Spring cleaning 101: What to keep and what to toss

It's that time of year again! Read on for quick tips on how to purge your house of unnecessary items and clutter this spring

Nursery items and baby gear

Baby clothes
• Even if you don’t know anyone with a baby who needs some extra outfits, you might know a little girl looking to dress up her dolls.

• Old receiving blankets make great cleaning rags.

• Toss garments that are torn or stained; charities and second-hand stores will take items that are in good shape.

Nursery furnishings
• Second-hand stores and some charities will take cribs, change tables, strollers, high chairs, monitors, swings and activity centres, if they’re not too old, are still in good condition and are recall-free.

• Repainted items will generally not be accepted due to concerns about lead in paint.

Car seats
• These you may have to toss — it’s impossible to tell if a car seat has been involved in an accident and may have a stress fracture that makes it unsafe. That’s why, as a general rule, second-hand stores and charities won’t accept car seats.

• Before throwing it out, cut the straps so others don’t use an unsafe or expired car seat.

Bedroom

Clothing
• Same deal as baby clothes — if the stuff is in good shape, try charities and second-hand stores. If not, donate to the dress-up box at your local school or theatre company.

• Consider cutting old sweatshirts into soft, absorbent cleaning cloths.

• Check in your city to see if there are organizations that take donations of clothing to outfit men and women looking for employment.

Furniture
• Charitable organizations such as Goodwill, Salvation Army and Value Village take used furniture donations.

• Investigate whether your area has an organization like Toronto’s Furniture Bank (furniturebank.org), which accepts gently used furniture for families in need.

• Also check shelters, your local high school’s drama department or a community theatre to see if they could use your items.

• Check in your area for second-hand stores that buy and sell or swap used furniture.

• Sleep Country Canada will recycle your old mattress or the components when you purchase a new one.

Linens
• Charitable organizations, especially homeless, women’s and animal shelters, accept gently used bed linens and towels.

Home office

Computers
• Some organizations specialize in recycling computers. Try reBoot Canada (rebootcanada.ca or Computers for Schools, cfs-ope.ic.gc.ca) to see if your computer fits the bill.

• Check with local schools, charities and non-profits; the Electronic Recycling Association matches computers to needy organizations in major western cities — visit era.ca

• Otherwise, check with your municipality about local computer recycling programs and disposal.

Ink Cartridges
• Most retailers, such as Best Buy and Staples, accept used cartridges for recycling.

• Organizations wishing to fundraise can collect used cartridges for cash. For more information, visit inkcanada.ca

Cellphones
• Rogers and most cellphone providers take back old phones for refurbishing.

• Charitable Recycling PhoneBack Canada pays $1 for digital phones and 25 cents for older phones, which they refurbish and sell to developing countries – visit charitablerecycling.ca

Batteries
• Take rechargeables to a hazardous waste depot.

• Drop batteries in the Big Green Box at Ikea for recycling. Some hardware and electronic retailers accept old batteries.

Other

TVs and electronics
• The organization reBoot Canada (rebootcanada.ca) accepts TVs and some electronics.

• Local youth charities or women’s shelters may be interested in newer electronics. Check first before dropping items off.

• Check with your municipality about safe disposal of older or broken items, and to see if you have a local recycling program for electronics.

• Occasionally, large retail chains do trade-in events and send items to recyclers.

Appliances
• Some charities may be interested in gently used appliances, or you can try selling online (Craigslist, Kijiji) or consider selling your items to a second-hand dealer.

• Some municipalities pick up and greenly dispose of old refrigerators to reduce the use of inefficient old ones.

Medications
• Take expired or unused prescription or over-the-counter medications, or any medications more than two years old, to a pharmacist for disposal, or ask about how to safely dispose of them.

• For environmental reasons, don’t throw out or flush unused medications.

Garage

Paint
• See if you can give your unused paint to a friend or to charity.

• Check with your municipality about drop-off sites for unused paint; some sort and give away still usable paint.

• Some Rona stores recycle paint. Call ahead to verify before bringing yours.

Solvents
• Take paint thinner, turpentine and nail polish remover to a hazardous waste depot.

Tires
• Each province has its own system for recycling tires; visit catraonline.ca for information for your province. Collected tires get made into play-ground equipment, rubberized outdoor surfaces and doormats.

• Check with your municipality about how to dispose of your used tires.

Sports equipment
• Second-hand stores accept items in good condition (skis, golf clubs, hockey equipment, bikes and helmets).

• Ask your local sports associations and retailers about swaps in your area.

• Items that are functionally safe can be donated to some charity stores.

• Talk to your local retailer, sports association or check online for charities looking for equipment for the disadvantaged — or set up your own drive to help others.

With tips from
Janet Cooper, Canadian Pharmacists Association
Andrew Horsman, Ontario
Tire Stewardship
Danielle Jang, Best Buy Canada
Andrew Lawlor, Play It Again Sports
Gerry Newell, Canadian Carpet Institute
Peter Umanec, Benjamin Moore
Wendy Weis, Charitable Recycling PhoneBack Canada
Karen Wright, Once Upon a Child consignment stores

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