From clothes that no longer flatter your form and toys they’ve outgrown to Aunt Tilly’s old china set and that smoothie maker that mocks you every morning, look no further than this expert-driven, room-by-room guide on how to get rid of anything. (Editor’s note: Stuff you acquire between now and next spring is completely out of our hands.)
Wardrobe items that spend most of their time in the back of the closet or the bottom of a drawer are not an uncommon thing, and saying ta-ta to that once-favorite pair of jeans can be a tricky task. Professional organizer Bari Goldstein of Let’s Get It Done (letsgetitdoneny.com) in New Rochelle says the best way to tackle the closet or any overcrowded space is to start small, so you don’t get overwhelmed and quit before even beginning. “Start with a category of clothing, like T-shirts or sweaters,” she suggests. “Put on some music and tell yourself you’re going to do this for an hour and that you’ll get yourself a latte when you’re finished.”
Goldstein recommends sorting items into three piles: keep, donate, and toss. Items that are stained or holey have to go. “Give yourself permission to throw things out,” she says. “It’s okay to use the garbage.”
Kristen Sidari and Dori LaValle of Eastchester’s Two4Decor (two4decor.business.site), an interior design outfit that assists with decluttering and organizing, suggest keeping a bag for donations in the closet. “If you’ve tried something on three times and never worn it, it’s not working for you. Put it in the bag,” Sidari says. Once the bag is full, take it immediately to the car. “Out of sight, out of mind,” says LaValle. “You won’t miss it.”
Before even thinking about where to donate duds that have seen their day, pause to consider the dignity of the person who is in line to receive what you no longer require. “If your goal is to help someone in need, then you are using your clothes to provide clothing to someone who is clothes insecure,” says Deborah Blatt, founder and executive director of The Sharing Shelf (sharing-shelf.org), a nonprofit organization in Port Chester that collects new and very nearly new clothes, shoes, coats, handbags, and costume jewelry for direct distribution to needy newborns, kids, and teens (of all shapes and sizes, up to adult XXL) throughout Westchester.
“When you donate damaged or dirty items, you’re sending the message that this is all [the recipient is] worth,” she explains. You’re also giving a headache, she adds, to the already overtaxed staff (often volunteers) at your donation site of choice.
Clean, gently used clothes and shoes can also be brought to Katonah’s Community Center of Northern Westchester (communitycenternw.org), which will distribute them directly to neighbors in need, with a tiny portion going on sale in the companion thrift shop to fund its food pantry for Westchester’s food insecure.
Getting kids to clean out and declutter is akin to getting them to clean up anything, so professional organizer Andrea Bowser of Yorktown-based Space Matters Home Organization (spacematters.com) encourages parents to put a brightly colored, reusable bag in Junior’s closet, with a label that reads: Too small for me. “They’ll fill it with things that don’t fit, that are uncomfortable, or they just don’t like anymore,” she says.
When the bag is full, clean and gently worn items can be brought to any number of organizations, from The Sharing Shelf to The Salvation Army, or to Scarsdale’s Once Upon a Child (onceuponachild.com), that will pay a small fee for new and secondhand clothes (preemie to youth size 20) and shoes (newborn to youth size 7), as well as toys, games, and books (age 0 to 8) to be resold at deeply discounted prices, mainly to those who can’t afford to spend much more.
Bundles of Joy (bundlesofjoyny.org) in Bronxville collects and provides new and like-new essentials to babies, toddlers, and new parents in critical need throughout Westchester (plus the Bronx and Harlem), and it’s another way your children’s castoffs can help those less fortunate. The nonprofit accepts drop-offs at their easily accessible storefront.
As for those dust-gathering stuffed animals that seem to reproduce faster than kids can outgrow them, Goldstein suggests calling your church or synagogue, as religious organizations sometimes sponsor local families who are in need of basic household items and comforting kids’ stuff. In addition, she suggests one of Westchester’s many women’s shelters. “Women at shelters usually leave their homes quickly and with very little for themselves and their children.” Also, the Humane Society of Westchester (humanesocietyofwestchester.org) in New Rochelle will gladly take stuffed animals off your hands for the homeless dogs and cats in their care.
