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Saturday, April 13, 2024
Part 3: A Clean Sweep: Donating gives new life to your old ‘stuff’
Dennis Den Besten, of Niagara Computer Systems, accepts many old electronic devices, but says you need to make arrangements in advance. DENISE ASCENZO
Cindy Grant amid the racks of clothing at Newark Neighbours. DENISE ASCENZO

From junk drawers to overstuffed basements, many of us have a lot of “stuff” we no longer need. This four-part series will help you deal with it and maybe give new life to old items.


An important step on the long journey to cleaning up after ourselves is to try to donate as much of our “stuff” as possible.

That’s a philosophy espoused by Margareta Magnusson in her book, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” and it’s an excellent way to help local charities and give new life to your old items.

Cindy Grant, who heads the Newark Neighbours thrift store and food bank, deals with donations almost daily.

The big question, though, is “What shouldn’t we donate?”

Newark Neighbours does not want, nor can it handle, large furniture such as book shelves, old TV stands, couches, dining room sets or large appliances.  

Ditto books, CDs, vinyl records or DVDs. All these items are hard to sell and Newark is in the business of selling items to stock its food bank.  

The store, on Niagara Stone Road in Virgil, welcomes dishes, pots, pans, cooking utensils, small appliances such as kettles or toasters, sheets, towels and even table linens. 

It can take in some small furniture such as end tables or small cabinets that are easy to handle.

“Surprisingly a big seller in the store is decorative pieces such as vases, lamps, china, crystal and unique items that can be displayed on shelves,” Grant said.

“As well, good costume jewelry sells quickly, but please make sure it is not broken.”

For women in particular, getting rid of clothing can be problematic. We hesitate to part with a good outfit, a lovely dress or something too small that we might eventually get into. 

If it is still good, then donate it now for another woman to enjoy. If you loved wearing it, ask yourself why it is hanging untouched at the back of the closet.  

Finally, should you lose those extra pounds to fit into that old outfit, why are you not buying a new outfit to congratulate yourself for a job well done?  

Newark Neighbours accepts almost any clothing item — except baby and young children’s clothes as there is not a large market for them in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Boots, winter coats, hats, scarves and mittens are popular, but more so during the colder months. Remember, if that coat or those hats have been buried in the back of the closet, why not donate them during the season they are most needed?

Still, some people drop off items that Newark Neighbours cannot use. When that happens, the agency works with recyclers, in particular the Cerebral Palsy for Kids group, Grant said.

That organization picks up clothing and pays Newark Neighbours by the pound.  

The Salvation Army and Diabetes Canada also have good connections for recycling clothing and other material items. Even those torn jeans or stretched-out T-shirts can be repurposed.  

Newark Neighbours also works closely with Westview Centre for Women (formally known as Women4Women and Survival4Women) in St. Catharines. 

It takes women’s clothing as well as children’s clothes, towels, blankets and household items in good condition. 

Brittney Kranz, a volunteer with the Farmworker Hub since 2021, explained the organization came into being during COVID when many people realized NOTL’s seasonal workers were in total isolation.

Volunteers were organized to go around to different farms to see what was needed.  

Men’s jeans, men’s hoodies and winter coats were and still are the greatest need. 

Another need not recognized at first was for large pots and pans as the men generally cook once for the entire week. Blenders as well are handy to make nutritious drinks for when working in the orchards and vineyards.

The Cornerstone Town Campus at 1570 Niagara Stone Rd. in Virgil is the location for all drop-offs.  

Sorting day is Tuesdays between 9:30 and 12:30.  However there is also a drop-off bin at the front door of the building if you can’t come on a Tuesday morning. 

Like Newark Neighbours, which work in partnership with the Farmworker Hub, they do not take large furniture, décor items or dress clothes.

“The Farmworker Hub creates a welcoming community for the Niagara-on-the-Lake seasonal agricultural workers during their stay in Canada,” Kranz noted.

Electronics such as keyboards, old computer towers and monitors are not accepted at most charitable locations, however they can be recycled.

Niagara Computer Systems in Virgil will welcome flat-screen TVs, computer monitors, tower computers, old laptops, iPads, cellphones and landline phones.  

Owner Dennis Den Besten only asks that you call in advance to book a time to bring in your items so that they can be assessed first. Don’t just drop in.  

One area that many of us dread is sorting through family photos. Several professional organizers suggest leaving this task to the very end because memories and emotions will stop many people from finishing other tasks.  

To help clear out these photos, Arlene Stephenson of Downsizing Divas suggests going through them once and eliminating out-of-focus shots, scenery and pictures of people you do not know.

Throw out all the negatives because with scanners today they are no longer needed. Sort through the photos a second time, throwing out duplicates and repetitive pictures. After all, how many shots of the Tower of Pisa do you really need?

Finally, make a pile for yourself and for each child. Then give them their pictures. Remember, you are not the caretaker of their things.

As you look around and feel the relief of getting your home in order, you’ll realize it’s more important to leave your children memories than stuff.

Next: Selling off some “stuff” can be an option.

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