Decluttering tip: Hand over home-improvement leftovers to Habitat for Humanity

In the decade we’ve now spent in our home, we’ve had a non-trivial amount of work done on the place, which in turn led to many of the parts that we’d replaced piling up in the basement. Basements are great for that sort of unplanned accumulation, but eventually embarrassment over one’s possible hoarding tendencies encourages finding a better use for the leftovers.

Habitat for Humanity NoVa logoThat’s how I found a way to get rid of them without leaving the house: having Habitat for Humanity’s local ReStore take them away for resale and reuse.

Not all do, but I was lucky that the ReStores for Northern Virginia both accept donations and provide free pick-up from your house. Habitat’s page only lists a number to call (703-360-6700), but the voicemail greeting there advised that I could also send a note to donations@habitatnova.org. My July 3rd e-mail listing the items I had available got a response within 45 minutes; after a few rounds of correspondence over what they could take (an ancient exterior door was out), we scheduled a pickup on the 16th.

I had to get all of these leftovers–four interior doors, one bi-fold closet door, a skylight, two ceiling light fixtures, two motion-sensing exterior light fixtures, one sheet of drywall, a length of HVAC ductwork, a few deadbolt locks and a door knob, plus some cans of paint that I should have known weren’t eligible–out on the driveway that morning, but that was the end of my work. That evening, I was left with the paint, a blank receipt and the need to sweep the corners of the basement that had been cluttered by this stuff.

Computing the tax deduction of my donation involved a few extra steps–Intuit’s ItsDeductible site had no idea what value to place on a used door, skylight or sheet of drywall, so I had to guesstimate from Home Depot prices–but otherwise this was an easy chore that I should have tackled years ago. If you’ve been looking for a worthy home for your own home-improvement leftovers, you’re welcome to follow my example.

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Weekly output: post-derecho communications tips, Galaxy S III, Flash failures, smartphone screenshots

I don’t have much to show for myself on a workweek bogged down by the aftermath of a storm and bisected by a national holiday. (The following inventory leaves out Discovery reposting my explainer about DNSChanger malware that I wrote back in April.) I am okay with that.

7/3/2012: Staying Online After a Storm, CEA Digital Dialogue

After seeing how many neighbors were struggling after last weekend’s derecho, I decided to scrap my plan to write about what your next desktop operating system should and should not borrow from your current mobile operating system. (That should happen next week.) Instead, I shared a few tips about how to get back online, informed by lessons from friends and my own experience battling unreliable bandwidth and dwindling batteries at tech events like CES and SXSW.

7/6/2012: Galaxy S III: Good Phone, Troubled Android, Discovery News

Apparently, I’m one of the only tech reviewers not to rave about this Android smartphone. Ars Technica’s Casey Johnston liked it; the Verge’s Vlad Savov really liked it; Eric Zeman at PhoneScoop loved it. It’s quite possible that I’m placing too much stress on the differences between this phone’s tweaked Android interface and Google’s standard front-end… but, damn, the pushy keyboard Samsung felt compelled to load on this thing in place of Google’s is outright infuriating. (Its auto-correct dictionary alone seems to beg for a HUAC hearing; on my loaner phone, it knew “Xinhua” but not “iOS,” “BBC” but not “BBQ.”)

7/8/2012: How Flash failed JetBlue, and you, USA Today

I could have written this years ago, but I didn’t get my introduction to JetBlue’s broken boarding-pass system until May. The column discusses how a foolish use of Adobe Flash kept Mac users from being able to print their passes and notes another example of Flash misuse wrecking a site’s login page. (If you read that as a general critique of Flash, you read it right; one of the things I aim to do in this column is look beyond each week’s bug to explain the conditions that fostered that issue.) The piece also offers a refresher course about taking screenshots in iOS and Android.