Schromen Law, LLC is here to support clients in settling loved ones’ estates, but it is the clients who do the hard work and learn the little tips and tricks along the way. Sue Kirchoff, a client of Schromen Law, has generously and vulnerably written about her experience dealing with possessions after the loss of a loved one. Many of these organizations and businesses are local, aligning with Schromen Law’s vision to create and foster community.
Sue Kirchoff is a Minneapolis writer and photographer.
About 10 years ago, my 87-year-old mother passed away. A little over a year later, my husband, Ed, died of a heart attack within weeks of being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an uncommon blood cancer.
After my shock and grief began to subside, a new concern began to seep in: What am I going to do with all their stuff?
My mother had lived in her Roseville home for nearly 60 years, and some of her stuff was older than that. My husband was an artist, but to earn a living, he did a variety of home renovation projects — everything from woodworking and painting to plumbing and wiring. His workshop and our basement and garage were filled with supplies, to the point where I joked he could open a hardware store.
I brought carloads of donations and requested pickups from the usual places, like Goodwill and The Salvation Army, which take a great variety of stuff. ARC’s Value Village, which provides opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is also a great place to donate clothing and household items. But it’s a good idea to check their lists of what they accept and don’t accept before making a run. ARC, for example, only takes “select furniture with manager pre-approval.”
Sometimes, you’ll have items that aren’t accepted by ARC, Goodwill, or The Salvation Army. Or items may have a special meaning to you, and you like the idea of finding them a home with someone you know or with a specific organization. Or maybe you prefer to have a more personal connection with those you are donating to.
For people looking for a more direct connection, the Facebook Buy Nothing Project and the Freecycle Network embody “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” Members of the groups post photos and short descriptions of items they would like to give away. Interested parties respond on the site and arrange for pickup or delivery.
Nextdoor, the social networking service for neighborhoods, also lists items for sale and free. You post an item with a picture and short description, and neighbors contact you through the app if they are interested in your item. You can then agree on a time to leave it for them to pick up on your stoop or other location. When I was left with a supply of unopened ink for an old printer, I hated the thought of tossing it. What a waste! Besides, it’s expensive. When I posted it on Nextdoor, it was snapped up within hours by a grateful neighbor.
Then there are items that fall into a category of their own, like my mother’s beloved cat. Finding a home for Zoey was the saddest thing I had to do. I thought about taking her in, but I’m allergic to cats and had two dogs. I knew Zoey would do best in a quiet home where she was the only pet, but I was concerned some humane organizations would consider her too old or cranky to be adopted. I contacted every no-kill cat rescue organization I could find, but they either had long waiting lists or said Zoey didn’t meet their criteria. To my relief, I finally found a home for Zoey with a coworker at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.
Another major item I successfully found a home for was my husband’s work van. For some reason (probably because I so associated the van with Ed), the thought of dickering with someone over a price, taking money for the van, and watching it drive away was heart-wrenching. But I felt good about giving it to a charity Ed approved of: Habitat for Humanity. Their Cars for Homes program accepts almost all vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, boats, snowmobiles, farm equipment, and construction equipment. Many other charitable organizations also accept vehicles. You fill out a form online, and, like Habitat, they will even come to you to pick up the vehicle.
My other donations have fallen into these categories:
Art supplies. Ed left me a wealth of art supplies, from pencils and brushes to paint and canvases. While I had dabbled in painting, I realized I would never use it all—and seeing the items gathering dust, unused, made me feel sad. Then I remembered an old friend of ours who told me she was taking art classes. She had even mentioned she was inspired by thinking about Ed when she painted. Not only did she appreciate not having to purchase the items, but knowing the supplies had once belonged to Ed gave them special meaning.
Books. I’ve given away carloads of books to the Friends of the Library Book Sale at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the Hennepin County Library’s book sales, and a book drive at a neighborhood school. I’ve also shared many books with Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood.
Clothing, footwear, bedding, and towels. Clothes, shoes, accessories, and household textiles in reusable condition are accepted by USAgain, a for-profit textile recycling company operating more than 8,000 “TreeMachines” (clothing collection bins) in partnership with businesses, schools, and places of local government. USAgain also plants a tree every time a TreeMachine is filled with clothes.
Furniture and housewares. Bridging, which provides furniture and household goods for people pursuing housing stability, accepts donations of furniture, housewares, framed artwork, pictures, and mirrors, and small appliances and electronics at its locations in Bloomington and Roseville.
Hazardous waste. Stuff that can’t be donated, recycled, or thrown out with the garbage, like fluorescent light bulbs, old paint, automotive fluids, household cleaners, herbicides, and pesticides, can accumulate fast in your basement and garage. Hennepin County hosts summertime hazardous collection events at schools and public works departments. Hazardous waste can also be brought to Hennepin County’s drop-off sites. Ramsey County also has year-around and mobile drop-off sites.
Pet food and supplies. People and Pets Together, 2501 Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis, helps families facing economic hardship by operating a pet food shelf. They mostly need pet food, but cat litter and gently used pet supplies are also appreciated. I have also donated pet carriers, crates, and toys.
Old records. I brought an armful of old records to Hymie’s Vintage Records, 3820 E Lake St., Minneapolis, which gave me cash on the spot. Electric Fetus, 2000 4th Ave. S., Minneapolis, also pays cash for used vinyl, CDs, and DVDs.
Tools, building materials, and hardware. Ed left me with a workshop, basement, and garage full of tools, hardware, and construction, plumbing, and electrical supplies. What I didn’t keep I sorted into boxes for my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore home improvement outlet, which takes donations of appliances, tools, building materials, furniture, electrical and plumbing supplies, and more, and the ReUse Warehouse, which supports Better Futures Minnesota. Minneapolis residents who have a lot of old building materials, tires, or other items too large to fit in their garbage carts can get a voucher to drop it off at the Minneapolis South Transfer Station.
The quest goes on
Always interested in adding to my index of places to bring my unused stuff, I recently came across some rather unique options in “A Guide to Getting Rid of Almost Everything” in The New Yorker magazine. I haven’t worked with these organizations (yet!), but they may be just the ticket for your unused item:
Old bras. The Bra Recyclers, an Arizona enterprise, has sent more than four million bras to homeless shelters, schools, foster programs, and other nonprofits all over the world. For girls in developing countries, they make it possible to play sports and attend school without embarrassment.
Fur coats. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) donates furs to the homeless (“the only humans with any excuse to wear fur”). They have also shipped hundreds of furs to Afghanistan and Iraq for use by refugees.
Pianos. Free Pianos will help you find a home for your free unused piano, digital piano, or electric keyboard.
Finding the best places for your unused stuff can be a lot of work. But it can also be an interesting way to discover, get to know, and support organizations in your community and beyond.
I’m still looking for homes for unused stuff—only now it’s mostly my own stuff I’m decluttering!
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The views expressed in this article are not a statement of support or endorsement by Schromen Law, LLC. The information contained herein is not offered as legal or medical advice and should not be construed as legal or medical advice.