By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — While winter may have been extended by a bit this year, Western New Yorkers are finally starting to see the sun peek out from behind the clouds as temperatures slowly make their way up above the frozen mark.
We're moments away from throwing open those windows — if not yet literally, then at least proverbially — and getting rid of all the dust and clutter that has accumulated over the frigid season.
When it comes to spring cleaning, Jamie Shaner, owner of Home Solutions of Western New York, said there are different aspects to consider.
"There's washing the windows and turning the couch cushions," she said. "Then there's the behind-the-scenes cleaning" that involves cleaning out all the excess filling your cupboards, drawers, closets, basement and garage.
Shaner's company provides help to customers who want to get their lives organized, whether financially or physically.
"Most of homes have basements and garages and for some reason we're just a culture that, because we have the space, we think we have to fill it," she said. "That's where we get into trouble."
Shaner offers a few rules of thumb to consider when deciding whether you should keep, donate or throw out that old sweater or pair of eyeglasses that have been sitting around for ages.
• Garage sales are beneficial only if you think you'll make enough money to make it worth your time. Consider how many hours you'll put into organizing, advertising, setting up and dismantling the sale. Is all of that worth the money you expect to earn?
• Be careful using Craigslist to sell or give away your items. Remember you are inviting strangers into your home or to have contact with you.
• Not all clothing follows the if-you-haven't-worn-it-in-a-year-throw-it-out rule.
"You wear dress-up clothes sometimes only once a year," Shaner said. "I think of that year as being more appropriate for your everyday clothes."
• Shred old paperwork that has sensitive information. Many office supply stores like OfficeMax offer this service. Keep tax records for seven years, and "there's really not a reason to keep more than a year's worth" of bank and credit card statements and pay stubs,"\ Shaner said.
Below are some ideas on where to donate certain goods you might not want to throw away:
Clothes and household items
Got an old prom dress or bridesmaids dress? Try donating the formal attire to organizations like Cyndee Billoni's Gowns 4 Prom program.
The program is run out of Colvin Cleaners, owned by Cyndee and her husband, Paul Billoni. Gowns 4 Prom provides gently used formal dresses to high school girls who would otherwise be unable to afford one for prom.
"Most girls only wear (their prom dresses) once," Cyndee said, explaining any donated dress should be in good condition. Once a girl selects her dress, it is altered by a handful of volunteers and professionally cleaned by Colvin Cleaners.
"Last year we gave away almost 1,000 dresses," Cyndee said. "This year we're anticipating more."
The deadline to donate for this prom season is Sunday, though Cyndee said the cleaners accepts donations throughout the year.
For less formal attire, Goodwill and any number of clothes closets in the area will take used clothing.
The Interchurch Clothes Closet at Twin Cities Community Outreach in North Tonawanda accepts clothing from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays.
In addition to clothing, the closet collects some household objects like pots, pans, dishes and toys, though nothing too big, said Barbara Elder, a volunteer and member of the board of directors.
"Sometimes there's an emergency ... there could be a fire and people don't have things or they're new to the area and setting up housekeeping," she said.
Electronics are accepted by the Salvation Army — along with clothing and other household goods — which has regular pickups 9 to 11 a.m. every third Saturday from May to October behind the Kenmore Municipal Building, said Melissa Foster of the Kenmore Village Improvement Society
"As long as (the electronics are) working, they'll take it," she said. "It's a really wonderful thing because they'll put it in the hands of people who can use it."
While you may think your old eyeglasses and hearing aids could only be useful to you, the Kenmore Lions Club would like you to think otherwise.
Lions Clubs nationwide collect these items and send them on medical mission trips to mostly developing countries like Nicaragua.
Tom Reinagel, member of the Kenmore Lions Club for 26 years said glasses are shipped to an intake center within the United States, cleaned up, tested for prescription strength and sent out to countries all over the world.
It's gratifying "to know that you're giving the gift of sight to someone who might otherwise never be able to see the tips of their fingers clearly," he said.
"I've talked to people on these medical missions and they talk about how people break down in tears because for the first time they're able to see their grandchildren's faces," he added.
Reinagel suggested anyone interested in donating eyeglasses or hearing aids should call 845-0344 to find out the closest dropoff location.
Both the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library and the Nioga Library systems accept used books in fairly good condition, representatives from both organizations said.
Peggy Waite, director of the North Tonawanda Library, said most of the books they receive are then re-sold by the Friends of the Library group at their annual book sale. Funds from the sale go toward programming throughout the year.
This year's sale is May 1 to 3, and Waite asked that no books be donated to the library between April 25 and May 7 as they prepare for and clean up from the sale.
If you're interested in donating books, call your local library to find out what they need and can accept.
The American Association of University Women is also currently accepting book donations for its annual book sale May 29 through June 3. You can donate books between the hours of 10 and 11:30 a.m. at the Kensington-Bailey Neighborhood Services Building at 995 Kensington Ave., Buffalo. After April 18, donations can be made at the sale site at the Sheridan Plaza, Sheridan Avenue and Eggert Road in the Town of Tonawanda.
Ultimately, Shaner said, you don't have to clean up and organize your entire house before donating unused items to charity. If you fill up a bag or a box, go ahead and take it to Goodwill or any another organization that can use it.
"You don't have to wait until you're done because sometimes that just creates a bigger pile," she said.Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.