Spring Cleaning Checklist and How to Cash In on Your Stuff comments

By Wendy Mihm | Monday March 7, 2011

Spring is just two weeks away! You can probably tell because the days are getting longer (finally!) and you’re itchin’ to toss out all that stuff that’s cluttering the closets and stacked in the stairways.

So let’s harness that feeling and use it to get de-clutter your house, once and for all.  Why?  Because much of what is taking up all that space can be used by someone else, and just might earn you a little extra cash that you could put toward something really great like the schmancy new iPad or even a family trip.

Ok, here’s your plan.

  • Grab a bunch of sturdy shopping bags with handles and a fistfull of garbage bags.
  • Label half of the shopping bags “donate” and the other half “sell.”  The garbage bags are for items you find that are not in good enough shape to be donated or sold.
  • Now, go through your closets, and dressers and your kids’ closets and dressers in search of any item that has not been used or worn for at least one year.  Don’t forget to include shoes, wallets, handbags, belts, jewelrey, socks and winter items stored away in boxes.  Be ruthless!  If you have not worn it in a year, chances are you are not going to reach for it again any time soon.
  • Sort the items you find into the “donate,” “sell,” or garbage bags. 

If you have not eliminated at least 4 things from each closet or dresser, you have not been ruthless enough.  Go back and try again!

  • Move on to the family room or media room and repeat this exercise with books, DVDs, music, printers, phones, and other media or office equipment.  Remember, if it does not work and it is electronic, it must be recycled in an appropriate e-waste facility.
  • Next, you’ll tackle the kitchen and dining rooms, where you’ll assess whether you need that extra Magic Bullet, all those pots and pans, and that extra set of dessert plates you never use.
  • Running out of bags?  Now would be a good time to re-load.  Speaking of that, why not use this little break to get your spouse to help you load all the full bags labeled “donate” into the trunk of the car.  That way the next time you roll past a Goodwill or Salvation Army, you’ll be prepared to drop them off.
  • Now let’s move to the garage where you will asses how often you and your family use items like bikes, tools scooters, balls, sporting equipment and gardening tools.
  • Finally, let’s make a loop around the basement (if you have one) and the rest of the house for random things like stored baby items, dish racks from your last apartment, paper towel holders, and that dust buster you don’t use.

Sweating now?

Ok, now let’s learn how to get rid of this stuff in an organized and a financially savvy way.  Here is a list of resources where you can either donate your things for a tax write off or, with a little effort, sell your items and make some real money.

Donate for a Tax Write Off

Goodwill: offers hassle-free drop off of your items in bags.  They even help you unload your car when you arrive.  Will take clothes and a wide range of household items, including electronics.  Some locations will even take broken electronics and dispose of them properly for you, but call or check the local website first.

Purple Heart:  Offers a pickup service for clothing donations in bags in a four state region:  NJ, DE, PA, MD and VA.  You can schedule a pickup online.

Salvation Army: Accepts donations of clothing, furniture and household goods and includes a donations valuation guide for tax purposes on their website.

Sell or Exchange

Craigslist:  great for baby items, furniture, power tools, bikes, and other “substantial” items.  Take the time to post a flattering picture of the item and write a thorough description.  Best for nearby local listings, as people like to come by and have a look before fully committing to buying, but once they see the item, they almost always buy it.

BookScouter.com: Books and CDs.  List your books and CDs with them online and they take a cut.

iPodMeister.com: Exchanged your used CDs and DVDs for hard drives, media players smart phones and tablet computers such as an iPad.

DCUrbanMomsandDads: Sell baby items and possibly other substantial items on this parents network in the Washington DC / Northern Virginia / Maryland area.

ParkSlopeParents: Sell baby items and possibly other substantial items on this parents network in the ParkSlope (Brooklyn, NY) area.

Berkeley Parents Network: Sell baby items and possibly other substantial items on this parents network in the Berkeley (Northern CA) area.

Specialty Items

Jewelry: If you are trying to sell jewelry that you suspect is of some value, do not take it to a jeweler and tell her that you want to sell it and you need an appraisal. The jeweler will try to lowball you so she can buy the piece then resell it at a profit in her own store.  A better plan is to take the piece to a jeweler who does appraisals and tell him that you need an appraisal for insurance purposes.  Then get the appraisal and sell the piece on eBay

Tools and Furniture:  People love tools and furniture on Craigslist and at yard sales.  However, on Craigslist, you don’t have to sit around all day hoping someone with cash in their pockets will happen on by, and you also tend to get higher prices for your items. Can you tell I prefer Craigslist..?

China and barware:  If you find some old china or barware and don’t know what pattern it is, or what it’s worth, you can try to identify it by going to the website called Replacements and sending them a photo.  They will evaluate what you have and send you their best guess at pattern and worth.  Then you can decide how to sell it – either as a full set (which is best, if you have it) or in pieces.

Getting all that clutter cleared out, earning some extra cash, and having a few tax deductions is a really fantastic way to greet the new season.  Now take a deep breath of fresh, spring air and enjoy your fabulously uncluttered space!  Aaaahhh!


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