What to do with Old Furniture and Other Household Goods

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Last summer was a whirlwind. We had just had a baby, and my husband quit his job to start an MBA several states away. We decided to do a month of travelling before we had to be in North Carolina, so we packed our suitcases and filled two tiny cubes (moving containers) with all the rest of our furnishings to be stored while we traveled. We only had a one-bedroom, but there were still a lot of things we couldn't fit. Specifically, our dining table and stools, one of our sofas, and these really nice marble trash cans (random, I know... I got them for free when we moved offices - one of the perks of being a designer). At that point we faced a choice: haul everything out to the dumpster a short walk out our door or take the time and effort to make sure they didn't end up in the dump.

Did you know that furniture waste in the U.S. adds up to about 9.8 million tons each year?

That's a lot. And you know, I totally get it. We move, we're on a time crunch to get out of the old place and the old furniture doesn't work in the new place, or our bed frame has been in our life since college and we're ready for an upgrade. Whatever the case, sometimes we just don't feel like we have the time or energy to take it farther than the dumpster. We've all been there.

And even if we use everything until it dies, furniture, appliances, and other things in our home don't last forever. Elle Decor recommends replacing your sofa every 7-15 years and your pillow every 3 (although that's a bit excessive, in my opinion). If you live to be 80, that'd be 4-8 sofas in your lifetime and 20 pillows (assuming you don't start buying your own until 18). Then think about all those plus everything else you'll ever use in your home piled in one place. It's a big pile. Multiply that by the number of people there are... and that's the problem with the current system.

Since inefficiency is built into the system, we have to take the initiative and find ways to give our possessions new life.

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How can we do that? It's important to buy as high-quality as you can because the better built something is the longer it'll last. But eventually, we all have to get rid of something. What do we do when that day comes? And not only furniture; what about the sheets, towels, appliances, electronics, etc. that we collect? How do we get them out of a linear life cycle and into a circular one?

I've created a one-page cheat sheet to help you figure out how to reuse and recycle your household goods.

It's packed with ideas for helping you give your things a new life that is not in the dump. I've arranged it by category with several suggestions of positive ways to get rid of your stuff. You can get the free download here:

Last summer, we donated the furniture to Salvation Army and gave the marble trash cans to a friend. It's easy to throw things away. Finding a better way to release our possessions requires some work. But if we take the time, we will free ourselves of guilt (that can't be thrown away) and spread a little joy to someone who perhaps was looking for just what you are getting rid of.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions for what to do with old household goods, I'd love to hear your ideas!


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