Whether you’re moving, getting new furniture/appliances, or simply decluttering, it can be hard to know how to dispose of large, unwanted items. The old ratty couch, the refrigerator that runs constantly and is as loud as a fighter jet, the unsafe trampoline taking up space in the backyard. (Yes, these are all examples from personal experience.) Can you just throw ‘em out to the curb and expect waste management to haul it away? Do you have find a way to get those things to a dump, only to pay an always-annoying fee to get rid of it?
In the midst of DIY plumbing upgrades and dying appliances, I’ve confronted this question a number of times in the last handful of months, and have been flummoxed about how to dispose of stuff that doesn’t just fit in your trash can. Below I’ll take you through some tips that will save you some time and hassle in getting rid of your bulk waste (though to be fair, it will still likely take some time and hassle — this is big ol’ stuff you’re trying to dispose of after all!).
1. Find out if your waste management/local scrap yard will take large items.
Find out if your trash company will indeed accept oversized items that are just placed at the curb on trash day. More often than not they don’t, but sometimes you get lucky and they do. You can sometimes find that info on their website, and sometimes you have to call. What you don’t want to do is just drag a couch out to the curb only to have the collectors totally ignore it, leaving you to just drag it back into the garage or basement.
Whether or not waste management will accept large pieces of junk is going to vary widely based on where you live. Sometimes you can call and schedule a special “bulk pickup,” but it’ll cost you, often between $50-$75. (Yikes!) Sometimes they’ll accept furniture items placed on the curb, but not appliances or anything with electrical components. In some places and with some waste management companies you can buy a special tag to attach to a bulky item and get it taken care of on your normal collection day (this is usually cheaper; can be just $10 per item for easily disposed of things like mattresses, tables, etc.).
Related to this are private companies that specialize in junk/garbage removal. Think 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Again, though, you’ll be paying for this service, and probably more than you want.
Scrap yards are another good option for anything composed of metal, but yet again, you’ll probably have to pay a small fee to get your large junk items picked up. If you can deliver them to a local scrap yard, though, you may even get paid. That can obviously be a big-time hassle, but it might be worth it.
If you have to pay a fee of any kind, it should be a last resort if none of the below options work for you.
2. If you’re replacing it with a new item, see if the old stuff can be hauled away.
If you’re getting new furniture or appliances delivered, many times those guys can haul away the old stuff at no extra charge. This is especially true for large appliances like refrigerators, laundry machines, etc. Be sure to either read the fine print with these arrangements, or call the company ahead of time and see if there are any special provisions. When we had a new fridge and dishwasher installed, they hauled away the old ones for free, but for some odd reason I had to uninstall the dishwasher and get it out from underneath the countertop myself.
This arrangement is less likely to be the case for furniture deliveries, but sometimes you can offer cash to coax those guys into taking the old stuff.
3. List the item online, even if it’s old and gross.
You wouldn’t believe the things you can list on Craigslist and get taken off your hands. If the price is “free,” you can get rid of literally almost anything (the exception, perhaps, being a bag of stinky diapers). Old toilet that only sort of works? I listed it on Craigslist, and had a dozen offers overnight to come pick it up. Unsafe, duct-taped trampoline that was mentioned earlier? Same thing, and it was gone the next day. Beware that when you list things for free, you’re more likely to get people who will crap out on you and not show up or even return your emails. I’ve heard anecdotally that it’s actually better to put a price on things — even if it’s very small — just so the people responding have a little more skin in the game. I’ve not done this, but give it a shot if you aren’t having any luck at first.
This has become my go-to for getting rid of stuff that won’t fit in a trash can. List the oversized item on Craigslist or a local Facebook marketplace, and heck, maybe even make a little money on it.
4. Put it on the curb with a “free” sign.
This is the classic move of urban dwellers everywhere: put something out on the curb, turn around to walk back inside, and by the time you check on it from the window, it’s gone.
This method can definitely work sometimes, but only in certain scenarios. You really only want to do this with moderately-sized items. Chairs, file cabinets, small-ish tables, etc. Bigger than that, and people driving by won’t be able to just quickly stop and throw it in their vehicle (which is really what you’re going for). You also want to ensure you’re in a high-traffic area. If you live in a sleepy cul-de-sac, it’s not a good tactic.
With this move, you only want to give it a couple days, at most. Beyond that, you risk becoming a neighborhood pariah. Don’t be that guy. If you’ve stuck something out on the curb and it hasn’t been claimed after 1-2 days, try another tactic.
5. Donate it and get it picked up for free.
Especially in large cities, chances are good that thrift shops like Goodwill, Salvation Army, Arc, and others will pick up your items for free if they’re in decent condition. And Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore will pick things up like appliances, toilets, etc.
Use your good judgment here though; don’t pawn off a nasty couch onto Goodwill. Only utilize this option if it’s truly something that’s in good shape and could find a nice home with somebody else.