/ Home & Energy

Does your home need a lockdown clearout?

When it came to a spring clean this year, the coronavirus lockdown made things a little complicated. Have you been able to clear out any of your excess stuff?

If you’ve been through the various phases of lockdown (which I hope has included staying fit and well), you’ll have no doubt completed the baking phase, the veg box phase, the catch ups with friends via video and the quizzing.

But what about the spring cleaning phase?

With recycling points adhering to strict social distancing rules – and visits in demand – what workarounds have you found to get rid of your unwanted items?

As they say, one person’s trash is another’s treasure, and I’ve been looking for alternative ways to pass on unwanted items to give them a second lease of life.

Charity shops reopening

We received our first charity collection bag through the letterbox just a few weeks ago and I was quick to fill the bag with unwanted clothing that was ready for some new wear.

It’s always best to verify the company is collecting for a reputable charity, but once that’s confirmed, the bags can be a quick way to pass on goods without even leaving your home.

See which shops are reopening in different parts of the UK

I’ve kept some other items to give to charity shops in the weeks and months to come, but I’m wary that a number of them may be in an unusual position of being overwhelmed with donations. So for the time being, I’m sitting tight. 

For other items, particularly higher cost items of clothing that you’re not interested in reselling yourself, you might want to investigate Thrift – a social venture that sends some of the money from the resale of clothes to a selection of charities signed up to the scheme.

The messy drawer

One of my son’s favourite places to explore in our kitchen is ‘the messy drawer’. Let’s face it we all have one.

Ours is complete with a selection of cards, fixtures for things I’ve lost track of, goodies from party bags and other bric-a-brac.

But in this draw I’ve also uncovered a couple of old jewellery items and, through a search, I’ve discovered that the Alzheimer’s society is collecting unwanted jewellery to benefit the charity.

I thought this was a great way to put some old treasures to good use, but the service is in demand so it might take some time for you to receive your special envelope.

Unwanted food items

I’ve been fortunate to still receive the occasional online food delivery during lockdown but this has come with a small challenge: in the early weeks, the request to keep any substitutes that the supermarket may provide.

I’ve also been trying to support local wholesale businesses that have turned their attention to trying to deliver local produce to keep their businesses afloat and to support local communities.

This has meant I’ve been blessed with having more food than I need (or options my four year old doesn’t eat!).

I’ve found the food sharing app Olio a great way to stop good food going to waste – whether that’s passing on the cabbage from the veg box or clearing out the food cupboards of those tins and sauces you’ve always meant to use but never got round to.

I’ve also used the app to pass on children’s toys and recipe books and have enjoyed the sense of community and waste reduction the app encourages.

We still have a few electrical and wooden items that will eventually need to go to the recycling centre, but for the time being, I’m happy with the workarounds I’ve found.

If you’ve had a lockdown clear out, do you have any tips and tricks to share for getting rid of, donating or passing on unwanted items?


I’m in the middle of doing this, but, sadly, most of my cast offs are not suitable for anything but a permanent recycle. The garage is filling up with these awaiting an opportunity to get to the tip. No one, these days, will want scart leads or excess plug in mains leads, or even a steamer than doesn’t steam any more and an iron that now blows fuses. Old shower heads and ancient washing machine hoses were all put away in case they were useful as were bits of electrical flex, obsolete connecters and two sets of controls for electric blankets that have long since disappeared. It is a salutary lesson for a compulsive hoarder. Our school has a rags to riches scheme so old clothes can be sent there.

We seem to have been having a continuous clear-out with an ever growing pile of unwanted household items that are too good to throw away. Charity shops are not very receptive at the moment so they will have to stay in the garage for a few more months yet. We have offered them around to friends and relatives in case their offspring would like them but everybody seems to have everything when they set up home these days and unless it matches their kitchen appliances colour scheme or is copper-plated they’re not interested.

We were on the point of getting the British Heart Foundation to collect some furniture when they had to stop taking any more. It is blocking up the conservatory and preventing us from refurbishing it with more suitable furniture. I shall do another check.

I haven’t dare tackle the tools, electrical items and other hardware yet. I am thinking we might do a car boot sale when they are back in operation and raise some money for a good cause. This might be a good outlet for old but hardly-worn clothes. Anything unsold could then go on to a charity shop.

I used to drop books off at the doctors’ waiting room but that’s been out-of-bounds as well.

I spent the first few weeks of the lockdown sorting out what I have stored in my garage, much of it having remained in boxes since I moved house in 2016. I tend to keep everything that is likely to be useful and a bit more. At least everything is better organised and I have a couple of crates of waste waiting to go for recycling. I still have to tackle a spare room that is full of magazines, society minutes and things like my BBC Micro (1982) and first Macintosh computer (1992) that will never be used again but meant a lot at the time. Periodically I offer electrical items to friends and one now uses a mini-stereo that lived in a kitchen cupboard in my previous home. I could equip the street with mains extension leads and occasionally find takers. Years ago a charity shop said that it had a shortage of computer leads and I had a clearout at the time. Perhaps I should find out if they need extension leads.

During the pandemic I was not keen to handle financial and other paperwork in case it was contaminated with virus, so after checking for anything that did need urgent attention I started to dump it all in a box. That now needs urgent attention.

When I could not place any online orders I took stock of what food I had and that remains under control.

My clothes would not be of interest to charities.

That is a very strange image of a clear-out box.

