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Don't Want It? Don't Toss It.


We’ve all been there before. That sofa we once loved just isn’t working anymore. That cedar chest from Grandma is always in the way. That chair we snagged on clearance is as comfortable as a rock. So now what? The crossroads between “keep it” and “let it go” can be a scary place. And a lot of unwanted furniture simply ends up on the curb. These three steps can help furniture avoid that fate and help our planet in return.

Step 1. Ask Yourself, “Can I Change It?”

The internet is an amazing thing. One goggle search for “DIY painted chairs” yields 64,700,000 results. Sixty-four million! If you’ve got a can of paint, an old sheet, a brush, and some gumption, you can breathe new life into an old chair. We admit it can be daunting. The thought of making an irreparable mistake on a decent piece of furniture can keep all but the bravest DIYers from picking up the brush and making that first stroke. But if it can be painted once, it can be painted twice, so give it a go. (Did you know you can actually paint fabric? Google that one. It’s crazy!) Of course, changing an item doesn’t have to be super involved either. Grandma’s old dresser with the attached mirror can be turned into a media console by simply removing the mirror and mounting a flat screen television above it. That cedar chest can be moved from the foot of the bed to the living room, where it gets new life as a coffee table. Bookshelves can store everything from linens to booze. Check out our Change It Pinterest board for some of our favorite ideas. Still not sure what to do? A good rule of thumb is: If you like the overall shape of an item, consider changing one of the following characteristics: color, fabric, or use. If you really don’t have the room—or the time—to make changes, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2. Ask Yourself, “Can I Sell It?”

It’s easier now than it’s ever been to sell unwanted items. From classics like Craigslistand Ebay to newcomers like OfferUp and Letgoto geographically specific apps, like Nextdoor, you can post that sofa in the a.m. and have it gone in the p.m. Of course, a little knowledge goes a long way to hosting and closing a peaceful and successful sale. First things first, (and yes, we know this seems like commonsense, but … ) look over your furniture and attempt to clean and/or repair any visible defects. Tighten legs. Vacuum up pet hairs and the dust and crumbs underneath the cushions. Spot clean fabric. (If it’s a removable slip cover, toss it in the wash.) Will you get more for the effort? Possibly. But that leads to the next tip: Price it right. Be realistic. Yes, you probably paid a lot for it, but like a car, furniture loses major value the minute you drive it off the lot. Do yourself a favor. If it’s gotta go, forget what you paid for it. Instead of trying to recoup your money, browse the ads on your website or app of choice and consider what other people are charging for similar items. Then, if you really want your item to go fast, price it below its competition. A good price coupled with lots of clear photos and an honest description will go a long way to getting it gone. 

Step 3: Ask Yourself, “Can You Share It?”

If changing it or selling it won’t work for you, then consider giving it away. Off the Curb, Inc. isn’t the only nonprofit with a furniture-focused mission. Many national and local charities exist to get gently used furniture into the hands of those who need it most. Giving your furniture to one of these charities could net you a tax deduction. As an added bonus, some charities will pick up the furniture you are donating. But be aware, some places only take what is needed to fulfill a specific list of needs, and most only accept furniture that is in very good condition (no rips, no stains, no wobbly legs). 

Here are a few organizations to get your search started:

Habitat for Humanity Restore

National Furniture Bank

Collectibles with Causes

Donation Town

Vietnam Veterans of America (small furniture only)

If you don’t have luck donating your unwanted furniture to a charity, don’t despair. Somebody out there will put it to good use, maybe even somebody in your circle of family and friends. Post a message on social media or send an email, letting everyone know you’re trying to give away some items. Ask them to forward the message to anyone who might be looking to furnish a place. If that doesn’t yield results, consider posting a similar message on sites and apps like Craigslist, OfferUp, Letgo, or Nextdoor. Target the right audience (Free! Great for College Students or Free! Perfect for DIY Projects), and you should be good to go. 

In the end, it takes a little extra effort, but it’s worth it if it keeps unwanted furniture out of the landfill. Since 1960, there’s been a yearly increase in the amount of furniture and furnishings we are landfilling. In fact, according to the EPA’s latest report on durable goods, we’ve more than quadrupled the amount (in tons). We can do better than that, and we can do it one piece of furniture at a time.

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