The Housing Scene

Discard and Donate Before Moving

Folks who are moving often hold garage sales to get rid of their unwanted stuff. But after that, they’re usually in a quandary: What do we do with the rest of the things we no longer want or need?

Often, there are people in town who will haul away your leftovers for free, or for a small stipend. Typically, these are professional dealers who will comb through what they take away to find a hidden gem or two that is worth more than you ever realized.

But there are lots of other choices. For example, you could skip the yard sale altogether and hire a “discard and donate” firm to help you whittle down your stuff. These companies help you evaluate what to keep. Then they take what you want to discard, donating it on your behalf to local and national charities. This will reduce your packing and transportation costs -- so much so, the outfits maintain, that it will save you money even after paying their fees. Not only do they help cut moving costs, they tend to make the old place more marketable by removing the clutter.

One such firm is Relocation Remedies of Pittsburgh; another is Home Sweet Home in Palos Verdes, California. Both work primarily with corporate relocation clients, but will also work with individual homeowners -- the former nationally, and the latter in and around Los Angeles.

Neither company would offer an example of a typical mover’s savings, saying that there are simply too many variables involved.

How much you save, says Home Sweet Home’s Jeff Heisler, depends on whether you are moving across the street or across the country, and which carrier you choose. Daniel O’Neill of Relocation Remedies adds that savings also depend on family size and the size of the house you are moving from.

Heisler says people who have a tough time deciding what to get rid of benefit the most from firms like his. Otherwise, people tend to take it all with them in the hope that they’ll find the time to sort and discard things after unpacking -- which, of course, they rarely do.

“Sometimes it’s just too hard, so getting a pro to come out is very helpful,” he says. “It’s less overwhelming.”

If you’re sorting through things yourself, the first step is to determine what you want to keep. These questions can help: Do you use the item regularly? Does it have sentimental value? Are you saving it “just in case”? Do you have more than one? Can something else replace it?

Your next step is to call local and national charities and ask about donating. “The cost is low to get a charity to come out and pick up your unwanted items, you are giving back to your community, and you get a tax deduction,” Heisler explains.

Likely, many local charities would be glad to help solve your moving dilemma. As one example, A Wider Circle in the Washington, D.C., area, collects furniture and household items and gives them to families and individuals transitioning from homelessness.

There also are many national charities you could call, including Goodwill, the Salvation Army, the Purple Heart Foundation and Habitat for Humanity, which backs locally owned and operated ReStores.

Here are a few other options:

-- Working through Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Pickup Please (pickupplease.org) helps all veterans by taking almost everything you want to give away. The group will collect your donations within 24 hours of your call; all you have to do is bag or box your items and leave them at the curb. If requested, they’ll leave a tax receipt. Collected items are sold to private companies, with the proceeds used to support VVA’s local, state and national programs. (All veterans are served, not just those from the Vietnam era.)

-- Dress for Success (dressforsuccess.org) passes on new and gently used business clothing to women looking for a new start in the workforce. It looks for business-appropriate attire such as suits, shoes, handbags and unused cosmetics and jewelry. Local affiliates accept donations only once or twice a month, so do your research.

-- Are there some extra coats in your “discard” pile? Use them to jump-start a neighborhood coat drive. One Warm Coat (onewarmcoat.org) provides tools and resources to hold a successful coat drive. Coats are distributed to children and adults in need in the communities where they were collected, without charge, discrimination or obligation. Since the charity’s inception in 1992, it has helped volunteers hold more than 27,000 coat drives, resulting in 5 million coats given away.

-- Cell Phones for Soldiers (cellphonesforsoldiers.com) collects used phones and tablets, sells then to a refurbisher or recycler, and uses the proceeds to purchase prepaid calling cards. The cards are distributed to active-duty personnel and veterans.

-- The Lupus Foundation (lupus.org) operates in only a few cities, but is growing. The group will take clothing, shoes, bedding, curtains, housewares, jewelry, toys, small appliances and tools, but no furniture. Donated items are sold to for-profit wholesalers, with the proceeds used to support programs for individuals with lupus and their families.

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