Stories & Features

Keep the memorabilia: Recycle other stuff to kill clutter

Image of many old mobile phones
Cellphones are far from the only source of clutter. Recycling depots in B.C. now accept a long list of electronics, and don't forget to look at donation options for items you're trying to get rid of.

Poll shows we're hesitant to toss items attached to family memories

Rob Klovance

In last month's Team Power Smart poll about the tough decisions that are part of spring cleaning, "old wedding dresses" got few votes as we asked which kinds of clutter are most difficult to part with.

But family memories are strong. Inherited items topped our poll at 29%, followed closely by children's art and other memorabilia at 23%. I understand fully – I've still been unable to part with a 1950s-era book signed by one of my mom's pre-marriage boyfriends, even though I have no intention of ever reading it and my mom passed away without taking it with her.

Full results of the Team Power Smart de-clutter poll

The good news is that you don't have to toss out the memories to de-clutter your home in a big way. Recycling and donation options in B.C. have taken a quantum leap in B.C. over the past 10 years, so there's really no excuse to keep that 1980s-era blender, the Walkman, the extra incandescent bulbs, or that juicer you've used once in five years.

The same applies to a lot of larger stuff, such as furniture. In many cases you can donate these items, or sell them on craigslist or kijiji.

If it's a device of any kind, chances are it's recyclable

There are exceptions, but Return-it depots are in or near most communities in B.C., and most accept a 400-plus-long list of items.

How many of these items do you think are recyclable in B.C.?

  • Circular saws & other power tools
  • Aerosol containers and caps
  • Prescription & non-prescription drugs
  • Air conditioners
  • Plastic/foam packaging
  • Battery-powered ride-on toys
  • Breast pumps
  • Microscopes
  • Keyboards

The answer – and you probably saw this coming – is all of them. So as you start spring cleaning, consider that you can keep almost everything out of the landfill.

Clean out that drawer full of light bulbs

Remember when you used to buy light bulbs by the 12-pack, then tried to carefully separate the new ones from the ones that had burned out? If you're still doing that, spring cleaning is a chance to both clean up and save money.

Even if you have new or operational incandescent bulbs in your home, you're better off recycling them and replacing them with an ENERGY STAR® LED bulb. LEDs will save energy and money each year, and will last 15 years or more. No more need for a drawer or box full of bulbs.

LightRecycle B.C. depots and partner retailers accept a wide variety of light bulbs and fixtures – pretty much any lighting product you can imagine is now recyclable. Just keep in mind that most lighting recycle depots accept a maximum, for each visit: a combined total of 16 fluorescent tubes and/or a combined total of 16 other bulb types.

You can find a light recycling depot or hardware retailer nearest you by using a search tool on the LightRecycle website, inputting your province and either city or postal code.

Clothes and other household products can be donated

A variety of local community organizations run thrift shops that accept good-quality clothing and other household items that you no longer find useful (or which no longer fit). Some have drop-offs at their stores, while others have bins in public parking lots and other easy-to-reach locations. And some, like the Big Brothers of Vancouver, have a pickup service.

Here are some of the larger organizations that take donations in B.C. Please take the time to check their websites to get an idea of which type of items are acceptable.

Salvation Army
Big Brothers Vancouver
Savers (Value Village)
Covenant House

Got furniture, window coverings, door handles and other stuff?

Habitat for Humanity takes the stuff that a lot of thrift shops can't handle, including really large items. It's a good idea to give your closest ReStore a call before delivering anything.

Another option, depending on how comfortable you are around dealing with members of the general public, is craigslist and kijiji. If you're willing to part with gently used furniture or other items for free, or next-to-free, there's probably someone out there who could use it.

Don't pretend that that old pan is worth donating

If you've ever lived in a strata building with a communal recycling room, you'll know this story. Rather than dealing with that old chair or kitchen equipment the proper way, some people pretend they're doing the right thing by just placing a tired old item beside a dumpster or recycling bin.

Making a throwaway item someone else's problem is just bad karma. It's right up there with tossing food scraps in with the recyclable bottles and tins.

Spring cleaning poll: A struggle to part with memorabilia

Last month we asked Team Power Smart members this question: Spring is a great time to de-clutter. Which kinds of clutter do you find most difficult to part with?

Here are the results:

  • Inherited items (29%)
  • Children's art & memorabilia (23%)
  • Skinny & old clothes (17%)
  • Expensive stuff (13%)
  • Books & magazines (10%)
  • Kitchen gadgets & extras (7%)
  • Wedding dresses & formal wear (2%)

Rob Klovance is a writer-editor at