This article was crafted with the help of Daniel Graham from Junk King

Unwanted junk takes many forms, from yard debris to ancient electronics to plain old trash. Without warning, houses colonized by accumulated junk can become cramped and unlivable, leaving many homeowners asking, “Where did all of this come from?” Thankfully, junk removal companies are experts at uncluttering houses and leaving you with a similarly clutter-free mind. To get a closer look at this service, we spoke with Daniel Graham, president and owner of Junk King in Northern Virginia.

Why Hire a Junk Removal Company?

Some homeowners hesitate to rid themselves of junk for sentimental reasons, but most often, they don’t have the time and energy to—or simply can’t—deal with it themselves. “The real value for the homeowner in hiring a junk remover is the labor,” says Daniel. “It’s a lot of work.” When you factor in the time and money involved with renting a truck, loading the materials, finding a dump site, paying dump fees, and returning the truck, it’s little wonder that so many people turn to junk removal companies. “When you’re young or in college, you tend to be a do-it-yourselfer,” says Daniel, “but a lot of our customers tend to have newer, busy families.” Daniel also notes that junk removal services can be lifesavers for people who are unable to lift and move items by themselves.

What to Expect

Hiring a junk removal company transforms what can be a time-consuming, costly, and strenuous ordeal into a quick and easy visit. To help make the process as smooth as possible, there are a few things that Daniel recommends to customers:

  • Get a clear picture of the junk. When estimates are based on volume, Daniel says that it helps for homeowners to visualize the amount of junk they want removed. “Our trucks are 18 cubic yards, but if a customer says, ‘I’ve got a garage cleanout,’ or ‘I’ve got an attic cleanout,’ we’ll ask how many pickup truck loads they think it is, because that’s easier to wrap your head around.” Phone estimates are helpful, but always get an updated estimate once the team arrives and before the work begins—so there’s never a surprise, says Daniel.
  • Know which items junk removal companies cannot take. Due to insurance and municipal restrictions, junk removers are unable to haul hazardous materials. Examples of hazardous materials include oil- or lead-based paints and flammables. While junk removal companies cannot take your hazardous materials, Daniel says that they should point you to an organization that can. “We try to help solve their problem,” says Daniel, “so when homeowners contact us, we tell them who to get in touch with.”
  • Let the company know to bring special tools or equipment, if needed. Most jobs are fairly straightforward, but some junk removal situations require more than just heavy lifting. According to Daniel, if you have items that may not fit through doorways or need to be disassembled, the company will need to bring saws or other tools. Also, if you have a flooded area or other potential moldy spaces, Daniel says that companies may want to show up with respirators, so a notification beforehand is a good idea.

Junk removal companies do all the lifting and hauling without you having to lift a finger—except, of course, to point to which items need to go. It’s typically recommended that you be present for the service, and a quality company should be able to stick to a time window. As Daniel notes, “In our market, people’s time is worth so much more than their junk.”

What Happens to Your Junk?

Have you ever been crippled by guilt for wanting to throw away perfectly usable items—just not usable to you? Or do you want to clear out a garage but don’t know what can be donated, recycled, or simply destined for the dump? Junk removers are experts at sorting items, and the best companies have partnered with the right outlets to make sure that everything gets handled responsibly.

Like many industries, the junk removal business has made strides to adopt “green” practices. To avoid throwing everything in a landfill, Junk King, for example, has developed a network of contacts and end-users to take everything from e-waste to gently used furniture to cement and dirt. Instead of just bringing it to a dump site, Daniel’s team sorts everything at a 2,200-square-foot warehouse. When choosing goods to donate to charity, “We basically maintain a want list in our warehouse,” says Daniel, “so the drivers know that there are people who need certain items and to keep an eye out for them.” Items not fit for donation get sorted and distributed to a network of end-users.

Almost everything finds a home, but what about the junk that’s just junk? Daniel’s team stays landfill-free by taking any remaining trash to a plant that burns biomass to generate electricity. These power plants are not available everywhere, so some companies must take leftover junk to a landfill. If you are concerned about your company responsibly disposing of your junk, be sure to ask about their service policies and sorting practices. While some companies claim to be “landfill-free,” Daniel observes that they most often limit what items they will take, such as construction debris, because they lack the right end-user.

Whether you need someone to take away your old washer and dryer or to help clear the clutter out of your garage, junk removal companies can quickly and responsibly take care of your unwanted items. “I’m in the junk handling business,” says Daniel, “but the way I look at it, almost every aspect of our lives is more important than our junk.”

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This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Junk King, a Junk Removal Best Pick in Northern Virginia. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.