How best to clear your unwanted junk
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Richard Burr reveals how to clear your clutter.
It’s January. And that means there’s no better time for a big old tidy up.
I sometimes work in houses where clutter has taken over a bit. Often, it’s because people aren’t sure where to start in responsibly disposing of their stuff. If the large, unwanted things you have are in good enough condition, think about eBaying or Freecycling them first, but if you’ve exhausted those options, here are my top tips for getting rid of waste.
Take it to the dump
Obviously the dump’s not called the dump these days, it’s usually called a ‘reuse and recycle’ centre. It’s actually one of my favourite places to go - it must be the Womble in me - always interested in the things that “the everyday folk leave behind”.
My top tips for going to your local dump are to check the opening hours, get there early and avoid weekends if you can. Also, if you have big items and a smaller vehicle, remember you’re dumping it anyway, so think about cutting your items up into more manageable pieces before you go. For example, I recently got rid of our three-seater sofa through taking a panel saw to it and transporting it in much smaller parts. This also meant I could sort the wooden sofa frame and textiles into the right places at the dump.
If you don’t drive or have a small vehicle, look out for ‘man with a van’ notices in your local shops, or club together with your friends or neighbours and hire a van yourself to make the most of it.
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Many councils offer services where they can help you dispose of bulky waste for a fee, but in my borough, this doesn’t include things like American-style fridge freezers, empty helium canisters, trampolines, glass or items over 6ft long. Charities like the British Heart Foundation sometimes take unwanted furniture, and your local council will probably have a list of different organisations to help you - check the waste and recycling pages of their websites.
Hire a skip
If you’re doing significant DIY work at home or just have a ton of rubbish lying about in the garden, you may need to hire your own skip. Now this is a much less intimidating process than it once was, as many companies allow you to order a skip online. Skips come in a variety of sizes, usually measured in cubic yards, but use this to help visualise what you might need:
3 yard skip = 15-20 black bags of waste
4 yard skip = 30-40 black bags of waste
6 yard skip = 50-60 black bags of waste
8 yard skip = 60-80 black bags of waste
You can get bigger skips too, but I’d say stick to these four types. When you’re ordering a skip, you may need to say roughly what’s going in it - for example, rubble, wood, general waste and mixed building waste.
You also need to be able to state where your skip is going when it’s delivered. Putting your skip on a driveway or front garden is often the easiest option, although you’ll need to get some parking permits organised if your car normally goes there and you live in a restricted parking area.
If you’re intending to put your skip on the road - which is often the easiest/only option - you’ll need to get a road licence from your local council. Sometimes the skip company will sort this out for you (for a premium) and sometimes you’ll need to sort it yourself. It’s very easy to do - usually requiring just a phone call, and typically costs from £10-£60, depending on what area you live in and how long it will be there for. If your skip is going on the road, it should have reflectors on it and have skip lights too - you can be fined for not following these rules, so make sure you do!
One other thing - if you have paid for a skip, the last thing you need is for someone else to fill it with their waste, as happened to me recently. A heavy plastic sheet tied down with some rope is a very good investment if you’re leaving your skip empty or partially-filled overnight.
Once you have a skip, working out how to fill it is another matter. Ever played Tetris? Well, if the answer is yes, you’re ready to fill a skip. Most bulky waste, if packed poorly in a skip, can leave large, empty voids that could be filled with broken lawn mowers and rotten garden furniture. Treat filling your skip like building a 3D puzzle. Put the heavy items at the bottom, being careful not to strain yourself when lifting - lift with the knees and not the back, and don’t try to lift too much in one go. Use workers gloves - they’ll make it far easier to manipulate heavy, unforgiving waste. Once all the heavy things are packed, put in the lighter items, breaking down any wooden items into their flattest shapes and stacking them neatly around the edges of the skip. Then finish with the lightest stuff.
Scrap your metal
Old wheel barrows, rusty dustbins, ancient radiators, broken tumble dryers - you name it, if it’s made of metal, it has value. For most of my life, we have saved all our metal (we come across a lot of it) and take the lot up to our local scrap dealers just before Christmas to fund the Christmas box. Now this may not be an option for you, but if you want to save space in your skip, or just don’t fancy a drive to the dump, you can call a scrap person to pick it up.
Get rid of hazardous waste carefully
There are rules around disposing waste, and we all have a responsibility to follow them. You will most likely have hazardous waste somewhere in your home or garden. Typical examples of this include chemicals, batteries and equipment containing ozone depleting substances, like fridges.
You will need to take special care when disposing of these. Some types of hazardous waste (including batteries and oils) can be taken at specific recycling centres - find out by giving them a call or checking online. Many other types need specialist removal by professionals. This usually costs money, but don’t be tempted to just chuck it in the bottom of a skip and forget about it. Firstly - it’s just plain wrong, and secondly, you will be heavily fined if you are caught. But I know you wouldn’t do anything like that - you’re all lovely!
Good luck getting all that rubbish cleared and enjoy having a clutter-free home and garden.