Books and other reusable items

Mom was never too proud to accept other people’s hand-me-downs if she thought the items were usable. She happily wore the mud boots that her friend Carmen didn’t want anymore, even though the boots were a little large for her. Mom would say, “What’s the difference? I could wear thick socks.”

She used old cooking pots and holiday decorations that friends passed along to her. She would even accept free promotional items like tote bags and key rings. As a result, Mom had a lot of stuff ready to give away “in case someone could use it.”

Like Mom, I hate to see usable items go in the garbage. I would so much rather see them with someone who could get some use out of them. But donating during the pandemic is a bit challenging. Libraries aren’t accepting used books and the thrift store near me closed shop. People are understandably worried about accepting things from someone they don’t know.

I’ve had some luck finding new homes for usable items by bringing them to work. The advantage here is that people at work know me, so they are more likely to feel comfortable about accepting a used item from me, even during the pandemic. My printer, beach chair, and some magazines found new homes with my coworkers. We also have a message board at work where I can post items I’d like to give away.

Some things are more challenging to find new homes for, like craft beads or my brother’s old sports memorabilia. I store these things in a large trunk with a list of contents taped to the outside. They’re out of my way, but I can quickly check to remind myself what I have when I have time to research where I can donate them.

I start by searching the Earth911 recycling database using the ZIP codes for where I live and work. Then I check out the websites or call the companies to find out if there are new rules for donating during the pandemic. Sometimes, I can find a new home for things. Sometimes, I need to wait for things to open up.

With a little patience and some creativity, we can keep usable items out of the landfill, even in challenging times. And it’s certainly worth the effort!

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.