Holiday season perfect time to sell or donate items

Does your son have a Thomas Train set he ignores? Is your daughter’s Radio Flyer wagon gathering dust in the garage? Are you storing golf clubs you never use? Do you have a formal gown you wore once and don’t plan to wear again?

All of these lightly used items — and thousands of others — are in high demand on Craigslist and eBay right now. Buyers are looking to save a few dollars, and sellers are hoping to make a little money. With the economy sloshing around in stagnant water, there is increased activity on resale sites during the holiday season.

If you’re interested in getting unused items out of your home and selling them on Craigslist or eBay, I highly recommend checking out the extremely thorough article “Sell It Now — how to make hundreds of dollars in 37 minutes” by Ramit Sethi. The article is targeted toward eBay, but works just as well for Craigslist. It’s especially helpful if you haven’t ever sold anything on a site like this.

If you aren’t interested in taking the time and energy to sell your lightly used items, now is also a great time to donate them to charity. Remember, charities aren’t dumping grounds for used stuff, so only consider donating goods that are still in excellent condition. Also, give your local charity a call before making a donation to confirm they have a need for your specific items.

Collections: Trash or treasure?

While uncluttering, you may come across a few collections you decide no longer interest you or are worth the space in your home you’ve been dedicating to them. Last year, for instance, I gave my yarn collection away to friends, and now have two shelves in a closet that hold my son’s toys.

Maybe you’re ready to part with your baseball cards, vintage Barbie dolls, or a few pieces of antique furniture? When was the last time you looked at your comic books or dusted the snow globes?

Unfortunately, not all collections will sell for amounts anywhere close to what you paid for them (but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t get rid of the collection, especially if it no longer interests you and is just cluttering up your home). The website ManOfTheHouse.com ran an informative article in August that discussed ways to learn if your collections will be considered trash or treasures when you decide to sell. From “Sorting Collectibles from Junk” by Amy Carson:

So how do you find out if your “junk” is valuable? Start by looking online. Search eBay to see if any similar items are for sale, and how much they sell for. On Google, search for online collectors’ clubs. You can also ask a dealer for an appraisal or look up collectible prices at your local library.

It’s no guarantee, but before you give away your old stuff it’s worth checking what it’s worth. After all, you never know how much money might be lurking in your closet, garage, or attic.

A few items Amy says are trending right now — African-American family archives, unusual and less-popular board games that are no longer manufactured, letters and diaries relating to historical figures, Bakelite jewelry, old postcards of locales, Sears’ Craftsman tools made before 1950.

Do you have a collection that you’re ready to let go? This weekend might be a perfect time to gather it up, research its value, and decide if you want to sell it (or simply give it away).

Cleaning your home’s gutters

One of my resolutions for the second quarter of 2010 is to “accomplish all 67 tasks on the ‘Spring Cleaning for the Overachiever’ list on pages 189 and 190 of Unclutter Your Life in One Week.” Since I live in a house that doesn’t have exterior gutters, we swept our house’s flat roof instead of tackling list item number four: “Clean leaves and debris out of gutters.” Sweeping a roof is a comparatively easier chore than cleaning gutters, and I have a lot of sympathy for folks who have to climb up on ladders twice a year to de-muck their gutters.

DIYlife.com’s recent article “Spring Maintenance: Clean Gutters and Downspouts” is a wonderful step-by-step guide on how to get the debris out of your gutters so that your home is ready for spring rains. I particularly appreciated the final tip of the article:

It’s not often that you’re up close and personal with your gutters so take this opportunity to inspect them for damage as well. Dents, holes and cracks may have surfaced over the winter months and should be repaired as soon as possible.

In addition to the advice that appears in the article, I would recommend doing this chore on a clear morning. It’s nice to get it out of the way first thing and avoid racing the setting sun to get it finished. This isn’t a chore you want to hurry through and risk your safety.

