Downsizing 102 | Where to Dispose of Your Hard-to-Dispose-of Items

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
woman wearing tie dye shorts outfit sitting in the back of a car figuring out how to dispose of old paint

If you’re an empty nester, you’re probably either downsizing or organizing, you’re about to start the process, or you’ve just finished doing it! It’s pretty much a fact of life for us empty nesters! Right? But what did you do with all of your hard-to-dispose of items?

When we became empty nesters several years ago, Bob and I decided to stay in the home we built in 2004 and do some remodeling! If you followed my journey during the pandemic, you know that we spent about a year repainting, remodeling our master bath, upgrading lighting and furnishings, and even making over our pool! It was a crazy year that I don’t really want to repeat! 🤪😂

Once we finished, we promised ourselves we would get serious about cleaning out our attic and all of the closets. It was time to free ourselves of some of the sentimental items we’d been hanging onto and clear out some of the hazardous household items that were difficult to dispose of properly. So today, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about getting rid of some of those difficult-to-dispose-of-items.

In September, I shared a post called Downsizing 101: Where to Donate Your Hard-to-Donate Stuff. I told you where to donate things like old hearing aids and eyeglasses, appliances, books, and more. Then, my focus was on donation—blessing others with your old things. Today, I’m focusing on getting rid of those items you can’t donate. Think old paint, yard chemicals, old laptops, and more.

Where to Dispose of Hazardous Household Waste

Hazardous household waste includes things like fuel, used motor oil, pesticides, and compact fluorescent lightbulbs (they contain mercury).

The website has a massive database of sites that accept household hazardous waste, but your community may also have a pickup program for those items.

Old Paint

Cans with latex paint can go out with your regular garbage. But oil-based paints are considered hazardous waste, so you’ll need to handle them differently. Check or for information on where to drop them safely.


To dispose of batteries, check or contact a Batteries Plus store near you. Also, check out the recycling programs at Lowes and Home Depot to learn more about their battery recycling programs.


Most locations of CVS and Walgreens provide bins for the disposal of unused and expired medications. You can also check with to find a nearby independent pharmacy that offers the service.

Household Appliances

In my Downsizing 101: Where to Donate Your Hard-to-Donate Stuff post, I told you where you could donate small household appliances. If you have a large household appliance that you cannot donate, check with the Responsible Appliance Disposal Program (operated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)) for a list of utilities and groups that will pick up and recycle it at no charge.

Old Tax Returns & Receipts

Okay, so they’re not exactly hazardous household waste, but most people do keep them around way longer than necessary! Keeping them for three years after you’ve filed is usually enough. But if you’ve failed to fil,e, you should probably keep them around forever. For more information, use the search engine at

Other Important Papers

Do you have a hard time letting go of old receipts, credit card statements, and other seemingly important papers? That’s okay! There’s a lot of confusion about how long you need to store these things. But according to experts, when it comes to paper, here’s what you need to hang on to:

  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Three years of tax records (see above)
  • Wills
  • Medical Powers of Attorney
  • Medical Licenses
  • Social Security Cards
  • Medical Records
  • A few other documents that seem equally as important. (If you’re not sure, keep it!)

Other than that, shred the rest. (We use THIS tabletop crosscut shredder that also works on credit cards!) Many UPS and FedEx stores outsource shredding for a fee, so if you have a lot of documents to shred, that might be an option.

Laptops & Other Digital Devices

Some cities and schools collect e-waste, often around Earth Day. You can also check or the EPA’s Electronics Donation and Recycling page to learn where to recycle or donate your computer.

A significant concern in disposing of digital devices is the financial documents, photos, and other private information they contain. Before disposing of digital devices, you need to back up the contents and erase the hard drives. Here’s where to find instructions:

  • For Apple iPhones or iPads, click HERE.
  • For Samsung Galaxy phones, click HERE.
  • For Mac computers, click HERE. To restore it to factory settings, click
  • For Apple Watch, click HERE.
  • For Microsoft computers, click HERE.

Alternatively, you can remove and destroy the computer’s hard drive. Check for tutorials.

If you’re donating or gifting an old phone or digital device, you need to back up the contents and restore it to factory settings.

  • For Apple iPhones or iPads, click HERE.
  • For Samsung Galaxy phones, click HERE.
  • For Mac computers, click HERE.
  • For Apple Watch, click HERE.
  • For Microsoft computers, click HERE.

Outsourcing Disposal

If you can’t figure out where to dispose of an item or you want to outsource the tasks, you can always pay a company to handle it for you. The Junkluggers, for instance, are an eco-friendly firm that operates in 29 states (and DC). They remove unwanted items, donate or recycle anything that’s not trash, and dispose of the rest in accordance with your local laws.

woman wearing tie dye shorts outfit sitting in the back of a car figuring out how to dispose of old laptop

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Have you had to figure out where to dispose of hard-to-dispose of items like we have? Do you have ideas or solutions I didn’t cover here? If so, I’d love it if you’d share them with our community in the comments!

Suzy Mighell

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  1. With the passing of my mother this past year we brought the medications that she had taken to the local fire station/ police station.

    1. Maureen,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. Thank you for responsibly disposing of her medications. I’ve never heard of disposing of them with the emergency medical personnel. What a good idea!

      Thank you for sharing!


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