Toss, reuse, sell, recycle.
When it comes to getting rid of stuff, knowing what to throw out is only part of the equation. You also have to figure out what to do with it.
Here’s a guide to getting rid of the things you don’t use, need or even want:
If books are overcrowding shelf or basket space, it’s time to reassess, said professional organizer Erica Ecker, owner of the organizing company, The Spacialist, in New York City. Did the book change your life? Do you get nostalgic when you see the binding?
Out-of-date paperbacks can go into the mixed paper bin at the recycling centre or at curbside if the city or county picks up paper, Ecker said. Some take hardcovers, too, so check.
Sell newer books on sites like Amazon.com or Half.com, an eBay company with fixed prices and no listing fees.
If the book is autographed, a first edition or was written by a high-profile author who has died, consider listing it on eBay, said Marsha Collier, author of “eBay for Dummies.” (Starting in May, Half.com sellers can choose to have their listings show up on eBay product pages at no extra cost.)
You can also donate books to a charity, such as an organization that promotes literacy, or take them to an independent book seller for money or credit, said Standolyn Robertson, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers.
Do you need cash from the car for another purchase or expense? While donating a car comes with tax benefits, you won’t see them until the following tax season, said Mark Scott, spokesman for AutoTrader.com.
Donate the car if it is a clunker or your goal is simply to get it out of the driveway. Most charities that accept car donations will pick them up within days of your call, Scott said. In Canada, visit http://www.donatecar.ca/
If you’re donating your car, make sure you keep a good record of its condition and any evidence you can find for its market value, Scott said. If you get audited, you want to be able to prove you didn’t inflate the value for a bigger tax break, he said.
Get rid of clothes that are too small, especially if you haven’t been able to wear them for more than a year, said Yahoo! Shine’s fashion and beauty editor, Jennifer Romolini.
“Your wardrobe needs to be about practicality, not hope,” she said.
But if you think you will drop the weight — if it’s pregnancy weight, for example — Ecker suggests keeping a limited amount of the smaller clothes you love and would wear again, even if it’s in a year.
If you’re not sure whether to keep something, enlist the help of a friend who knows you well and will give you her honest opinion, said Anne-Marie O’Neill, deputy editor of Real Simple.
Do not donate clothes that are unwearable, Romolini said.
“If something has a tiny tear or button missing, that’s one thing; if a piece is practically torn in two or forever stained, throw it in the trash.”
For consignment, most shops only take high-end pieces that are in excellent condition, Romolini said. While some take lesser-quality clothing, it might not be worth the time. She once received $11 for an entire bag of clothes, which barely covered her transportation to the store.
Designer/name-brand and new or barely worn items will fetch the highest bids on eBay, Romolini said.
Be honest about the condition, be descriptive about the colour, size and fabric and make sure you spell the designer’s name correctly, says Collier. Include photos.
While people sell clothes on Craigslist, Romolini says to think twice.
“Do you really want a parade of people coming through your house, deciding whether or not they want what you’re selling?” she asked.
Get rid of an old gadget or appliance as soon you get a new one, said Christopher Null, Yahoo! Tech columnist. He said gadgets and tech products lose value quickly, so the longer you wait, the more worthless they get.
Check eBay to see if the gadget is worth something. Make sure to look at actual sales, not listings with initial prices that didn’t get any bids, he said.
“You’ll usually get a better price on eBay rather than trying to sell it in a more limited venue, like Craigslist,” he said.
If you can’t sell it, consider donating or recycling it. Many communities hold events where people can drop off used computers, monitors, desktop printers and fax machines to be recycled.
GreenDisk (www.greendisk.com) accepts everything from cellphones to laptop computers to iPods. Pack items in your own box, print a label from the site and ship. GreenDisk will also send you a collection box and pick it up for an additional charge. For Canadians, the company currently offers a pack-it-yourself service but is investigating opportunities for more local processing within Canada.
Check with your local library to see if it wants old VHS tapes, said Vicki Norris of Vicki Norris’ Restoring Order in Portland, Ore.
“Let the cassette tapes go unless you have a tape player in your car, and can and will listen to them while you’re commuting,” she said. If you’re not sure, give yourself a month to “use them or lose them.”
Some game retailers like GameStop will buy games for more recent video consoles like Wii and Xbox 360, according to Chris Kohler, Wired.com’s Game Life editor. But he said in many cases, they won’t take back games for older consoles.
Amazon.com’s Video Games Trade-In store allows users to trade in some old games for an online gift card to the site.
Make sure you are not sitting on a gold mine, Kohler said. Games from 20 years ago are collectibles, and classic game lovers will pay a high price for them on eBay.
GreenDisk also takes all electronic media, including diskettes, zip disks, CDs, VHS, cassette tapes and game cartridges.
First, why aren’t you using the equipment? Is the room too cluttered, too hot, boring because there is no television? Sometimes changing the space is enough to get people back on the machine, Ecker said.
But she said she has found old NordicTrack machines that have been acting as clothes hangers in people’s bedrooms for years.
“Those kinds of items must leave ASAP,” Ecker said. “There’s no hope for them.”
The key, Robertson said, is whether you have the space to store the machine.
“An unused treadmill in the bedroom, living room or family room is a problem,” she said. “Those same items in a home gym or exercise room is no big deal.”
Robertson suggests selling the equipment to Play It Again Sports, a sporting goods store that buys, sells and trades used equipment — there are more than 360 locations in the U.S. and Canada — or listing it on Craigslist. You can try to sell it on eBay if shipping is not going to be a problem, she said. If you want to give it away, try The Freecycle Network (www.freecycle.org).
When it comes to getting rid of furniture that you don’t have room for or that’s not your style, Norris has some advice: Don’t hold on to it for when your children grow up or because you inherited the piece from a loved one. If the item has sentimental value, take photos and write down the memory associated with it.
You can try selling the item on eBay or Craigslist, Norris said. The downside is you have to post it, photograph it and arrange for people to come see it.
She recommends donating furniture to charitable organizations that help people set up households, such as shelters.
If the furniture is beyond repair or poses a health hazard, such as mould or cushions filled with dust mites, consider other disposal options, she said.
Be careful about sending your jewelry to a place you saw on television or the Internet, said Harry Glinberg, a jeweller from Wauwatosa, Wis., who holds top diplomas from the Gemological Institute of America.
Many of them will not pay you what the jewelry is worth. He recommends getting two or three quotes from a jeweller that has a graduate gemologist on staff.
If you believe the piece is an antique, take it to an antique store and get an appraisal, O’Neill said.
Don’t keep more than three issues of magazines, Ecker said. If it’s March and you still haven’t read the December issue, you’re probably not going to because the April issue is coming, she said.
If there’s an article or recipe you want to save, tear it out of the magazine and file it away, Ecker said.
Magazines that are collectibles are good candidates for eBay, Collier said. But often, the vintage ads are worth more.
She recommends cutting out the ads, framing them and putting them up for sale.