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Are You An Empty Nester? Here's What To Do With Your Kids' Old Stuff

Give back and reclaim your space.

Whether your children have just shipped off to college or already have a home of their own, you might be faced with a serious issue: what to do with all of their stuff. While clearing out items of sentimental value may leave you a bit misty-eyed, you're bound to find yourself thrilled once you've made enough room for that home gym, walk-in closet, or craft room you've always dreamed of. So, instead of letting those once-prized possessions take up precious space, read on to discover which items to preserve and which to donate.


old t-shirts, get rid of kids stuff
pook_jun / Shutterstock

Have piles of your kids' old T-shirts around the house? If you want to clear up space but preserve some of the memories associated with those items of clothing, there's an easy solution. "T-shirts can be made into a blanket," says professional organizer Susan Santoro, founder of home organizing blog Organized31. "This makes a wonderful gift for your child." If you're not much of a sewer, companies like Project Repat and QuiltKeepsake will do the job for you.


folded sheets laying on the floor, get rid of kids stuff

Think those old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sheets your kids once loved have no use after your children leave home? Think again. "Donate bedding to a local charity," suggests Santoro. "Many will pick up from your home and give you a receipt: Salvation Army, Goodwill, Purple Heart, Boys & Girls Clubs, American Red Cross, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans. Be sure to check which charities operate in your area." Animal shelters frequently take old sheets too, so make sure to call around and see if any local ones will take them off your hands.


pile of legos, tennis balls, and maracas, get rid of kids stuff

Those toys may have been priceless to your kids at one point, but don't overestimate their cash value. "The collectible market place is a very select world, so unless your kids' old toys are pristine, mint in box, and rare, it's likely not worth the effort to find a buyer," explains professional organizer and master KonMari practitioner Karin Socci, founder of The Serene Home.

"When in doubt, the tried and true method is to search for the item on eBay, looking at completed auctions. That will tell you what someone actually paid for the item instead of just what the seller hoped to get." For toys that aren't collectibles, the non-profit Stuffed Animals for Emergencies will donate them to a child in need.


bottles in shower caddy, get rid of kids stuff

If your kids have left your shower overrun with their old products, there's an eco-friendly solution that will make you both happy: recycling them. After you've finished up the products, companies like Terracycle will take the packaging and recycle it for you, creating new product packaging out of the recycled material. And even if their particular personal care products aren't your cup of tea, you can always use extra shampoo to clean your makeup brushes or use leftover conditioner as shaving cream.

Art Supplies

finger painting, get rid of kids stuff

Have a ton of art supplies taking up space in your home? There are a number of easy ways to get rid of them quickly. If your local school is a member of Crayola's ColorCycle program, you can drop off markers and crayons with them to be recycled. For unused canvases, paints, or brushes, get in contact with the administration at a nearby school or shelter and see if they take donations—many would be glad to have free supplies.


pile of outdated phones, get rid of kids stuff

If your kids have been hoarding old phones as though that Motorola brick will suddenly come back into style one day, try one of these simple e-waste solutions. The EcoATM will recycle those old phones for cash, Cell Phones for Soldiers will provide one to a member of the armed services, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence will accept packages of three devices or more to distribute to survivors of domestic violence.


denim folding tips, get rid of kids stuff

Despite your kids' protests, unless they find themselves in a magical Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants-type situation, they won't be wearing those ratty old jeans they've long outgrown. The good news? The Blue Jeans Go Green program has teamed up with a number of retailers, like Levi's, Madewell, rag & bone, and Wilco, allowing individuals to drop off their old denim at those locations for recycling.

Designer Goods

designer purse and scarves, get rid of kids stuff
Shutterstock/Marcel Derweduwen

That Gucci belt your son begged for and that Fendi baguette your daughter got for her Sweet 16 may have gone untouched in their closets for years, but that doesn't mean there isn't life in them yet. Apps like Poshmark and The Real Real are great places to sell used designer goods—they'll even take upscale clothing for babies and little kids.

Office Supplies

office supplies, get rid of kids stuff

Those old pens, staplers, and scissors taking up space on your kids' desk might not seem useful to you, but don't mistake them for trash. TerraCycle's Zero Waste Box can help you recycle those office supplies you can't use. For anything still usable, call your local public school and see if they'd accept a donation.

Fiction Books

stack of hardcover books, get rid of kids stuff

If hanging on to that well-loved copy of Twilight doesn't seem like an appealing prospect to you, there's hope yet. Many public libraries and schools will happily take book donations, as long as they're in good shape. Non-profit organizations like Link to Libraries and Books Through Bars will also take used books and donate them to libraries or prisons.


cheap mattress, get rid of kids stuff

If your kids didn't take their mattresses with them when they moved out, there are a few simple ways to repurpose or otherwise get them out of the way. If you have space, that spare mattress can always be used to create a guest room, but if you really don't want it in your home any longer, some Habitat for Humanity ReStores will accept mattresses as long as they're in good condition.


pile of textbooks, get rid of kids stuff

That old chemistry textbook languishing on your kid's desk may seem like junk to you, but it could mean opportunity for someone else. While it's easy enough to sell used textbooks online, non-profits like Books for Africa will send them to children in Africa, as long as they are in good condition and were published in or after 2002.


towels on floor, get rid of kids stuff

While it may seem inconceivable that someone would want your kids' old bath towels, there is, as they say, a lid for every pot. Animal shelters often frequently request towels to keep their critters comfortable and to use in grooming, so get your local shelter on the phone before you trash them.

Old Prescription Glasses

prescription glasses on table, get rid of kids stuff

If those old Wayfarers aren't exactly your kid's style these days, there's an easy way to get rid of them without adding them to your local landfill. Many Lion's Club chapters accept donations of old glasses, clean them up, and donate them to those in need.


fiat mini parked outside victorian home, get rid of kids stuff
Shutterstock/Konstantin L

That old car your kid got for their 16th birthday may be an eyesore in your driveway, but it could change someone else's life. If you're looking to unload that clunker, you can donate it to Charity Cars, a non-profit that provides donated cars to families in need. And for more ways to free up some room at home, try these 30 Genius Storage Hacks That Will Clear Up So Much Space.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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