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Recycling, donating or disposing of your ‘stuff’ can help with moving stress

Moving into a new home, closing a loved one's home or making room for family members at your place can create an overwhelming amount of "stuff" that's no longer wanted.

A new website and brochure from the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County offers an excellent place to start dealing with the mountain of extra belongings. The website is at www.hazwastehelp.org/home/HHW/downsizing.aspx.

"We see a lot of relatives who are trying to help someone relocate in a time crunch, researching options for dealing with all of their household items," said Julie Mitchell, manager of the Wastemobile household hazardous waste collection service in King County. "Our information offers people easy options for disposing or recycling what the family does not want."

"We talk with some caregivers who find it a struggle to downsize from a large home into a smaller apartment or long-term care setting," said Tanya McGee with Senior Services, a non-profit organization based in Seattle. "A large number of our calls are related to hoarding. And instead of downsizing, many seniors put their items into storage sheds, which can be expensive and puts off the problem."

For help planning a move or tackling a family member's hoarding, call the Senior Information and Assistance Line at 206-448-3110.

Much of a home's belongings can be recycled or donated and support a reuse economy and local charities that help provide services to seniors and disabled communities.

However, many caregivers and families have not dealt with the hazardous materials that stack up under sinks, in garages or sheds.

"When people are cleaning out their homes or their parent's home, they often find items that have been around for years, things like old hobby chemistry sets that can have some pretty nasty chemicals," Mitchell said. "It is also common to see a lot of old oil-based paints, plus pesticides, solvents and other items that the owners never got rid of, or didn't know how to properly dispose of them."

Old chemicals can be dangerous to handle. These include banned pesticides such as DDT; or picric acid and ethyl ether, which are chemicals that should not be moved because they can be too unstable.

If you are uncertain about chemicals you come across, or for copies of the brochure, please call the Household Hazards Line 206-296-4692 or 1-888-TOXIC ED before moving them.

The Local Hazardous Waste Management Program is a partnership of local governments including Seattle, King County, the suburban and other cities in King County, working together to manage hazardous wastes and protect health and the environment. For more information visit www.hazwastehelp.org.