Decluttering Just Got Easier

Cardboard box full of stuff ready for Moving Day isolated on white background

Spring cleaning has turned into summer cleaning. Some of us are downsizing or moving. We've got too much stuff! Aiiiieeeeee!

Okay, you've screamed and you feel better now. But where the heck should all that stuff go?

For things you can't necessarily put in the recycling or garbage containers at your house or apartment, you probably have more no-cost options than you realize, even if you require home pick-up. Today we'll focus on free home collection services. Let's start with some of the hardest-to-dispose-of items.

Do you know about King County's Household Hazardous Waste Home Collection Service? This free to-your-door pick-up service helps residents age 65+ and those with disabilities safely dispose of certain products they no longer have a need for, but that should not be put down the drain or put in garbage or recycling containers. These household hazardous waste items include pesticides, oil-based paints, solvents, batteries, fluorescent lights, motor oil, antifreeze and household cleaners. (Note that this program does not collect latex paint, drugs/medications, or electronics.)

Contact the Household Hazards Line (206-296-4692 or 1-888-ToxicEd [869-4233]) Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except holidays) for information about this service or to arrange a pick-up. There may be a slight delay before the call goes through, and you may have to leave a message, but the staff is usually great at responding. They will have someone call you for scheduling, usually on Wednesdays, and then pick-up is often scheduled on the following Wednesday.

So what about other items? Free home pickup for most items—for older adults anyone else, for that matter—isn't widespread but here are a few more ideas for taking care of your unwanted items without leaving your home or yard.

For clothing, small furniture, and other household items, several nonprofit organizations offer free collection in much of King County, including Northwest Center, SightConnection (formerly Community Services for the Blind) and Salvation Army. Call them or submit a request online to see if they pick up in your area, and schedule a pick-up. Items they collect are sold in thrift stores (items donated to Northwest Center and SightConnection benefit those nonprofits but are sold in privately owned Value Village stores).

Salvation Army, Northwest Center and SightConnection also participate in King County's new Threadcycle program. This means that you can include clothes, other textiles and shoes in any condition (except wet) in your donation bag or box for those organizations. Items that are ripped, torn or hole-y are acceptable, because those organizations now have recycling options for textiles that aren't in good enough shape to resell.

For other recycling and proper-disposal options for a wide range of items, visit King County's What Do I Do With…? website. Click on "Select a category" in the box on the right. Most of those options are for drop-off or paid pick-up, but you may find a few free pick-up services offered for the items you need to get rid of. If it's a paid pick-up service, ask if they offer a senior discount or even if they could pick up your items for free if they happen to have another pick-up scheduled nearby.

For things you want to get rid of that you think someone else might want, you can also try free online services such as Freecycle, the free section of Craigslist and/or Buy Nothing. All have active groups in King County, or perhaps your neighborhood. Through those services, you can advertise items you have to give away and arrange for someone to pick them up. Be careful, of course, when dealing with strangers. Have someone with you for safety when people come to pick up the items, or leave items outside. And if you live alone, don't mention it.

Friends or family members are also often happy to take your items to a donation or recycling site, or to the garbage transfer station, especially when they are already planning a trip for their own items. It never hurts to ask! And in some neighborhoods, it's acceptable to leave items in front of your house, in the parking strip with a "Free" sign.

Thanks for recycling and donating! It’s great to be able to declutter your home and make the world a better place at the same time!

Contributor Tom Watson is a project manager for King County Recycling and Environmental Services ( If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, contact King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson at or 206-477-4481.