Can you save my old sofa from the landfill?
January 12, 2021 8:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting rid of an old sofa and I'd like to not just throw it away and have it end up in landfill. It's about 20 years old and is pretty dirty after 10 years of living with a dog. It's structurally sound and is very comfortable, and if someone wanted to throw blankets or throws over it, it would be fine. But it's not nice enough that most Good Will-type places will take it. I live in Brooklyn and I've listed it with Free Cycle. Are there any other options?
posted by swheatie to Home & Garden (21 answers total)
I would list it for 20-50$ on something like craigslist with your description here and odds are pretty good a student will want it. You can list it as negotiable or waive it when they arrive if you want but people tend to be suspicious of free couches (speaking as a former cheap couch-buying student).
posted by randomnity at 8:21 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]

Local dog shelter?
posted by essexjan at 8:28 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]

I just went through this in LA and in my experience, during Covid times at least, the answer is no. College students are stuck at home, nobody wants to come into your house to get it, lots of people don't have access to a truck and also don't want to deal with organizing one somehow. We tried leaving it on the curb with a "free" sign (which usually works!) but while other items got picked up, the sofa was left behind. It did indeed go to a landfill, alas.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:35 AM on January 12 [6 favorites]

In my city (which is, notably, in a different country), the local women's aid charity takes furniture donations to help people who've left abusive situations and need furniture. I believe they even do pickup. It might be worth looking to see if there are any similar organisations near where you live.
posted by terretu at 8:38 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

Your best option is to list it for $5 on every marketplace type site. Include a picture, make a big deal about it being a five! dollar! couch!

It still may not move, what with covid and bedbug fears, and all that. But a FIVE DOLLAH!!! couch moves faster than a free couch. Free? There's cumstains on it no question. Five dollars? Wow, what a deal on a couch!!
posted by phunniemee at 8:38 AM on January 12 [9 favorites]

I'd second checking with individual charities that might have need for the couch themselves rather than selling it and, if they're not interested, offering it online for very cheap instead of free. Just to note, though, having not long ago been in the position where a $20 couch would have been a godsend, I probably still wouldn't have bought it because that amount of savings wasn't worth potentially getting bedbugs. If you can truthfully guarantee that your place is bedbug-free, put that in the ad - and just generally be straight about what's wrong with it and what's still good about it.
posted by northernish at 8:45 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]

On the free section on Craigslist, people listing old couches sometimes offer to pay $20 to whoever is willing to pick it up. Photograph it with throw blankets (and maybe offer to include them in the deal).
posted by pinochiette at 8:48 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

There are "Buy nothing" facebook groups and a "free" section on Nextdoor you can also try.
posted by Mchelly at 9:20 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]

To everyone not from NYC suggesting listing it for free/cheap - no one in NYC is going to rent a truck for a sofa, we literally had to PAY A SERVICE to remove our to-be-heaped couch from a prior apartment.

In case you fail - Id be weary of just leaving it on the curb also as there could be sanitation issued fines for you or your landlord. It looks like you could pre-arrange for large item pickup at this link.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:45 AM on January 12 [5 favorites]

Our local dump has a "free to take" section for useable items. Maybe yours does too?
posted by RedEmma at 9:48 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

I once sold a cat scratched up couch. Thought no one would want it, got 10 messages in an hour. I had photos of the damage and a very nice photo of it sitting in my very clean well lit living room (real estate photo).

Good photos are key. Especially in a very clean and well lit setting, it assures people it won't have bedbugs (even though clean places can have bedbugs, of course). Talk up how comfortable it is and why you're getting rid of it.

I did clean it first though, if you can get your hands on a hand held steam vac and give it a once over that'll really help.
posted by Dynex at 10:14 AM on January 12

20 years old? Was it a good quality couch with a hardwood frame and nice lines? If it has good bones, you might see if there are any upholstery schools/courses that could use it for their students.
posted by stillnocturnal at 10:16 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]

It just takes time. It won't sell instantly. Post it to the free (for free) and furniture (for money) sections of Craigslist and keep them up. Repost occasionally. Use really good pictures.

"Comfortable, structurally-sound couch from a very dog-friendly household.

No bedbugs. I will remove this post when the couch is gone.

Email to arrange pickup. Thanks!"
posted by aniola at 10:19 AM on January 12

We posted a couch on Facebook Marketplace for free and it was taken very fast. It was in terrible shape!
posted by JuliaKM at 10:34 AM on January 12

I truly try to re-use things and avoid landfilling perfectly good things out there.

The first and most likely best home is your own. Can you repair it or add a cover to it that would allow for you to keep it and be happy about it?

Second, if nobody out there wants it, could you repair it slightly to provide it with value out in the world again? Maybe buy a fitted cover and someone would take it.

Third, you could consider "parting it out". I'm not sure how handy you are, but if you tear down your couch there's plenty of wood 1x1s and 2x2s you could use for a future construction project or as shims. The springs and foam can be used in projects as well. Cushions can be made smaller and used on hardwood chairs, etc. And, if you do end up sending it to the dump, magnets will possibly pick out metal pieces to be recycled and reused.

Warning though - give yourself a deadline. I tried to re-use an old box spring and ended up using the wood for firewood, but the spring ended up in the trash3 months later after floating around the garage. Make a plan first, and if your plan takes so long it will make you sad, then just garbage it.
posted by bbqturtle at 10:36 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

Not sure what part of Brookline but look to post on non-english speaking communities bulletin boards that are in reasonably close proximity. I'd think a google translation would be good enough.
posted by sammyo at 11:45 AM on January 12

Hopefully it doesn't come to that, but seconding bbqturtle that it is surprisingly easy to dismantle an old couch or boxspring.

The coils can be recycled, the wood can be reused, the old upholstery can be used as garden mulch or whatnot if it is not clean enough to be laundered once removed.

It helps to have tin snips, but you can do almost all the demolition with a claw hammer and a boxknife.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 3:33 PM on January 12

Style it up a bit. Put some nice cushions and a throw on it to make it look cozy, maybe with a nice side table with photos and flowers next to it. Make sure you don’t cover all the stains, you want honest pictures still, otherwise people will just turn up, see the reality and get annoyed that you wasted their time.) But put your best foot forward and show that the sofa can look nice regardless. Don’t sell it for $5, that indicates it has no value. Sell it for $50 because that says it’s good enough to be worth taking home but still a bargain. Then put your ad up that says it may have stains but has plenty of life left in it. No bedbugs. Be quick because it will get snapped up! You need some kind of call to action to motivate them and nothing motivates people more than the idea of missing out on a bargain. (Source; 20 years in advertising). Let us know how you go!
posted by Jubey at 4:40 PM on January 12

Damn this is tempting. I recently decided against buying a new couch because so many are expensive but cheaply made and probably not comfortable. I decided that I will eventually make a couch. I 2nd finding an upholstery school or diy site. Someone might be willing to take it just for the frame and coils and could swap out the foam and upholstery.
posted by mokeydraws at 5:27 PM on January 12

As a photographer I cannot argue with the "take good photos" or "put a bowl of fruit on it" advice.

Vast majority of photos on internet listings are absolutely terrible and/or have no other information provided. You can definitely get rid of stuff fast by simply being slightly better than everyone else's couch listing.

FWIW in my area I have had the most success with OfferUp instead of Craigslist.
posted by bradbane at 10:57 AM on January 13

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