green: unload your stuff without loading the trash

Thursday, January 19, 2012

As we go through holidays, birthdays, moves, trends, family additions and life changes, we find ourselves collecting more stuff. Even George Carlin has a great standup piece on stuff - "your house is just a big pile of stuff with a cover on it." But when we look deeply into our drawers, garages and closets, do we hold onto stuff that we actually want and use? In our house, we are big fans of eliminating the things we no longer use or need, but we are strategic about our purging - nothing goes into the trash!

Craigslist or online communities
A lot of my friends are hesitant to use Craigslist but I swear by the online selling community. We have posted all of the furniture we no longer need, wedding decorations, frames and garden materials. Not everything goes right away, but I'm persistant and eventually everything goes.
If you  have valuable electronics like old cell phones or ipods, Gazelle and Sell Cell will pay you for
used items. I have sold a broken ipod, old cell phones and cameras online through these sources.

Some elecrtonics are no longer needed and you won't be able to sell them for money. Don't let this discourage you and throw your old electronics back into a drawer. Find a deserving charity. Your company, school, professional group or favorite philanthropy may hold cell phone donation drives. We donate old cell phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers since they provide free shipping and this just gets it out of the house!

If you can't sell a television, radio or kitchen appliance online (i.e., Craigslist), I suggest finding a local e-waste donation site. You're lucky this time of year as groups get together and set-up spots for people cleaning up for the new year. Check out your state's e-waste programs or check online for local efforts.
I'm not one to have high cost clothing, but I tend to splurge on purses since I only get a new one every one or two years. There's a local high end consignment store that will sell my clothes for a commission - as soon as it's sold, I get a portion of the selling price. Some shops will just hand you the cash upfront. And if your old t-shirts and jeans don't hold street value, donate everything to your local thrift store, like Salvation Army. We visit the thrift store every other week to donate our stuff.

Books and Videos
For those who have a little time to post good to fair condition books and CDs on Ebay, this is a great source. For me, the time isn't worth the little return that we receive but I always find extra cash in my pocket selling at Half Price Books. Check out your local bookstores and find out if they purchase gently used books.
photo credit: Lori L. Stalteri
Old Paint and Supplies
When we moved into our house, the former owners kindly left behind extra paint from the recent work they had done on the house. Unfortunately, most of the paint had already gone bad - oil-based paints must be taken to disposal facilities and latex can be donated. Your local Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity may be accepting donations, or post your materials on the "free" section of Craigslist so that the supplies are used elsewhere.

What do you do to make sure your stuff stays out of the dump? Do you make extra cash from your goods? I'd love to hear how you're giving your stuff another chance in life.

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