Fun fact: Used LEGO bricks can be boxed up and shipped back to LEGO (lego.com) to be cleaned, sorted, and recycled for needy kids across the country.
Old, worn towels that are lurking in the back of the linen closet are always welcome at the Yonkers Animal Shelter (newyonkersanimalshelter.org) for the cats and dogs that reside there, and the same goes for blankets that have seen better days but still have good life left in them.
Linens that are in better shape and safely seen as gently used can be dropped off at the Community Center of Northern Westchester in Katonah, for distribution to the community, or Midnight Run (midnightrun.org) in Dobbs Ferry, a nonprofit that provides warm and lightweight blankets and quilts to the homeless on the streets of NYC. (The organization sees far more men than women and very few children, so there is also a need for men’s clothing, shoes, and coats.) Bronxville’s Bundles of Joy also happily accepts lovingly used baby blankets.
Additionally, any diapers that remain from the pre-potty-training days are welcome at The Sharing Shelf, Bundles of Joy, and at women’s shelters, along with feminine sanitary products. And don’t worry if the boxes have been opened or are only partly full. “A clean, neatly packed Ziploc bag is good enough,” says Blatt.
All those must-have bottles of shampoo and body lotion that cluttered your Instagram feed and are now clogging precious bathroom space can be boxed up and donated to The Sharing Shelf, which welcomes new, standard-size products and bar soap, for toiletry kits for kids and teens in need, while unopened baby washes/lotions and diaper cream will find a home at Bundles of Joy. For sample-size toiletries (also new) you wish to part with, consider a donation to Midnight Run for NYC’s homeless.
Desk drawers have been known to house a treasure trove of no-longer-needed trinkets and things, and the office itself is often a dumping ground for businessey items. Old specs with frames you once loved (and paid dearly for) can be difficult to part with, but “most optician shops and eyeglasses stores will take them back to recycle and donate,” says organizer Goldstein.
Used pens, pencils, and notepads with half the pages missing should not be donated. “Make friends with your garbage can and don’t be afraid to throw things away,” says Blatt of The Sharing Shelf.
The heart of the home is the quintessential “come to Jesus” spot for avid collectors of the latest gadgets that promise to revolutionize efforts to chop, blend, simmer, and sauté, and it is here that Goldstein employs what she calls “the love it/use it” method. “If you love it and you use it, keep it. But be honest with yourself; you can’t love everything.”
Bowser suggests sticking a sliver of painter’s tape onto the appliance in question and scribbling the date it was last used. “Under normal circumstances, I’d say get rid of it after a year, but after being home all this time during COVID, a year of no use is too long!”
Both organizers suggest posting pictures of unwanted kitchen appliances in online community and neighborhood groups, like those found on Facebook and Nextdoor.
Fine china and those crystal Champagne flutes that were cherished gifts at one time but have spent a majority of time taking up space in your buffet (perhaps since your wedding day?) can be wrapped and packed in sets of at least four pieces and brought straight to the Rye Presbyterian Church Thrift Shop (ryepc.com/ministries/thrift-shop), where they will be resold with all proceeds benefiting local nonprofit organizations in Westchester. No-longer-loved silver, flatware, and everyday dinnerware will also be happily accepted.
When the redecorating bug bites, excess furniture of all types (and from all rooms) can be donated to the Furniture Sharehouse (furnituresharehouse.org) in Armonk, with just a few noteworthy caveats. “It must be in good-enough condition so that you feel good about giving it to someone else,” says founder and executive director Kate Bialo. “It must also be practical and serve a purpose.”
Bialo says recipients of such furniture donations live well below the poverty level in Westchester and include veterans, prior nursing home and shelter residents, and young adults who have aged out of foster care and are living on their own for the first time. “Many of these individuals live in small two-room or basement apartments, so large entertainment units and sectionals simply won’t fit,” Bialo says.
