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Why Getting Rid Of Junk Isn’t Free

Have you ever wondered why getting rid of junk isn’t easier?!

Have you ever been surprised by the cost to dispose of free stuff?!

Have you noticed the trend in more regional landfills and fewer local ones?


Whether you consider these issues old news or unforeseen surprises – we wanted to provide a follow-up to our readers from last week’s blog on our Service Spotlight: Final Clear Outs.


 As you may have read, the most disappointing part of a move is that it is FAR from complete just because the truck pulls away. And if you’ve ever been the last man or woman standing, you know that the biggest headaches aren’t always caused by the stuff you need to unpack – but more likely than not by the stuff you left behind! Whether dealing with household hazardous waste (paints, chemicals, etc), building materials (there are construction and demolition ordinances that govern such things!) or large furniture that’s left behind… we find that many clients are surprised by the cost and chaos of how to REALLY get rid of it all.




In reality, posting a sign that says ‘take me’ and putting it on a street corner might sound like a plan – but we just can’t recommend angering your neighbors, breaking city ordinances and waiting for the perfect bargain hunter to drive by. The next best option for many is to wait for a non-profit donation pick-up, such as those offered by HOPE Services, veterans groups, Goodwill and the Salvation Army. While this is a great solution for getting service at your door, note that most places are picky about what they can and cannot accept. The large list of unaccepted items often includes (but is not limited to): mattresses, large appliances, personal care items, building materials, cribs, car seats and certain types of televisions.


In some cases (but far from all), we can work with ReStore – a non-profit home improvement and donation center run by Habitat for Humanity. They divert 7,000 tons of waste each year from landfills by accepting select furniture, appliances, building materials and home accessories and selling them to the public at a fraction of retail price. In addition, ReStore proceeds in the Bay Area fund at least 4 Habitat For Humanity homes year. Note: they do NOT take everything  and have very specific needs & criteria; learn more at: http://restore.habitatebsv.org/donate-items/donation-criteria/. 




The best way to keep items out of landfills is to recycle whenever possible. Be sure to contact your local public recycling center to see what items can be picked up, what items can be dropped off and what can be bought-back (think glass, cans & cardboard to name a few).


With regards to HHW (household hazardous waste), virtually all cities & counties have  drop-off centers; note that nearly all require appointments and have very distinct increments of product they will accept at a time, as well as have limits as to what types of chemicals, paints and medications are allowed in general. 


Don’t forget to check if your area has a Freecycle Network. This grassroots organization exists in over 5,000 communities with 9 million members around the world. By striving to get and give within their neighborhoods, Freecycle members strive to reuse and limit landfill usage.




Chances are by the time you have considered a hauling service, you have ruled out the possibility that your items can be donated or recycled. Once again, nothing is free – and haulers are subject to charges based on truck size & capacity, gas, travel time and of course – those landfill fees! With Bay Area space a premium and our population only growing, there has been an increase in local landfill closures since 2005. In addition, there are few local municipalities with the space, desire or money to build more landfills, and the move is towards closures within communities and openings in regional capacities. The result is that it will only cost MORE to get rid of your stuff as the years go by…


In our experience, the average cost of a final clear out can be $1500-6,000, depending on the amount and type of items being left behind. The online resource HomeAdvisor suggests that consumers account for minimum charges, set-up fees, load sizes and costs per pound or unit depending on the type of debris.


We hope that the information above hasn’t scared you – but has set some realistic expectations about what it takes to completely clear things out – in terms of cost, time and energy!


All our best,


Helen & Julie 


Resources Used:

Bay Area landfills either closing or expanding

Shoreway Environmental Center 

Goodwill Donation Guidelines


The Freecycle Network

SM Construction and Demolition Debris Ordinance

Waste, Junk and Trash Services – What’s the Difference?


Helen Ingwersen