Some of the most fortunate people are those who see treasure where others see trash. Retired NYC sanitation worker Nelson Molina is one such person: after seeing scores of collectibles and other still-useful items while working his collection route, he began to save the items to create the “Treasures in the Trash Museum.” Originally started in his work locker, the museum now takes up an entire warehouse floor in East Harlem. The collection, , which contains items that range from vintage typewriters to shelves full of Furbies, does not have public visiting hours, but can be seen by appointment.
Molina’s passion began with the realization that the things we throw away often still have great value. And, Americans throw a lot away. On average, we each dispose of 4.4 pounds of trash per day. While some is recycled, more winds up in landfills. New materials are then fabricated to take their place. To cut down on your contribution to the load and get more benefit out of the things that we buy. Read on for a few of the best options for turning potential trash into worthwhile treasure:
1. Resell it to someone else.
It’s easier than ever to find someone who can get more use out of an item that you don’t need any more. As a bonus, you can put some of your money back into your pocket. Where do you find places to sell? There’s an app for that. There are actually several. Apps for successful selling include eBay, craigslist, offerup, letgo and others. Some are centered around a specific interest. Poshmark, for instance, is designed specifically for fashion. Find the app that you think has the right audience for your stuff, take some photos and upload a listing to lighten your load and fill your wallet instead.
2. Refashion it into something new.
Often, the items you have but don’t need can be made into something that you do need but currently do not have. Old t-shirts can be woven into rugs, sewn into quilts or cut into eco-friendly dish rags. Cast off containers can find new life as organizers or planters. A worn piece of furniture can get a new look with a fresh coat of paint. Consider the possibilities of the things you already own before getting rid of them and replacing them with new stuff.
3. Give it away to someone who can make better use of it.
Many people pack up old goods and bring them to a drop off for a thrift store like Salvation Army or Goodwill. However, this may not be the best path for many of your old consumer goods, such as clothing. Secondhand markets are often overburdened and have a hard time sorting and reselling all the stuff that comes in.
For a more effective route, consider giving items specifically to the groups who will use them. Leftover art supplies, yarn and paper may be helpful at local schools. Old magazines and paperback may be appreciated at nursing homes. Local wildlife rehabilitators and animal rescue organizations have consistent need for old towels and blankets that may no longer be in presentable shape.
4. Curate your possessions.
If you have space to store them, putting out only a few of your possessions at a time can make them seem like new treasures instead of old clutter. For instance, a collection of figurines that is regularly rotated allows you to enjoy each piece more as an individual than you can when they are crowded into a group. Changing throw pillows and rugs throughout the seasons allows you to continually update your home without adding new items. Curating items makes your home feel more open and airy. You also get a chance to see your things as treasures instead of trash.
By employing these techniques when you are thinking about trashing a once-loved treasure, you can keep items out of the waste stream and get more value out of everything you own. Look at the things that you own with a fresh perspective to figure out when it’s really time for something to go into the trash and when a little creativity can restore its status as a valued treasure.