While books can often be donated to local libraries (call ahead!), they are heavy, and it may make sense to have them picked up right at your door. Check out our handy guide on page 67 for how to schedule a pickup by both local and national nonprofit organizations.
Working flat-screen TVs (maximum 60 inches) can be donated to the Furniture Sharehouse, with other TVs, DVDs, and video games accepted at the county’s H-MRF, including batteries from the remote and gaming controllers.
Old magazine and newspapers that blanket the coffee table can simply be tossed into the recycling bin, or consider putting them to good use by checking with schools in your area that might accept a stack for classwork and art projects that call for cut-outs of pictures and catchy phrases (penned by notable magazine editors, natch).
Guitar lessons may have sounded like a good idea at the time, but if that old axe hasn’t been strummed in what seems like centuries, it’s time to do the right thing: Take it out of hiding and grant it the opportunity to make music once again. Same goes for recorders that were required for fourth-grade music class and other instruments that didn’t quite inspire a lasting hobby.
While local schools may have an interest in instruments for their music programming, the Mike Risko Music School (mikeriskomusicschool.com) in Ossining is a sure thing. “We polish them up, tune them, restring them, and do whatever it takes to bring them back to life and into the hands of people who will get them playing again,” says co-owner Miriam Risko. Gently used instruments can be dropped off anytime, she says, and donation drives are held around the holidays. Either way, organizations in line to receive such refurbished instruments include the Ossining Children’s Center and the Sing Sing Family Collective.
Risko is also kicking off (at press time) a new program with the Ossining Public Library that will allow card-carrying members to borrow an instrument, much like a book. “We’re including a QR code for a lesson,” says Risko.
Artwork and mirrors that no longer tickle your fancy and take up valuable space in storage bins and shelving units are accepted at Rye Presbyterian Church Thrift Shop, as well as Armonk’s Furniture Sharehouse, so long as they are not wildly oversized.
Treadmills and exercise bikes that mainly function as laundry-drying racks tend to go fast when listed in online community buy, sell, and trade forums, though they rarely fetch a pretty penny due to a high level of inventory in such pages.
Lovingly maintained baby carriers, diaper bags, and other miscellaneous baby items will go straight to families in need via a donation to Bundles of Joy, and baby and kid gear of all types are considered for purchase at Once Upon a Child.
Once you’ve mustered the courage to get down and dirty in the garage, breathe easy knowing that H-MRF accepts trunk loads (at no charge) of tires, car batteries, refrigerant-containing appliances (ACs, fridges, dehumidifiers), propane tanks, fire extinguishers, metal, flammable liquids (like kerosene), pesticides, pool chemicals, and fluorescent lightbulbs.
In addition, most of the stuff left over from last decade’s bathroom reno (concrete, demo debris, drywall, wood), plus land-clearing debris and rock can be deposited at Elmsford’s Westchester Recycling Services, Inc. (westrsi.com) for a minimum fee of $40 per load.
Kids’ bikes, bike trailers, scooters, and strollers in good, working condition can be presented to Once Upon a Child for consideration, while online neighborhood groups are the perfect place for unloading adult-size bikes, as well as sports gear.
Old cellphones, mobile devices, computers, keyboards, printers, cables, and other IT-related paraphernalia can find a final resting place at Westchester County’s Household Material Recovery Facility (H-MRF) (environment.westchestergov.com/facilities/h-mrf) in Valhalla. “It’s my favorite place,” says organizer Bowser. “You drive up and pop the trunk; they take the stuff out, close the door, and you leave. It’s spectacular. And you don’t have to pay.” You can also pack the car with up to four file-size boxes of personal documents and papers to be shredded.
Whatever you plan to eliminate from your soon-to-be spacious office, appointments are required, and Bowser recommends making one for a weekday, to avoid lines.
These organizations pick up donations of clothing, accessories, and household items to sell and/or recycle to fund their mission of helping others.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Westchester;
Good Will NYNJ;
GreenDrop (works on behalf of various charities);
Vietnam Veterans of America;