March 29, 2018

Case Study: The Old Sofa

Yesterday it was time to get rid of the old sofa. It gave me a chance to use several clutter disposal channels — three of the 15 Ways to Leave Your Clutter and three more.

The story of the sofa is simple enough. I bought it twenty years ago, give or take a few. Two years ago, it was sagging badly enough to cause complaint. I repaired it, or really I should just say I propped it up, but that was not quite a satisfactory solution. Last weekend I ordered a new sofa to replace it. The new sofa will be delivered in two weeks. The old sofa had to go to make room.

What you do with discarded furniture depends on what condition it is in and other considerations. An intact sofa, reasonably clean, is something you can give away or possibly sell. A sofa so broken that you don’t want to keep it yourself is not a candidate for giving to anyone. On bulk item day I could have put the entire sofa in the trash. That would have meant getting someone to help me carry it to the curb, but it would probably have been the quickest solution in my case. Sometimes when furniture is delivered, the delivery company will take away the old furniture for a fee, though that was not an option in this case. What I actually did was take the sofa apart.

Taking a sofa apart is not as hard as it might sound. The disassembly took me well over an hour, much longer than the few minutes it might have taken two or three people to carry the sofa out intact. Putting in the extra time meant that I could start right away, do all the work myself, and divide the materials according to the best disposition for each.

The sofa as a whole was damaged, but some of the hardware was perfectly good and could be reused. I saved the nuts and bolts for my own use. I will donate the feet and the accompanying screws to a charity shop that deals in hardware.

This is a sofa that was not made of metal except for the connectors. The largest part, the cushions, were polyurethane foam. That and the covering fabric had to go in the trash. Most of the pieces were wider than a trash can, but polyurethane foam is not a sturdy material. It took only a minute to cut and tear it down to size.

The upholstery removed, the wood and (ahem) paper that made up the frame could be composted or burned, and in the end I will likely do some of each. I had to take out many of the metal staples before I could pry the frame apart, and those will rust away soon enough in the compost. The environmental benefit of disassembling the sofa comes from keeping these materials out of the landfill.

The sofa contained enough foam and fabric that it will take three weeks to throw it all away. This was one reason I wanted to start early. By the time the new sofa arrives, I will have a place to put it.

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