Three uncluttered activities you can do on a lazy Saturday

All along the east coast of the U.S. today, we’re getting blanketed with snow. As a result, I’ve declared that I’m not leaving the house unless it catches on fire. I’m spending the day in my pajamas, nursing this awful fever-cough-runny-nose ick I’ve caught from my son, and taking care of some unfinished items on my home’s to-do list.

Three of these to-do items are great tasks to complete on a day you’ve decided to stay at home. From my home to yours, I bring you three uncluttered activities you can do on a lazy Saturday:

  1. Sort through your magazines and catalogs. Curl up on a comfy corner of the couch, pull out your giant stack of reading materials, and take an hour to read and then recycle all of these materials. Any articles you want to keep, rip out of the magazine and then scan them to your computer. Farewell, July issue of Vanity Fair!
  2. Backup your home computer. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — There are two types of hard drives: those that have failed, and those that have yet to fail. If you’re not regularly backing up your hard drive, you’re tempting fate. Open up an account at Dropbox.com and securely upload all of your important data. In my opinion, a non-backed up hard drive is clutter because it’s a distraction to your life the same way dirty socks are in the middle of your living room floor.
  3. Clear the clutter from your laundry room. I’m not really sure how it happens, but laundry rooms are clutter magnets. There are piles of loose change, random receipts and pony tail holders pulled out of pockets, errant socks, used fabric softener sheets, and three bottles of partially used detergent haphazardly strewn about the room. Go through the items in this area and create a more organized system. The more you enjoy being in this space, the more likely you will be to keep up with your laundry chores. A nice drawer organizer can be repurposed to hold buttons, safety pins, and change. And, a large plastic shoe box can become the permanent home for your detergents and fabric softeners.

Now you all know how I’ll be spending my Saturday at home. What uncluttered items are on your to-do list for the day?

Weekend Project: Your closet floors

This weekend’s project idea is more of a cleaning project than an uncluttering project, but you’ll likely end up doing a bit of uncluttering to be able to do the cleaning. To be able to vacuum and/or sweep the floors of my closets, I have to pull out storage containers and crawl on my hands and knees to reach back into some of the corners. Inevitably, I find something that I didn’t remember was there and I end up clearing a bit of clutter out of my home.

Cleaning the closet floors is not necessarily a fun project, so I only do it once or twice a year (most of my house guests aren’t inspecting the floors of my closets, thankfully). But, it helps to keep dust mites under control and reduce allergens.

If you’re looking for a weekend project that usually takes less than an hour, join me in cleaning your closet floors. They are definitely a forgotten space and can use some attention if it has been a while since you last attended to them. Happy sweeping!

Weekend project idea: Bed-side table cleanup

The small tables we set next to our beds that hold the alarm clock, a lamp, a book, and reading glasses acquire random objects from time to time. This weekend, give your nightstand a little attention and see if it can use some uncluttering love.

Purge the clutter, organize the items that belong, and make any repairs necessary to the piece of furniture. I picked mine up to get a good look at it and discovered three cat toys that had been trapped underneath it for months. I also found a pack of expired Tums that went straight into the trash. Honestly, I was surprised that I didn’t find more clutter, but I was glad to have gone through this easily overlooked space. Maybe a year from now, I’ll remember again.

While we’re talking about bed-side tables, I spotted a Nightstand Charging Dock for iPhones that transforms the phone into a more traditional alarm clock. Check out this review on Apartment Therapy to learn more.

Have a relaxing, uncluttering weekend!

Weekend Project: Trash can clean up

If you’re anything like me, you rarely, if ever, think about the trash cans. Maybe if one tips over you’ll think about it, but, for the most part, they’re mentally invisible.

Earlier this week, however, I noticed that my outdoor trash can was stinky. I have no idea what foul thing crawled in there and died, but “maliciously odorous” would aptly explain its stench.

I thought that I’m likely not the only one in such smelly circumstances, and came up with the idea to make a weekend project out of cleaning my cans. So, if you’re looking for a weekend project idea, maybe a trash can clean up is for you, too?

