Many passed the time under coronavirus stay-home orders decluttering, clearing closets and organizing garages. With thrift shops shuttered, however, they had no place to take the teetering piles of unwanted things.
That’s changed now that Clark County is in the second phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s gradual reopening plan.
Here’s the latest on how to responsibly get rid of your backlog of bric-a-brac.
Open, but not the same
Before you load up your trunk and get on the road, keep in mind that although thrift shops are open, they have fewer employees to process donations and fewer shoppers to buy them.
“When you don’t have a way to move stuff out the front door, taking stuff in the back door is challenging,” said Denise Barr, vice president and director of marketing for the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.
The organization’s ReTails Thrift Store is open at 5000 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., but only from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. ReTails is encouraging people to schedule their drop-offs to mitigate long lines; visit hssw.org/thriftschedule to choose a time. Donors should wear masks and unload their own items.
Barr asks that people refrain from donating furniture and books for now, but ReTails is accepting clothing and accessories, holiday decor, housewares, kitchen items, games, sporting goods, toys and pet care items, all of which should be sorted into separate bags or boxes. For complete guidelines, visit southwesthumane.org/retails/donate/.
Help Goodwill help you
Last year, folks in the Goodwill’s Columbia Willamette region donated a mind-boggling 263 million pounds of goods. That’s a worldwide record, said public relations manager Dale Emanuel in an email.
That generosity now presents a challenge. Before the pandemic, 93 sites accepted donations in this region. Now, 45 sites (including six in Clark County) are scrambling to process a surge in donations.
“We’re asking donors to do something different,” Emanuel said. “It’s different for us, too.”
Emanuel urges people to visit meetgoodwill.org/who-we-are/donations/ to review donation guidelines, and asks them not to leave anything outside a Goodwill that isn’t open. The items are ruined by exposure to the elements or lost to theft, and precious staff hours must be spent transporting salable items to an open Goodwill. Then Goodwill must pay to dispose of items that are too damaged to be sold, taking funds away from vital community service programs, Emanuel said.
Another way to help is to sort similar items into separate boxes or bags, but that isn’t required.
Masked staff will be on site with carts to receive donations, but donors should be prepared to unload everything themselves.
Reduce wait time in donation lines by donating only what Goodwill can accept. The two biggest “don’ts,” said Emanuel, are household chemicals and torn or soiled furniture. Other “don’ts” are mattresses, car seats, strollers, cribs, large appliances, pianos or organs, metal file cabinets or swing sets.
On the whole, Emanuel said, donors have been very kind, and most are wearing masks.
“I am sure employees are grateful,” Emanuel said.
Turn stuff into houses
The Clark County Habitat for Humanity Store (open 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday though Monday at 10811 S.E. Second Ave.) is a great place to get rid of things that other thrift stores don’t accept, such as paint, metal and building materials like cabinets, doors, flooring, windows, tile and roofing. The material is resold or recycled to help fund Evergreen Habitat for Humanity’s homebuilding projects.
“It keeps it out of the landfill,” said Martha Cerna, communications and marketing manager.
The store also accepts furniture, large appliances, exercise equipment, lawn and garden equipment and power tools. For a complete list, visit pdxrestore.org/donate.
“We take just about anything to help raise money for Habitat,” Cerna said. Exceptions include clothing, mattresses and broken items.
If you drop items off, you must wear a mask and be prepared to unload everything yourself.
Give to your community
To give your things directly to a neighbor who needs them, find your local Buy Nothing Facebook group at buynothingproject.org.
“I love the group because it is one huge recycling party,” said Camas resident Angela Heaston. “Recycling is near and dear to me, so it is really the best thing ever. People give away anything and everything, things Goodwill and such won’t take, but are still useful.”
Heaston said she’s given away clothing and shoes, plastic drawers, kitchen cupboards and other kitchen items, a fridge, a microwave, lamps, books, jars, storage containers and even a hot tub.
An invaluable resource
Clark County has a Recycling A-Z Directory at www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/recycling-z, with details about how to recycle or properly dispose of everything from gasoline, insecticide, expired medications and block foam to eyeglasses, old bicycles, tires and dirt. Enter the item in the search bar and you’ll be told where to take it — or if it belongs in the garbage.