It's that time of year again, when we're all busy making New Year's resolutions to eat healthier meals, exercise more frequently, and spend more quality time with our kids. These are all great goals, and all areas where I could certainly stand to improve.
But I've got a more urgent resolution for the new year: to get rid of all my extra stuff.
When you've got kids, the stuff just seems to come with the territory. You accumulate clothes that stopped fitting three years ago, and toys that are missing parts and batteries. School projects and milk carton piggy banks that we "absolutely have to keep, Mommy" pile up in the closet.
And of course you keep the baby swing and the bouncy seat and even the baby bathtub, just in case you actually decide to take the plunge and have that next baby after all.
But this year, I'm decluttering my life and getting rid of all my extra stuff. What am I going to do with it? Fortunately, there are lots of great options.
I like donating items because it's a great way to teach children about helping those who are less fortunate. Places like children's hospitals, church nurseries, and local homeless or women's shelters usually welcome donations of toys and stuffed animals, and a lot of children are more likely to part with their possessions when they're able to see where they're going and know that they're going to make another child happy.
Charitable organizations like Goodwill and Vietnam Veterans of America can also be good choices. Both accept tax-deductible donations of clothing and other household items, and Vietnam Veterans of America will even pick your items up at your house for free.
You can do just about everything online these days, and selling anything that someone else might pay for is no exception. At www.craigslist.org, you can post descriptions of what you're selling (with pictures for the best results), name your price, and wait for buyers in your local area to respond. There's an entire category devoted to baby and kid's items, as well as categories for just about everything else you can imagine, and the site is heavily visited.
The biggest drawback to using Craigslist is the fact that you have to make arrangements for transfer of items once you've sold something, which can mean meeting up with a total stranger. Most people you'll meet are very nice, but there's always the possibility that you're dealing with someone who isn't very trustworthy. And if you're not computer savvy and can't upload pictures of your items, you probably won't get the best results.
Unlike Craigslist, which is primarily local, eBay has the potential to reach a worldwide audience. However, it's more complicated to use, and there are fees to list your items. You'll also be responsible for shipping an item once it sells.
If you have antiques or collectibles, or unique items that you can't sell locally, eBay might be worth checking into. Most items are sold by auction, so if you have something valuable that other people want, you have a chance to make a decent profit. Using eBay can be time consuming, though, so it's probably not your best bet if you're just trying clear out some old clutter.
4. Consignment/Resale Shops
Most cities have at least one consignment or resale shop for children's clothes, toys, and accessories. I've had success in the past taking my children's gently used items to Once Upon A Child, a children's resale shop which has franchise locations throughout the country. I like that I can take my stuff into the store without an appointment, and usually they'll be able to tell me within an hour what they want to buy and how much they will pay me for it. It's a quick and efficient way to declutter and make some cash (if you don't spend it all shopping while you wait).
At traditional consignment stores, you have to wait and see if your items sell before you make any money, so I've found that I prefer resale shops that will pay you a flat fee up front. Some people claim that they make more money per item through consignment, though. To learn more about consigning, reselling, and the advantages and disadvantages of each, check out How To Consign, a website that's loaded with great information about both consignment and resale.
5. Garage Sale
A good, old-fashioned garage sale might be the easiest way to move some stuff and make some cash without having to load everything into your car. If you have big ticket items like a crib, you'll probably get lots of traffic. And you'll get even more if you participate in a subdivision sale where buyers come out in droves, if you live in an upscale community where people expect to find nicer things, and if you advertise well (on Craigslist, for example).
Garage sales aren't without their drawbacks, though. People who frequent garage sales are usually looking for a steal, so you'll be selling your stuff for pennies on the dollar, even if it's like new. And winter is rarely the best season to hold a garage sale, so if you're decluttering now, you might need to find a place to store your stuff until spring.
6. The Freecycle Network
You won't make any money if you use The Freecycle Network, but if you have items that you can't sell and don't want, offering them up on Freecycle can be a great way to get rid of them and keep them out of a landfill. You can become a member of Freecycle for free, and then all you have to do is post your items on the local email list to see if anyone is interested in them. It's amazing the kinds of things that other people will take off your hands when they don't have to pay for it!
7. Repurpose or Recycle
I'm neither crafty nor handy, but if you happen to be or you know someone who is, you might just be able to discover a new use for your old stuff. If you have old, outdated furniture, is it something that could be refinished or reupholstered? Could you or someone you know turn those outgrown baby clothes into a beautiful quilt that will double as a cherished keepsake? Have you thought about framing your children's artwork and hanging it on your walls?
Visit the website Crafting A Green World for more crafty ideas.
8. Use Your Trash Can
I know it isn't the green way to go, but occasionally there are things that you just have to throw away. If you can't recycle it and nobody wants it, it isn't going to do you any good cluttering up your house. When it comes to decluttering, sometimes the trash can is your best friend!