You cannot pass on tins with no labels. Surely with no dates or contents info or they should be opened and the contents disposed of.🤔

I understand the image cannot be seen to be advertising, but what looks like some sort of cleaning fluid bottle, oil, the cans, home-made jam or chutney all without labels, so none of them can be passed on to anyone else. 😫

I wouldn’t think anyone would be too impressed if given a used toothbrush and toothpaste. 😬 I never throw away old toothbrushes as they always come in useful for something.

And as for the poor unwanted teddy . . .

It was to reflect general waste etc for the tip as well, but I’ll be completely honest – I thought the teddy bear was cute and eye-catching 🐻

If we have items that nobody seems to want and the only place left is our local tip/recycling centre, we offer them to the site shop. They usually take them and if they can’t be sold are at the right place to be disposed of.

Me too. At the local recycling centre the staff collect anything that looks as if it might be worth passing on to their shop for possible resale. Unfortunately not everyone thinks to ask and goods are often thrown into skips and containers. Giving to charity shops might be a better solution.

Yes, at least with charity shops you can choose the destination of the proceeds of sale.

Near us there are three charity shops in a small local shopping parade and, while they don’t specialise [they all take clothes, books and toys], some are better outlets for certain things than others – one will take electrical items and test them, another has a dealer who buys all old mobile phones, cameras, computer peripherals, and cables and connectors, the third one packs their window with vases, jugs, pictures and other ornaments. Whether they swap and share among themselves I don’t know but it would make sense.

I won’t say that I’m obsessive about recycling but does anyone else detach the ‘chips’ from used printer cartridges and recycle them as electronic waste? Who said get a life?

Before ring-pulls remained attached to drinks cans after opening, many collected the pulls, often for charities to make (a little) money. Often the rest of the aluminium can was thrown away…. What a curious world we live in.

No, I don’t do that but I do pull out the polythene slips inside tissue handkerchief boxes before putting them in the recycling bin.

That can be a challenge. 🙁

Manufacturers often have grand words about their environmental performance yet churn out packaging made of mixed materials that cannot easily be separated.

Shipping containers full of our plastic waste to Turkey where, apparently, some is burned in the open, does not seem a good way to help the environment. Unless waste is sent to proper reprocessors surely we should deal with it ourselves?

Part of the problem is ‘contaminated waste’, which has not been properly separated for recycling and either goes into landfill or is incinerated. Look at what happens at recycling sites. That’s no excuse for sending our waste overseas, of course.

I am thinking of sending all the plastic waste we have to dispose of back to the retailers. In most cases this will be Sainsbury’s.

Marks & Spencer are quite happy to have all their waste packaging returned to a store although I am not sure where to put it.

When I finally managed to get a supermarket slot during the coronavirus chaos I ordered a six pack of cans of soup and six of UHT milk in case it was going to be difficult to obtain fresh food. The cartons of milk are in a cardboard box, which is easily recyclable but the cans are wrapped in plastic. My council will not accept this is their blue bin. Why not use cardboard rather than plastic?

Some while ago we had Convos on plastic waste, how to substantially reduce it and where it could be eliminated. The last was over a year ago. Nothing since. I’d like to see these important topics kept going and progress, or not, reported on. Product safety is another example. It is done with cash.

I agree and suspect that the reason is that Which? receives far more input from people who are concerned about cash than about plastic waste and product safety. Simply looking at the number of posts (other than from those from a few regulars here) provides some evidence of this. Which? could support the actions of organisations such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WRAP and smaller organisations involved in fighting for action on plastic waste. Perhaps Which? could highlight those manufacturers and retailers that are making real progress in tackling waste rather than just making grand claims.

It’s more difficult with product safety and I do hope that having identified various problems, Which? will push for action soon, for example over online marketplaces hosting companies selling dangerous goods.

Do all supermarkets waste the packaging of products that are delivered to them?

I’m thinking of products that I stock up on when they are on special offer.

Wine is already packaged in a nice cardboard box containing 6 bottles. If I order 6 bottles, why does Ocado transfer 4 of them to their cardboard wine crates and leave 2 loose in carrier bags?

I order 6 hand soaps that come in a cardboard tray with plastic wrapping, really easy to transport and store for when they are required. What does Ocado do? Chuck them into a carrier bag where the dispensers often break or they leak all over other food products.

Milk cartons come in packs of 6 nicely protected in a cardboard box that makes storage easy. What does Ocado do? Take them all out, chuck them in carrier bags where they arrive dented and squash other products, and occasionally leak.

I have written to Ocado several times to suggest they sell products in their pack sizes. Maybe one day they will listen. 🤔

I agree it would be good if Which supported other organisations in their fight against plastics.

It’s frustrating to try to help and just be ignored. 🙁

If we acknowledge that Which? can’t take on everything, supporting the efforts of other organisations and doing some publicity could help without much demand on resources. I doubt that Which? would support the actions of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace in general, but over their efforts to tackle plastic pollution they deserve all the support they can get.

Meanwhile I have the opposite problem – we are still living around boxes as we still have hardly any furniture! Going to start to look about the charity shops and auctions this week!

Auctions are a great source of furniture; decent secondand stuff does not normally fetch a lot of money.

It is really mixed here with auctions. The really nice stuff usually goes for eye watering amounts. The is a lot of 1980’s Victorian style dark wood around ATM as well which is not our cup of tea. Looking for pine or mid century.

We had shelves built in last week so starting to get things unpacked a bit more now! 🙂

On dry days I have put a box out by my back gate filled with things I no longer need plus a sign saying: ‘If you can give any of this a home, please help yourself.’ They did! Win win

I’m sure that this will help get rid of unwanted goods but I wonder if the recipient will actually use them or whether they just take them because they are free. On the other hand, waiting to find someone who might have a use for unwanted goods can take a long time.