Help us donate our mother's things, Chicago area
September 19, 2022 5:20 PM   Subscribe

Our mother passed away this morning, and had asked us to donate her things wherever possible. We are in the far northern suburbs of Chicago, and looking for organizations to contact.

Our mother made her living by creating and selling her original artwork, and while age and health had forced her to retire from her art, she had hoped that any and all of her equipment and materials be donated to organizations involved in art education for underprivileged youth, outreach programs, or organizations using art for therapy.

She was a survivor of domestic abuse, and if possible, wanted as much of her clothing and anything else that might be helpful to be donated to shelters for victims of similar abuse.

I no longer live in the area, and am unfamiliar with the procedures and regulations involved, and know nothing of what organizations are in this area. I am staying with my sister, who has limited mobility, which makes dropping off donations difficult for us, and anything that might involve pickups would be more likely for us to handle.

As a side note, we are also trying to close out our mother's storage. With the help of some dear friends, we managed to clear her storage unit of anything we wanted to keep, and dispose of items the items we could. Unfortunately, there are still several large items that cannot fit in the dumpster space available to my sister. If we cannot clear the space before this coming Thursday, we will be facing a $300 charge for the following month. If anyone knows of any refuse removal services that are reliable, affordable, and can come quickly, we would also deeply appreciate it.

We have been so focused on caring for her and being with her these past few weeks that we weren't really ready for, or aware of just how much there is for us to do now that she's not here anymore. Any information anyone can give us will be deeply appreciated.
posted by Ghidorah to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just emptied a house full of stuff, and your easiest route to getting the significant items into hands that will appreciate them is whatever Buy Nothing group (on Facebook) that serves your mother's area.

I can't speak to the exact rules of that group, but in my group the way it worked was to make a post identified as a GIFT, identify that it's a porch pickup near X&Y intersection, describe the items (and I would suggest giving away in lots, like "one 18-gallon storage tub of art supplies including paint, brushes, etc etc"), and indicate what timeframe you'll choose one of the commenters to message privately and arrange pickup.

The general Buy Nothing ethos is supposed to be that this isn't about who needs it the most or some kind of oppression competition. To that end I generally used a random number generator to pick a comment to "win", but if you want to be influenced by the comments you can. If you want to include your mother's specific wishes about where these items go, probably your group's rules allow it but don't allow you to insist people only comment if they will route the items to some specific organization. But you are likely to catch the attention of teachers, volunteers, etc who have a use for a lot of art supplies, and if nothing else they will likely get used by somebody rather than thrown out.

But it's not zero work. My husband was surprised when I reached a point where I said "I can't manage this anymore, whatever good is left is just gonna have to go away on the truck" but you have to post, maybe answer questions, pick someone, arrange the pickup, hope they show up, etc etc. Several times I just dumped a bunch of good shit in the yard, took some photos, gave my address, and wished everyone luck (in our parlance, this is a curb alert or yard alert, which meant no picking winners but just first come first served), but we exhausted ourselves hauling the stuff out instead of packing/organizing to move.

For everything else you need to get rid of, go on Yelp and look for Junk Haulers. Pick one to request a quote, and the Yelp algo will ask you if you want to start a project and send out multiple quotes. Say yes, and describe vaguely how much stuff, but be prepared to provide photos of the storage unit and any rooms of the house you want emptied so they can give you an estimate. You will get back quotes starting basically right away. Most junk haulers charge based on how much of their truck is filled up by your stuff, and the labor of hauling it to the truck is included in that cost. I can tell you that in Los Angeles I got a lot of quotes around the $900/truck range for franchises but found several at the $600 price point for local businesses.

I did try to get an estate sale service to come, but found (in LA at least) they would not unless the contents of the home were going to hit around $15K in total resale (because they split the profits with you). They want antiques, vintage clothes, decor and high-end furniture and appliances. It might be different there.

In between estate sales and junk haulers, I did search "clearout services". You will pay them, but they will identify resellable items and manage that for a split, and they will have resources for donations.

This is unfortunately just very hard to do now, getting rid of stuff. Used things are not as donatable as they used to be, even shelters have good reason to provide their clients with new housewares and furniture (not just for dignity, but for bedbugs/monkeypox/whatever's next). Charity shops largely dump boatloads of clothing in Africa and call it recycling.

I'm so sorry for your loss. The dispensing of the physical things is emotionally and physically really difficult, especially when you are in the cognitive fog of fresh bereavement. If you have a family friend who is a good project manager and willing to take this on, please outsource it.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:06 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]

I’m very sorry for your loss.
I can’t speak to the donation of her art materials, but… at least for her storage unit,
1-800-GOTJUNK will pick up anything from anywhere and you can often even get same day appointments. They charge by how much room the stuff takes up in the truck. I used them several times in the Chicago suburbs this past year while cleaning out my parents’ house and was very pleased. You can make an appointment online very quickly and easily. They come, look at the stuff, and give you a quote. If you think it’s too high, there’s no obligation. Personally, I found their prices reasonable and it’s a very low-effort way to clean out the space if you have some money to throw at the problem.
Good luck, and I’m sorry.
posted by bookmammal at 6:27 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]

I would try reaching out to Innovation80 about the art supplies. They work with a lot of programs and so are likely to have a lead on who could use various items.
posted by Bottlecap at 11:35 PM on September 19

You might also reach out to SkyART
posted by Bottlecap at 11:37 PM on September 19

So sorry for your loss!

When clearing out our condo basement, we were quite successful in getting rid of things we weren't sure anyone would want (old TVs and fax machines) by putting them in the alley with a "free" sign on them, and posting a picture and their location in the free section of Craigslist; almost every item was taken. Next Door might also work for those purposes. Wherever you list them, you will still have to deal with what is not taken. (We just threw the rest in the dumpster, but there wasn't much left over.)

Most of the arts organizations I can think of in the area with the missions you describe want monetary, not material, donations. Evanston Wasteshed is a great organization that does accept donations of art materials, though you would need to drop the materials off. Their primary mission is to decrease waste, though, so I don't know if that's too far off from her intentions for the materials; they do have a free section for educators, so might be close enough for your purposes.

There's a Facebook group called Refugee Community Connection that is primarily based in Rogers Park and is always seeking clothes, furniture, etc. At that link, they post a list of general needs, and they may have a volunteer willing to pick up some of the items you have to donate.

Groups on the far North Side that serve domestic violence victims include Sarah's Circle and Apna Ghar, but I'm not sure they accept clothing donations. Evanston's Connections for the Homeless (which also helps domestic violence victims) does accept some clothing donations, but not professional clothes, and you would likely have to drop the clothes off.
posted by carrienation at 10:01 AM on September 20

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