Clutter has taken over the American household. And I don't mean just the serious clutter that A&E features in TV shows about hoarders and storage lockers.
The size of the average American home has grown by 53% in the past 30 years, up by 800 square feet to about 2,300 square feet. If that isn't enough room, they can move their stuff to a storage facility and pay someone to keep it safe for them.If you're home isn't filled with clutter, congratulations. You've won the war and can rest easy. For the rest of us, it's a nagging headache that makes things difficult to find and opening a closet a nightmare.
The average U.S. household has approximately 35 unused items sitting around the house with a resale value of $670, says a survey that WalletPop wrote about earlier this year. Instead of putting off cleaning the attic until the new year, now is as good a time as any to start and make some money off that unused stuff.
There are many more ways to go about doing it than having a garage sale, giving things to charity or throwing things away. Some of your clutter can be sold, or at least traded for something that you'll use. And for the clutter that can't: There are plenty of online sites that will take your stuff for free.
Here are seven ways to get rid of the clutter in your home:
Sell Your Electronics
Everyone has at least a few old electronic devices around the house. Giving them to a recycler is an easy way to get rid of them, but selling or trading them is even better.
Gazelle pays cash for used gadgets, including everything from Blu-Ray players to laptops, digital cameras and cellphones. It has a handy chart that tracks how much an item has sold for in the past and what it is likely to sell for in the future, based on data such as when a new model will come out.
ReCellular buys and sells refurbished cellphones, paying an average of $30 per phone, with the range between $5 and $300. The company says that in 2009, Americans retired an estimated 130 million cellphones, and that less than 10% of them are recycled. ReCellular pays the shipping for a phone to be sold or recycled. For phones without cash value, it has more than 40,000 drop-off centers where they can be recycled for free.
NextWorth gives a Target gift card for old electronics. BuyMyTronics.com stands out for taking even broken items. Many websites will recycle your gadgets for free if they're not worth any money, but you'll likely have to pay for shipping.
For Apple products, TuneCycle pays cash for items that are either working or broken. Apple also has a recycling program and offers 10% off a new iPod if you trade it in on the same day that you make the purchase.
Sell Home Improvement Items
If you've just done a home remodeling job and have extra items such as an old sink, oven or cans of paint, you can post your listing for free at DiggersList, a site that brings together homeowners, contractors and suppliers. The service is available in 40 cities.
Unfortunately, too many used bookstores have gone out of business in recent years, leaving few places to either trade in or sell your old books. Cash4Books.net makes it easy by not only buying books, but paying for shipping and PayPal fees. It then sells them at McKenzie Books, which can give potential sellers an idea of what it's looking to buy. Amazon is another place to sell books, along with other items such as electronic gadgets.
For college students with too many textbooks filling their closets, BlueRectangle.com buys textbooks.
If you'd rather trade books so you can get new books to read, websites such as PaperBackSwap.com allow members to get books for free after earning enough "credits" by giving away books. When giving away a book, you'll have to pay for postage. One thing to note: I once belonged to one of these types of websites, and after a few months I found it too difficult to get the books I wanted because everyone was going after the same popular books.
Sell Vintage Items
While digging through that mountain of clutter, you might get lucky and come upon something that you haven't seen for years that might be worth something. How much is that potential antique worth? To find out, try WhatSellsBest.com to see what it's selling for on eBay.
Swapping or Giving It Away
If you want stuff in return, and it's stuff your child will use, then ThredUP is for you. But you don't actually have to swap to use its services; you could just be a "sender" and give used children's clothing and toys to "buyers." They pay the shipping and ThredUP's fee ($15.70) for $50 worth of stuff that you put in a box.
Beyond Craigslist--where you can sell or give items for free--there's Freecycle, which encourages giving as well as receiving stuff. There are also neighborhood clothing exchange parties to swap clothes with your neighbors.
If you don't mind getting your friends involved, Facebook is another online place to offer your old stuff for free, or for sale. Jessica Dolan, a home organizer in Pennsylvania, told WalletPop that she uses Facebook to sell stuff, especially since eBay raised its fees.
For books, CDs, movies and video games, swap them at swap.com. The more popular the item you have, the larger the chance you have for getting something great back. Swapping The Jungle Book movie, for example, will get you 106,030 items to choose from in return.
Free Pickup at Your Home
If you don't get a flier in the mail every month from some charity asking you to donate your used clothing and other items, you can find them online and schedule a pickup. The Lupus Foundation of America, for example, can set up home pickups online.
Now you have help with the most common way of making a profit off of your clutter. Websites such as GrandSlamGarageSales.com can help with a kit to turn running garage sales into a business.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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