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COVID-19 decluttering has Newmarket donation centres booming

'I think decluttering our homes is something we all want to do when we find the time, and COVID left us with tons of free time,' says owner of home staging and downsizing service
2020 06 26 goodwill DK
Goodwill employee Dustin Gilmur retrieves a bag from the contactless donations bin June 25. Debora Kelly/NewmarketToday

Newmarket businesses that help people get rid of unwanted stuff, thrift retailers and charities alike have seen a significant uptick in donations and decluttering since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March.

That’s not surprising when you consider the frenzy of spring cleaning in early April that saw community donation bins in Newmarket closed because of the coronavirus crisis become a dumping ground of debris. 

Town of Newmarket staff quickly swooped in to clean up the mess and hauled all six Diabetes Canada textile recycling bins to storage, where they remain at this time.

“Diabetes Canada has not announced a date to resume their collection activities, however, before this can occur, the town would need to review health and safety protocols with Diabetes Canada for these public drop-offs to take place,” a spokesperson for public works and bylaw said. 

But as the community continues to spend more time at home to stop the spread of the virus, clearing out and tidying up appear to be top-of-mind.

Newmarket resident Jen Bevin, who runs home staging and downsizing service, Your Newfie Sisters, said she decluttered her own home while the business temporarily shut down in March and April.

“I think decluttering our homes is something we all want to do when we find the time, and COVID left us with tons of free time,” said Bevin. “I used the time to declutter and delivered many bags of no longer needed items to local charities. The stuff did have to sit in my garage for a few weeks, though, while waiting for the charities to once again accept those donations.”

Bevin has seen a “huge surge” in customers downsizing during the pandemic, with subsequent large volumes of household goods donated to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Value Village.  

As her clients try to navigate through these uncertain times, Bevin said she has met many homeowners who, concerned for the future and their employment options, are ready to hang a for-sale sign on their homes, if necessary.

“Will their jobs be there when we return to our new normal? Will their businesses be able to recover?” Bevin said.  

Now that Your Newfie Sisters is back in the swing of things, it is taking extra safety precautions as a majority of its downsizing clients are seniors and those with compromised health.

Just Junk owner Lance Hamilton, who has served customers in Newmarket and the surrounding areas of Barrie, Bradford, and Orangeville for the past 12 years, said his business has seen between 30 per cent and 40 per cent growth since the pandemic hit.

“People are home and are either working or not able to work, depending on their situation, and it’s like anybody else, you become kind of project-based around your house, so people started cleaning up and we saw a considerable spike in business,” Hamilton said.

Almost to the day when Ontario declared a state-of-emergency mid-March to battle the coronavirus, Hamilton just expanded the business by adding another small dump truck to the fleet.

“When COVID happened, there was panic among the staff, and I didn’t know what the impact would look like on the business so I laid some staff off,” he said. “I very quickly brought them back because it turns out, we saw all this growth. Thank goodness I did have the extra truck because the business just exploded.”

Hamilton put strict health and safety measures in place to keep everyone safe, such as supplying protective gear to staff, cleaning and disinfecting trucks at the end of the day, and promoting its contactless driveway pickup service to stop the spread of the virus.

That service, itself, saw a 50 per cent increase in the past three months as customers took advantage of a discount by hauling materials outside themselves and paying remotely.

“What we saw during the pandemic was a massive increase in customers using that service and being appreciative,” said Hamilton. “We get a lot of thank-yous and people are so appreciative. We’re in the business of creating space, so people really appreciate the work we do. People have said, ‘You guys are a godsend, we have really been wanting to get rid of this stuff’.” 

Meanwhile, since thrift retailers and charities reopened, there’s been a “massive” surge in donations at drop-off centres, an employee from Value Village’s Davis Drive location told NewmarketToday.

Similarly, the buy counter at the Yonge Street Plato’s Closet gently used shop has seen a rush of customers this past month, with appointments to sell clothing and accessories booked up days in advance.

In a statement on the reopening of its donor welcome centres, the Salvation Army said "demand for affordable clothing and household items will be higher than ever in the days, weeks, and months ahead as we all work to rebuild from the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis".

All this activity shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon as public health measures force the continued cancellation of such things as the town’s curbside giveaway days, including the upcoming June 27 event. 

Residents are discouraged from leaving unwanted items that may have high-touch points at the curb to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

Town officials also strongly discourage any non-essential in-person gatherings due to physical distancing and social gathering orders set out by Ontario, which includes garage sales.

There are plenty of options to dispose of your unwanted items in Newmarket. Click on the following links to explore which service is best for you:

Just Junk will do the heavy lifting for you and re-purposes the vast majority of items it hauls away.

Your Newfie Sisters specializes in downsizing, home staging, with experience in hoarding.

The Salvation Army Newmarket Thrift Store accepts donations at its 130 Davis Dr. donor welcome centre Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Value Village Newmarket location at 130 Davis Dr. accepts donations seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Goodwill Boutique and Donation Centre at 570 Mulock Dr. accepts donations Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Plato's Closet at 16655 Yonge St. will buy gently used clothing and accessories by appointment.

Cornerstone to Recovery donation bins are open and the organization is regularly making pickups. The Newmarket bin is located at 40 Charles St., near Southlake Regional Health Centre.

Mission Thrift Store Newmarket at 17255 Yonge St. accepts donations three days a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

York Region waste depots remain open with some restrictions, including debit/credit payment only, and the following are not accepted at this time: clothing and textiles, concrete, drywall, foam packaging (styrofoam), and untreated wood for recycling.