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Associated Press, Published April 27 2009

Clutter control: How to weed out clutter the right way

NEW YORK – 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, says 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Out-of-date paperbacks can go into the mixed paper bin at the recycling center or at curbside if the city or county picks up paper, Ecker said. Some take hardcovers, too, so check.

Sell newer books on sites such as 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, says 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 bookseller for money or credit, says Standolyn Robertson, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers.


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 – 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, says 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, Romolini says. 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 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 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 asks.


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

He says 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 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 (www.greendisk.com) 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.


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, she says.


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 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, O’Neill says.


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, she says.

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

Magazines that are collectibles are good candidates for eBay, Collier says.

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.


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 (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, Ecker says. Better to toss, she says.

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