Gather up all of your trash cans (indoor and outdoor) and set them in a paved location near a drain (or take them to a self-service car wash if convenient). Squirt a bit of dishwashing detergent into each can, and then fill the bottoms with a few inches of water. Let the cans soak for at least 15 minutes, and then dump out the soaking water. Give the cans a good cleaning, let them dry in the weekend sun, and then put them back in place.

Your nose will most certainly thank you!

Make those giant speakers into storage

Instructables has a wealth of information and step-by-step instructions on how to make just about anything your heart desires (some things silly and some useful). One interesting item I came across is a way to recycle old floor standing speakers into storage units.

If you have a couple of old-school floor standing speakers taking up space in your basement or attic, you may want to consider retrofitting them into media storage cabinets. The easy to follow steps can be found here.

If you don’t have any speakers of your own to use, you can easily pick up some giant speakers at a consignment shop or gargage sale. The end result is rather unique and a fairly cheap alternative to your run-of-the-mill media storage currently available in stores.

Make your own shoe rack

One of the entries to our house has a rather tight space where we currently keep our shoes. It is very hard to find any sort of storage option that will fit into the small space. I have been searching for something that would do the job and I came across this solution on Apartment Therapy (via Not Martha).

I am one of the least handy people when it comes to household projects, but looking over the directions even I may be able to accomplish an easy installation of this J-Me inspired shoerack. This was exactly what we were looking for and it is also a less expensive alternative to the J-Me product which wouldn’t have fit in the space anyhow.

Weekend project: Tackle newspaper and magazine clutter

If you’re looking for an uncluttering project for this weekend, consider organizing your newspapers and magazines.

  • Gather together all of your newspapers and magazines and set them on a flat work surface.
  • Toss into the recycling bin all of your newspapers that are more than a day old.
  • Recycle immediately any magazine that you know you will never get around to reading.
  • If you have read and flagged articles in any of your magazines, cut them out of the publication and scan them so that you have a digital copy. Then, recycle the originals and the magazine.
  • Any magazine you haven’t read that you still want to read, write June 29, 2008, on the cover of the magazine with a magic marker. In a month, if you still haven’t read it, recycle it on the spot.
  • Put the magazines you intend to read in a location where you’ll see them and read them. Then, as time permits, pick them up and enjoy the publications.
  • Finally, take your paper recycling to your local recycling center or to the curb if you are fortunate to have curb-side pickup.

If your newspapers and magazines are already in order, check out our list of other weekend project ideas.

Make your own collapsible fabric box

Over at Associated Content, they have step-by-step directions on how to make your own collapsible fabric boxes. From the AC article:

Home storage is always in short supply. Often, people resort to using cardboard boxes or plastic cartons to store their items in closets, the attic, or cellars. But many items have to be stored out in the open. A great way of creating quick and attractive storage solutions is by crafting collapsible fabric boxes.

Rather than running out and buying some run-of-the-mill plastic storage bins, you can customize the look by picking out some fabric you may already have. If you are happy with the look of your creation, you can keep the storage box in the open rather than hiding it away in a closet.

Five spring organizing activities

Five quick things you can do now that the weather is warmer:

  1. Take your sweaters and winter coats to the dry cleaner for an end of season cleaning. Then, put them in moth proof storage at the back of your closet.
  2. Soak scarves, gloves and mittens and then lay them in the sun to dry. Afterward, put them in moth proof storage at the back of your coat closet.
  3. Check the expiration date on your sunscreen and replace it if it’s past its prime. If you have more than one bottle of sunscreen in your cabinet, line them up by emptiest to fullest and plan on using up the least-full bottles first.
  4. Check bulletin boards and note centers throughout your home and office and get rid of outdated memos, calendars, and fliers.
  5. Now is also the perfect time for a sock purge. Also go through your underwear and t-shirt drawers and get rid of any items that have seen better days. Replace as necessary.

If you’re looking for even more warmer weather activities, be sure to check out our spring cleaning guide.