Trash: It’s a one-ton problem that homeowners never expect. That’s not an exaggeration - we find that clients with average-sized houses easily have one actual ton of trash. From broken electronics to ancient carpeting, there are a surprising number of trash items to remove from a house during downsizing or estate settlement. Follow these tips to dispose of your ton of trash in a safe, legal and affordable way.

Trash Item Prep

Save time by rounding up supplies before you start the clean-out project. Here is the list of tools we have on hand for every project:

  • A rental dumpster and/or pickup truck
  • Trash bags – we recommend black, 3-millimeter thickness
  • Packing tape for securing boxes or containers
  • Face masks – look for “N95” on the label
  • Gloves, either nitrile or elastic
  • Safety glasses for potential sharps, chemicals and other hazards that can damage eyes
  • Black and silver Sharpies for writing on boxes and garbage bags

My pro tip to highlight on this list – don't buy cheap garbage bags! They rip easily, which makes a cleanout much more time consuming.

Are Your “Treasures” Actually Trash?

One reason many of our clients underestimate trash levels is because it is hard to accept that many semi-usable items can still be considered trash. Even if you paid a good amount of money for the items, their value significantly decreases over time. Here are the most common trash items we end up hauling away for our clients:

  • Soiled, stained or damaged rugs and furniture
  • Particle board furniture
  • Box springs, mattresses and used bed linens
  • Used clothing (excluding vintage and period designer label pieces)
  • Mismatched kitchenware
  • Stuffed toys
  • Outdated electronics
  • Appliances, electronics and power tools that are not in working condition
  • Anything that does not work
  • Toys, puzzles or any item with missing parts
  • Incomplete china sets (excluding Meissen, Herend, Royal Crown Derby and Mettlach)

Many of our clients ask about donating their trash items instead of throwing them away. We discourage donating these items because most donation centers won’t accept them. Or if they do accept your drop off, they simply throw away many items later.

Recycling Options

It takes extra time to sort items into separate recycling bins, and not every house has enough recycling (apart from a normal volume of kitchen trash) to make it worthwhile. We find that clients with large amounts of paper – old files and mail – frequently prefer to shred those rather than take them to a recycling center.

If you do have enough old electronics or plastics, for example, to take to a center, research your area. What centers accept varies from county to county, as do drop off hours.

Where to Put the Trash

We spend about 200 total hours to clean out the average house in its entirety, and half of that work is disposing of trash items. You can’t move a ton of trash items by putting bags in a city can or piling them in the trunk to take to the dump. We use two options for bulk trash item disposal.

1. Trucks or rental dumpsters

A friend with a pickup truck is your best friend right now. We often use a large dump truck so that we only have to empty it once a day. For a smaller truck, make sure you have a designated driver to haul it to the dump whenever it’s full.

Nobody wants a dumpster in the front yard, but it will save time since people won’t be driving back and forth to the dump. Check to see if your local garbage collection company rents dumpsters, as they will usually come pick it up from you for a price.

2. Dump facilities

There are two types of dump facilities: commercial and residential. Commercial facilities will take just about any kind of trash items, but at a price. While residential dumps are free, they are very specific about what items they can take. For example, many will only accept certain recyclables or electronics. Failure to follow the rules and regulations can make your cleanout more expensive if you're slapped with a fine, or must pay extra disposal fees.

Not all trash items go into the trash! Safely dispose of biohazards and other dangerous substances to prevent injuries.

Even Trash Costs Money

Don’t forget to calculate the costs of trash removal. In any cleanout we’ve done, it has cost at least $500 to remove trash items in any way, shape or form. Some of our jobs have reached into the thousands in trash removal costs. Of course, this number includes fuel costs (for driving back and forth to the dump), rental costs (for a truck or dumpster), the cost of cleaning supplies, dump fees and hazardous waste fees.

Nobody likes to think they have a house stuffed with a ton of trash items, but trust me, most of us do. It can be hard to accept that a comfortable, tidy house has years of stored trash, but that’s exactly what we find on project after project. Plan ahead for your successful downsize or estate cleanout.

Download our Cleanout Supplies List


At Legacy Navigator we work with families in transition. We can empty an entire house within days, sorting what items to keep, sell, donate, and discard. Our employees pack and move everything, then prepare the house for sale. Call us for a free consultation.

Our advice is based on our experience cleaning out and settling estates for our clients. Each project is different, and each state's laws are different. We always recommend that you consult personally with experts about your particular situation before making any important decisions.