April 26, 2009 in Features

Guide to Spring cleaning

Megan K. Scott I Associated Press
 

Toss, reuse, sell, recycle. It’s spring cleaning time, and 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:

Clothes

Get rid of clothes that are too small, especially if you haven’t been able to wear them for more than a year, says Yahoo! Shine’s fashion and beauty editor, Jennifer Romolini.

“Your wardrobe needs to be about practicality, not hope,” she says.

But if you think you will drop the weight – if it’s pregnancy weight, for example – professional organizer Ericka Ecker, owner of the New York City organizing company The Spacialist, 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, suggests Anne-Marie O’Neill, deputy editor of Real Simple.

Do not donate clothes that are unwearable, Romolini says: “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. While some take lesser-quality clothing, it might not be worth the time. Romolini 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, she says.

Be honest about the condition, be descriptive about the color, size and fabric and make sure you spell the designer’s name correctly, says Marsha Collier, author of “eBay for Dummies.” 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 asks.

Shoes

Try eBay for high-end designer shoes that are in good condition, Collier says.

If you want to recycle, Nike accepts athletic shoes of any brand with the exception of shoes containing metal, such as cleats or spikes. The shoes are ground up and used to make sports surfaces (see www.nikereuseashoe.com).

There are also several charitable organizations, such as Samaritan’s Feet ( www.samaritansfeet.org) and Soles4Souls ( www.soles4souls.org), that collect shoes and donate them to those in need.

Don’t try to sell or donate shoes that are badly in need of a shoe surgeon, such as a shoe with a missing sole or a seam that is busted because of your big toe, says Ecker. Better to toss, she says.

Jewelry

Be careful about sending your jewelry to a place you saw on television or the Internet, says Harry Glinberg, a jeweler 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 says. Glinberg recommends getting two or three quotes from a jeweler 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, says Marie O’Neill, deputy editor of Real Simple magazine.

Books

If books are overcrowding shelf or basket space, it’s time to reassess, says Ecker. Did the book change your life? Do you get nostalgic when you see the binding?

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 passed away, consider listing it on eBay, advises Collier. (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, says Standolyn Robertson, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers.

Magazines

Don’t keep more than three issues of magazines, Ecker says. 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.

If there’s an article or recipe you want to save, tear it out of the magazine and file it away, she says.

Magazines that are collectibles are good candidates for eBay, says Collier. But often, the vintage ads are worth more. She recommends cutting out the ads, framing them and putting them up for sale.

Some hospitals take magazines, preferably issues that are not older than three months. You can also check with your local library. Recycle magazines that are old and have no real value.

Entertainment

Check with your local library to see if it wants old VHS tapes, says Vicki Norris of Vicki Norris’ Restoring Order in Portland.

“Let cassette tapes go unless you have a tape player in your car, and can and will listen to them while you’re commuting,” she says. 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 in many cases, he says, they won’t take 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 says. Games from 20 years ago are collectibles, and classic game lovers will pay a high price for them on eBay.

GreenDisk ( www.greendisk.com) also takes all electronic media, including diskettes, zip disks, CDs, VHS, cassette tapes and game cartridges.

Electronics

Get rid of an old gadget or appliance as soon you get a new one, says Christopher Null, Yahoo! Tech columnist. 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, Null says.

“You’ll usually get a better price on eBay rather than trying to sell it in a more limited venue, like Craigslist,” he says.

If you can’t sell it, consider donating or recycling it. Staples recycles used computers, monitors, desktop printers and fax machines even if the item wasn’t purchased there. There is a recycling fee of $10 per large item.

GreenDisk accepts everything from cell phones to laptop computers to iPods. Pack items in your own box, print a label from the site and ship.

The cost for disposal of up to 20 pounds is $6.95. GreenDisk will also send you a collection box and pick it up for an additional charge.

Exercise equipment

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 says.

But 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 says. “There’s no hope for them.”

The key, Robertson says, 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 says. “Those same items in a home gym or exercise room is no big deal.”

You can list it on Craigslist, or try to sell it on eBay if shipping is not going to be a problem, Robertson says. If you want to give it away, try The Freecycle Network ( www.freecycle.org).

Furniture

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 says. 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 mold or cushions filled with dust mites, consider other disposal options, Norris says.

Cars

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, says Mark Scott, spokesman for AutoTrader.com.

President Barack Obama recently announced his support of a plan to give vouchers to people who turn in old gas guzzlers and buy vehicles that get good gas mileage.

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 says.

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, he says. If you get audited, the Internal Revenue Service is going to want you to prove you didn’t inflate the value for the bigger tax break.


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