When you think of your grandparents’ homes, do you envision a house packed full of furniture and household items? Do you remember rummaging through your grandparents’ attic or basement, digging through old trunks and wishing that their old wardrobes would open into Narnia?
If you're in the position to dispose of these items once they are ill or die, you may be wondering how you can get rid of all of the old furniture for free, or at least very cheaply.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Consider Before You Get Rid of Old Furniture
- 1. Distribute Sentimental Items to Family Members and Friends
- 2. Assist Other Family Members with Furnishing Their Homes
- 3. Have an Estate Sale
- 4. Host a Garage Sale
- 5. Sell Items Online
- 6. Donate Items to Charitable Organizations
- 7. Repurpose the Item
- 8. Put the Item Out for Large-Trash Pick-Up Day
- 9. Place Items on the Curb with a Sign that Says “Free”
The past couple of generations were made of people who kept things. They kept items in case another economic depression hit the country. They kept things because they reused items for other purposes. They liked having and displaying collections.
While digging through houses full of stuff can be fun when you are a kid, as an adult seeing a home packed with stuff may give you anxiety. You know at some point, someone in your family will have to go through each item and decide whether to sell it, give it away, or throw it away. What do you do with a lifetime worth of possessions? How do you get rid of it all — in particular old furniture?
Here are some ideas on how to get rid of unwanted items. Whether you are cleaning out the household of a family member who recently died or you are participating in a Swedish death cleaning of your own home, here are some thoughts about what to do with the furniture.
Tip: Read our guide on where to get rid of household items for more ideas.
What to Consider Before You Get Rid of Old Furniture
We all know that getting rid of furniture in a house is as easy as hiring someone to load up a truck and hauling the items to the dump. If you are tempted to do this, consider these thoughts.
Ask others about items with which they have an emotional connection. Even though you may be the official owner of all the items in a particular household, don’t get rid of things without asking people who may have an emotional connection to some of the items.
Perhaps your child wanted to keep the crib they slept in for when they have a child of their own. Maybe your sister will want the rocking chair that belonged to your mother at one time.
Research what items may have financial value. If you have watched any episodes of Antique Roadshow, you have seen people surprised by the value of some of the household items people brought on the show. Look through your belongings to see if there are any antiques.
Determine your timeline for getting rid of the household items. Your method for disposing of the items may be determined by how long you have to spend on the project. This may be a bone of contention if one sibling wants to go through the parent’s household an item at a time, and another sibling doesn’t have the time or interest to take on the project.
Find environmentally-friendly solutions: Instead of adding to a landfill, consider ways the items can be repurposed, reused, or recycled.
1. Distribute Sentimental Items to Family Members and Friends
Before getting rid of grandma’s old foot sewing machine or the grandfather clock that was always in the hallway of your parents’ home, see if other members of the family would like to own the items or family heirlooms.
Make sure they understand the item’s history, so they are knowledgeable enough to make the decision.
Pro tip: It’s tricky if multiple people want to own the same item. Perhaps the same thing was promised to several family members, and no mention of the item is in the will. Families have been torn apart when fighting over things. Unfortunately, there’s usually no easy solution to this problem.
2. Assist Other Family Members with Furnishing Their Homes
Is your nephew getting ready to go to college? He probably would be thrilled to have your old living room set. Did your cousin’s child just get married? Maybe she needs a table to put in her kitchen.
Pro tip: If you are giving something away, then you have no claim on the item. You can’t be upset if your daughter chooses to paint the chest of drawers that you lovingly restored to the original wood.
Also, your expensive leather couch may be the favorite lounging spot to your sibling’s two hairy German Shepherds. Remember, another person’s trash is another person’s treasure. That goes for your old furniture as well.
3. Have an Estate Sale
If you have household items to get rid of in addition to furniture, you may consider having an estate sale. Remove the items you want to keep and open the rest of the home up to buyers.
Some buyers are more likely to go to an estate sale than a garage sale because they know that multiple types of items would be for sale.
Pro tip: Be prepared to have buyers “nickel and dime” you to death. If you have little tolerance for negotiations, this may not be the best way for you to get rid of old furniture.
4. Host a Garage Sale
What do you sell at a garage sale? Besides selling home decor, books, and children’s items, many people choose to sell furniture.
Pro tip: Some people may not be able to buy furniture from a garage sale if they have no way to move it. Consider having someone close at hand with a large enough vehicle and strength to help your buyer move heavy items.
5. Sell Items Online
Post an advertisement in Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, Next Door, or another local site that allows you to list items for sale.
Pro tip: Take care when selling items out of your home to strangers. At minimum, consider moving the thing into the garage or onto the driveway before the buyers arrive. Also, make sure you have multiple people at home when the transaction takes place.
6. Donate Items to Charitable Organizations
One of the best ways to get rid of unwanted furniture is to donate it to a charitable institution. Make sure you understand what Goodwill takes before you load up an old TV to bring to a drop off location.
Donating to a charity can be especially helpful for getting rid of stuff when moving. You may not have the time to mess with a garage sale or Facebook marketplace when you need to get out of your home by a specified time.
Some charitable groups will also pick up donations. This can be particularly helpful for older adults with no means to move bulky items.
Pro tip: Create an itemized list of the items you drop off at the charitable organization. Keep the donation certificate attached to your itemized list so you can use it for tax purposes.
7. Repurpose the Item
Maybe you don’t need an old TV armoire any longer because your TV hangs on the wall. Instead of hauling the item to the dump, look on Pinterest to discover creative ways to repurpose the piece of furniture.
Pro tip: For example, a quick online search reveals people using TV armoires as clothing closets, bathroom storage, pantries, sewing stations, and play kitchens.
8. Put the Item Out for a Large-Trash Pick-Up Day
Some cities and communities have one or two days a year set aside where residents can place large, unwanted items on the curb. Find out when your local large-trash pick-up day is approaching.
Pro tip: You may not like the idea of your large piece of furniture ending up in a landfill. But sometimes people troll neighborhoods on these days and take items before the trash truck even arrives.
9. Place Items on the Curb with a Sign that Says “Free”
Even if your community does not have a large-trash pick-up day, you may be able to get rid of unwanted items by leaving them on the curb with a note. As mentioned above, post on a local website like Craigslist or Next Door to let neighbors know that you have some items outside available for free.
Of course, this is a risky proposition because if no one takes the piece of furniture, you may have to move it back into your home quickly or face the wrath of your neighborhood association.
Pro tip: Pay attention to the weather before hauling items to the curb. No one wants a rained-on sofa.
Get Rid of Old Furniture and Keep Your Memories
As you grow older and face the end of your life, you may want to start downsizing. Getting rid of your precious items may give you anxiety, but once you get started, you may feel less encumbered.
It’s easier to take care of a home that isn’t full of stuff. Plus, a house with fewer items is safer. Not only will you not have items underfoot, but you can have someone empty the highest shelves in your cabinets and store all your things in easy-to-reach places.
If you have to move because of a health crisis suddenly, you will be able to do so quickly if your house has already been emptied of unwanted items.
As you prepare your home for your golden years, don’t forget to start your end-of-life planning as well. Make sure you leave specific instructions in your will on how you want your furniture and other items to be distributed after you are gone. Making all of these end-of-life plans will make things easier for your loved ones when you die.