People at home because of the coronavirus outbreak are finding their inner Marie Kondos cleaning closets, garages and drawers. But they are then finding a problem: There are not many places to take discarded items.
They are joined by people who are under a deadline for downsizing like Doug Dybsetter of Cottage Grove, who is moving to a smaller house. He felt lucky to find a Salvation Army outlet in the Minneapolis North Loop that was taking donations this week.
As the state and country shut down to slow the spread of coronavirus, the secondhand charities and consignment stores where he was bringing his items had closed.
“I’ve been making trips to Bridging and other charities for a month,” he said. “I was here yesterday, too. I’m so thankful they’re still open. None of the other charities are.”
Others have not found an open donation bin and are turning to companies that do it for a price.
“They’re bored at home because of the stay-at-home situation, so they turn to spring cleaning,” said Mike Reimann, co-owner of the Minneapolis-based junk hauler Junk Genius. “Then they realize that none of the charities are open to take their stuff, so they call us.”
Outlets from Savers and Bridging to Goodwill, Habitat ReStore, Tech Dump and Half Price Books are closed. County recycling centers are as well. Curbside pickups by charities such as Disabled American Vets or the Epilepsy Foundation have been canceled.
The Salvation Army has been putting all recently donated goods in quarantine and is running out of room, so the nonprofit is asking people to hold off bringing items if they can.
“We’re asking people to please hold on to their donations until we can safely accept them at a later time,” said Tom Canfield, business administrator for the Twin Cities Salvation Army thrift stores. “Please respect the signs not to leave items by drop boxes or loading ramps. Other people sort through them, create a mess, and then items get ruined when it rains.”
When the used-goods stores and charities do reopen, they expect to be hit by a tidal wave of items.
Daniel Turzinski of Random Acts of Kindness thrift shops in Minnetonka, Chaska and Watertown gets several calls a day asking him to take goods. But his trailers and warehouses are full, and he’s trying to keep people from dropping off items in front of his closed stores.
“I’m just hoping to take care of a few previous customers,” Turzinski said. When business resumes, he added, “the floodgates will open.”
For the moment, some people can store items in a garage or basement until the used-goods handlers and resellers reopen. But others are under pressing circumstances.
“One family had to pick up their mom’s dresser, bed, TV and kitchen table on the sidewalk in front of [a] care center because she was too ill and they needed the room for someone else,” Turzinski said.
Services that help older people move also are constrained by the closing of the used-goods industry. And the active operations face the tension of trying to serve customers while keeping their employees safe against the virus.
Empty the Nest in Golden Valley closed its retail store March 21. The business, which helps people transition from their homes to senior-living options, had one more clean-out planned this week, one that was scheduled three weeks ago.
“The store is jammed, and the warehouse is full,” co-owner Hope Fischman said. “Our stream of where we donate things that don’t sell in our store has dried up. It’s a quandary for any person or business trying to get rid of things. You want to keep the employees and customers safe.”
Judy Graham of Eden Prairie thought she was fortunate to sell her house in early February to the first person who saw it.
But now she has less than a month to downsize from a 4,400-square-foot home to a townhouse half that size. Widowed, she has one family member who works in health care and a daughter who is staying home for now and hopes to help in two weeks.
Graham said she may ultimately have to call a junk hauler, but she’s trying to avoid the landfill as much as she can by listing free items on Facebook Marketplace.
“I’ve given away an outdoor trampoline, a basketball hoop for toddlers, an umbrella stroller and a power washer,” she said.
“You post something to give away and suddenly you have 50 messages. And then you have to schedule a time to put it on the driveway for them to pick up. It’s a pain.”