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How to Get Rid of Anything


The light at the end of the COVID tunnel is finally revealing itself, and I’m staging a rebirth in the desert to celebrate. It will be mystical. It will be magical. There will be light-bending crystals, a pulsating drum circle, clouds of palo santo incense, and a rainbow-licked fire that touches the stars. At sunset, I’ll run naked into the sandscape until I collapse, world-weary, under a grove of Joshua trees. And early the next morning, I’ll rise like the mother of all phoenixes, my pandemic-free future glittering before me with all the promise of a peyote trip.

Don’t. I. Wish.

In truth, I’m a 38-year-old with a husband, two kids, three pets, and more burden and responsibility than I’d care to acknowledge. And so I will settle, as I always do, for the basic mom equivalent: I will purge my home. Phase one, a room-by-room ousting and organizing, will get the house in order. The part I’ve been dreading is phase two, a mass expulsion of all the things I have no idea how to get rid of. But now that #COVIDlife is drawing to a close, it’s time. And I invite you to join me. The following list is a big one, but making our way through it will no doubt release thick gray clouds of anxiety from our subconsciousness like steam from a pressure cooker.

Are you ready? Let’s go.

APPLIANCES 

I forgot to warn you that this list would not be sexy. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, let’s talk refrigerators! When a working appliance has overstayed its welcome, consider making a tax-deductible donation to one of the 10 Habitat for Humanity ReStore locations in the metro area — you can even schedule a free pickup. The staff will spiff up that old stove or washing machine before selling it, for a fraction of its original price, to someone who needs it. Every cent goes back into Habitat for Humanity Chicago. For the real clunkers — think rust-bucket water heaters, old furnaces, or any appliance that no longer works — Crusher Inc. in West Chicago will give you cash for the scrap. Just don’t expect much. Based on the quote we got (roughly five cents a pound), a 40-gallon water heater would fetch you … a whopping $6. 

BABY STUFF

All post-potty-training parents have that extra half box of diapers staring them down from the closet. Send it to Share Our Spare, which also accepts breast pumps, Pack ’n Plays, baby clothes, small toys, and even wipes and diaper cream (unopened for those last two, please) and puts them in the hands of grateful Chicago-area mamas. In 2020 alone, it distributed 1.2 million diapers — which food stamps don’t cover — to tushes that needed them. You can use the residential pickup service or drop off the goods at its warehouse in Goose Island (935 W. Chestnut St.). 

BIKES

Thanks to neighborly hand-me-downs, garage sale impulse buys, and random alley finds, my family of four has somehow accumulated 12 bicycles. Before you judge, know that eight of them are cruising over to Working Bikes, a local nonprofit that has distributed more than 100,000 refurbished two-wheelers in the Chicago area, Africa, and Latin America since 1999. It has drop-off spots around town (workingbikes.org for locations), including its shop in Little Village (2434 S. Western Ave.), and if you have more than five to offload [raises hand], it may be able to pick them up gratis.

CARS

Wheels on their way out typically fall into one of three categories: used cars with resale value, used classic cars with lots of resale value, and straight-up clunkers. I don’t have to walk you through the first, but if you’re ready to part with something special, talk to the pros at Chicago Car Club. The family-owned dealership specializes in facilitating deals for the whips you don’t see every day — the ’69 Camaros and ’57 Chevys of the world, say — and will either consign your car or buy it outright. For the junkers, head to Crusher Inc., which will give the current scrap value (think $200-ish for a car the size of a Honda Civic). One caveat: You’ll need to present the title; it’s required by law.

CELLPHONES AND TABLETS

Love animals? Still have your first Razr rattling around in a drawer? You’re in luck: Brookfield Zoo has partnered with Eco-Cell to kill two birds with one phone. Allow me to explain. Mobile devices contain coltan, a mineral found in Congolese Africa, and mining for it endangers both gorillas and their rainforest habitat. Helping prevent further mining, however, is as easy as tossing your old electronic gadget into a recycling bin at either of the zoo’s two entrances. From there, Eco-Cell will break it down and extract the coltan for use in a brand-new device. 

sporting goods equipment

SPORTING GOODS

If your garage is filled with more lacrosse sticks, softball cleats, and soccerballs than a Dick’s clearance aisle, it may be time for the Sports Shed. The local nonprofit partners with more than 230 organizations — including Chicago Public Schools — to ensure active kids have the equipment they need. Dropping off is easy; just tote your equipment (no clothing) to one of the five area Play It Again Sports stores they’ve partnered with (thesportsshed.org for locations).

FIREARMS 

It doesn’t matter where you got it, why you have it, or even if you’re a resident of the city; if you have a piece (or 10) you’d like to get rid of, the Chicago Police Department will take it off your hands — no questions asked. Just bring what you have (unloaded, of course) to one of the city’s periodic firearm turn-in events, where bequeathing a BB gun will get you a $10 gift card and handing over the real thing puts $100 in your pocket. For information on upcoming events, call the CAPS Implementation Office at 312-745-5900. 

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