If you’re moving, redecorating, or going through a minimalist phase and Marie Kondo-ing everything, you likely have perfectly good stuff that you need to get rid of, and don’t even want to receive money for—taking it away is payment enough. But the effort to keep things out of landfills and find them new home where they’ll be used and appreciated can be frustrating.
We scouted out the ways you can get rid of the things you no longer want or need, at close to very little cost. (Time is the thing that you’ll spend the most.) In our search, we focused mainly on large items like furniture, but many if not all of the methods and organizations highlighted here can be enlisted to pass on clothes, books, and housewares.
In general, there are two routes to choose from: Connect with your fellow New Yorker directly through an online service or community, or donate your items to a local nonprofit for resale.
Some key things to keep in mind: The Salvation Army is not the only game in town for picking up your large pieces. (Although, contrary to what you might think, popular thrift store Goodwill Industries does not pick up, and no longer stocks furniture.)
When donating to an organization, check the guidelines on their web site on what they will and will not accept. Some are obvious (no furniture that’s structurally unsound), some less so. (Out of the Closet does not take children’s items or entertainment centers; Big Reuse does not accept exercise equipment or used rugs or carpets.)
For a citywide search of non-profits and organizations that accept and may even pick up items, check out the Department of Sanitation's Donate NYC search engine.
Person to person
There are a variety of online communities and classifieds where you can post items free for the taking. And no matter where you post, use common sense when dealing with or setting up meetings with people. Consider keeping things local, targeting your neighborhood, as opposed to letting all of New York City know you have something to give away. To be on the safe side, try to have someone else with you when your item is being picked up.
For the best results, post photos, be clear about the condition of the item, list its dimensions, as well as any other factors that could affect pickup. (Helpful instructions may run along the lines of “it is very heavy, you will need at least two people,” “must carry down one flight of stairs," “pickup only available on weekends,” “has to be gone by X date.”) The more information you provide and the clearer you are, the better.
You may be inundated with inquiries, and it’s tempting to respond to the very first person who says they’ll take an item off your hands, but don’t. A major issue with any “community”-based site is the flake factor: People just don’t show up. Do yourself a favor, save some time and irritation and vet your candidates: Who seems eager, who seems serious, who seems sane?
Find Your Next Home
The OG of getting rid of stuff via the internet, Craigslist is still a viable option. (To post, click the “create a posting” link in the upper left hand side of the site, and select the “for sale by owner” and “free” categories.)
Tapping into a smaller pool, perhaps containing people you even know, a neighborhood listserve also has the advantage of being geo-targeted., i.e., those people may not have to travel far to come pick up your item, which could increase the likelihood of them doing so. Not sure of your local listserv? Google [your neighborhood] listserv] and dive in. (You may need to be approved by an administrator and set up an account to read and/or post.)
Grassroots, non-profit organization run by volunteers in each community, Freecycle facilitates the giving and getting of everything under the sun with the goal of keeping it out of a landfill. Head to freecycle.org to find your local list, and post.
Mocking Twitter accounts aside, Nextdoor, one of the newer private community networks, is another hyper-local place to post giveaways. You need to be invited to become part of a Nextdoor community network, but this is not as exclusive as it sounds. If you ask around, you probably know someone on your local Nextdoor and can ask them for an invite.
Perhaps less well-known than shops from non-profits such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity’s retail outlets, known as “ReStores” function similarly, with a focus on building materials and furniture. The organization’s sole location is in Woodside, Queens.
What they take: Appliances (no dishwashers), tools, flooring, furniture, windows, paint (unopened, latex paint only) and more. Read the full list of what they do and don’t take here.
Can you drop-off?: Yes. Drop off large items Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.. smaller ones up to one hour before closing.
Will they pick up?: Yes. Email firstname.lastname@example.org a photo of the item you’d like picked up, your location, and preferred pickup times and someone will get back to you within 24 hours.
An old standby for donating goods and bargain shopping, The Salvation Army is the best-represented second-hand store in New York City, with stores in every borough.
Can you drop off? Yes. Call ahead to confirm they will receive the item. For best results, head to one of the organization’s “donation center” stores, which are identified as such on the Salvation Army site.
Will they pick up? Yes, and you can even schedule a pickup online. The only slight snag is that if you’re hoping to unload something ASAP, you’re probably out of luck: Availability is typically a few weeks out. (When we tried to schedule a pickup on October 29, the first date available was in mid December.)
A non-profit dedicated to helping divert materials from landfills (and a great spot to find some gently-used furniture or salvaged building materials) BigReUse accepts a wide range of items.
Can you drop off? Yes, Big Reuse accepts donations between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily; save yourself some trouble and confirm they’ll take what you have by emailing email@example.com or giving them a call at 718-732-4143.
Do they pick up? Yes, but you’ll need to submit it for review, and it helps if you have more than one piece to donate. Fill out the donation form to submit your item for pickup consideration.
Committed to serving and advocating for homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with and affect by HIV/AIDS, Housing Works operates numerous thrift stores and cafes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. (Note: the cafes do not accept furniture.)
Can you drop-off?: Yes. Donations can be brought to thrift stores during business hours. Managers have the right to refuse goods not in acceptable condition, so make sure your items are in good shape.
Will they pick up?: Yes. Fill out this form requesting a pickup, and note that photos are required for consideration. It’s best if you have two or more pieces to donate; items must be in very good to excellent condition. Expect a response in about three days, and a pickup in seven to 10. Requests spike towards the end of the month, so plan accordingly.
Out of the Closet is thrift store arm of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which provides medicine and advocacy to patients worldwide. The Brooklyn location on Atlantic Avenue is the organization’s only store in the New York City area.
Can you drop-off?: Yes. Call the store at 718-637-2955 and speak to a manager, who will assess if they will be able to accept the item (plan on emailing photos).
Will they pick up?: Yes. Fill out the donation form online, or call 1-877-274-2548 to arrange a pickup. (The dispatch service will screen for accepted items.)
If you’ve exhausted all your options and no one is taking your stuff off your hands, but you still want it out, call a junk removal service like Junkluggers. Yes, you pay them to take it away (cost is by the dumpster, or fraction of a dumpster) but you get a free estimate when they show up and can elect not to hire them. They, in turn, will donate any pieces they can to one of their many non-profit partners, some of which are listed here.
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