Spring Cleaning!

A clutter-free home, a clutter-free workspace, and a clutter-free desk all lead to brighter insights, more calm work and play, more attractive spaces for your personal life and your professional endeavors, and all in all give you that sense of calm and relief that come with knowing the only things in your path are the things you actually need for the things that you do, and the things that you really do want around.

The weather’s getting warm, the sun’s in the sky longer, and all the trees are flowering and starting to get green and leafy – that can only mean one thing: it’s spring cleaning time again!

Granted, if you’re good and keep your pad tidy all year long, you won’t have to deal with something like spring cleaning to really get your house in order, but it’s a great opportunity for a fresh start in a number of ways, including opening the windows and shaking out the old linens from the winter.

Now then, the blooming trees and the warm weather are great excuses to get things in order and get the old clutter out of the house; that’s what spring cleaning is for–it’s an opportunity to get rid of the old, busted, useless, and unwanted in order to make room for the new, shiny, desirable, and all things new in your life. Now then, if you’re standing at the door to your house or apartment and you already have an idea of what you want to get rid of but you just don’t know what to do with it, this guide might help you.

Let’s dive into some of your options below the jump.

  • Throw it out! Make room for better things.

    By far the simplest and most obvious option, which is why I’m getting it out there good and early. In some cases it’s as simple as dragging your stuff to the curb or closest dumpster, but in other cases – especially when it comes to tech gear like old computers or televisions – you should dispose of them properly. If you’re getting rid of an old TV or a couple of old laptops or computer cases, make sure you contact your local e-cycling center, e-cycling group, or regional waste management office to find out the best ways to be rid of your old technology. And remember, you can always follow my guide: 5 Good Reasons to Ditch Your Old Computer, which can help you rid yourself of old tech as well.

    In some places, local community groups, county governments, environmental groups, or colleges and universities schedule regular recycling days, where people from miles around can bring their old technology to have it recycled, their old papers and personal documents to have them all securely shredded and recycled, and any other junk they want to get rid of to have it properly disposed of. Look around for one of these events; it might make a perfect weekend to get all of your old junk into the car and then drive it to someone who’ll handle the disposal for you, guilt-free.

    If you’re sure you don’t have anything that needs to be specially disposed of, you can always call a junk removal service like 1-800 Got Junk that will come to your house, ask you to point at the pile of stuff you don’t want, and they’ll take it all away for you. The trick with services like that is that they cost money, so be careful when you use them.

    Even so, just chucking the old stuff is one way to make sure you tidy up your place for spring. You’ll probably be able to tell the things that just no longer have any value to anyone or that you don’t want falling into anyone else’s hands for one reason or another. These go in the “Trash” pile.

  • Donate it! Someone else can make good use of it.

    Donating old stuff is probably my favorite way of getting rid of old media, clothing, and even in some cases, technology. Check with your local Goodwill Industries location or branch or your local Salvation Army first to make sure the items you want to donate are accepted by them, and even if they’re not, give what you can and get creative with the other things.

    When it comes to clothes, DVDs, CDs, books, and even cheap oakley furniture, you’ll probably find that the Salvation Army or Goodwill will be more than happy to help take the stuff off of your hands. In some areas, they’ll even come pick the stuff up from you so you don’t have to haul it to your local store or branch!

    In some cases though, you’ll have to get creative. Super-old books or books missing their covers? Technically they’re not supposed to be re-sold, so charities that operate thrift or secondhand stores won’t take them. Old magazines, like that 2 year old collection of Wired Magazines you have in your bookshelf? Nope – no value at all, so they’ll probably encourage you to just recycle them. I would too, but if you’re willing to get a little creative, you can likely find a number of doctor’s offices, dentist’s offices, senior centers, and elderly living homes where books in any condition or magazines of any age are more than welcome because they provide reading material for the people who visit and live there!

    I once donated an entire box of old books to a senior group home, and let me tell you the inhabitants were more than grateful for copies of some new reading material to add to their libraries, even if some of the books were a little old and pulp-fiction-y. Even if your local thrift store doesn’t accept movies or CDs, group homes, senior living communities, and even artist communes are often willing to accept donations of media in any format.

    Technology is a little tricky – you’ll want to call ahead to most places first to make sure it’s even wanted. Long gone are the days where schools gleefully accepted old computers; most of them have media centers stocked with relatively new hardware, so there’s no real need for your old gear unless there’s a specific project or program where it’s useful. Even so, many thrift stores accept old computers too – just make sure you wipe that hard drive before you give it away!

    Cell phones, for example, can be donated to a local charity, but most carriers, Staples office supply stores, and Office Depot supply stores take them up to donate to battered women’s shelters so they can be reprogrammed as panic alarms – federal law says even deactivated cell phones have to be able to call 911 in an emergency, so these phones are refurbished and given out to people who’ll always have a way to call emergency services if they’re needed. Check with your wireless provider for details!

    Then there’s always Freecycling – where you connect with other people in your area, put your items up for grabs by anyone who’s interested in the vicinity, and then arrange to have them come pick it up from you. It can be a little tricky and I have heard horror stories of well-meaning people willing to give away items who wind up with someone really creepy in their homes picking up the item, but if you play it smart and safe you’ll be fine – you can even put the items out on the porch or the lawn when the appointed time comes and enjoy the luxury of someone who actually wants the item taking it away for you, no questions asked or interaction off the Web required.

    Make yourself a donate pile and stuff as much into it as possible. With a little effort (and definitely more than just hauling it to the trash), you can see your effort pay off in the cheap oakley sunglasses eyes of the people who are grateful to take the things that you’re no longer using. Just make sure the things you donate are actually usable, okay? No donating pants with holes in them already that no one could ever possibly wear.

  • Sell it! Make some cash to buy those new shinies you want.

    This one requires a bit of work, and may not be as quick as the previous two, but it probably give you the most personal reward. A lot of the items I’m sure you’ll want to get rid of probably still have some intrinsic value (not sentimental value, that’s different) and are probably worth even a few bucks to someone else. That’s where sites like eBay and Craigslist come in. A quick posting and a few photos and you may very well be on your way to making a couple of bucks off of the stuff you were planning to toss in the garbage or donate to charity.

    I’m in no way dissuading you from donating items to charity, but if you find yourself looking at something you don’t need anymore and saying “man, this would probably be worth xxx dollars to the right person,” you may have a good reason to toss it up on eBay. The trick to eBay is that there’s such an industry around it that it feels like an impregnable fortress of auctioneering that you need to take a class to understand. It’s not true – a well worded description and a non-blurry photo and anyone can sell just about anything, even if it takes a try or two. If you’re willing, you can open up your auction to the world and ship the item to the winner, but if it’s a large item and you don’t want to ship it, Craigslist allows you to post items for pick-up (in fact, this is the preferred method there, as the service is mostly location based), and eBay allows you to specify that the item is for local pick-up only.

    The trick to selling using Craigslist or eBay is that it’ll take time and likely more interaction with people in order to get rid of the things you don’t want. I’ve heard stories of people putting items up on Craigslist and being flooded with offers within minutes, so there’s the likelihood your item could go fast, but it’s definitely not a “get rid of it in a weekend” kind of affair. Also, you still have to watch out for scammers and spammers that live on both services.

    Regardless of the time required, it might be worth it if you have a few things you’re willing to part with that you know would be worth a little money. Just set them off to the “sell” pile and deal with them later.

    One of the best things about springtime is that the yard sales and garage sales start up in earnest, and you’ll start seeing signs around your neighborhood or community announcing an upcoming sale on the weekend – or even better, a community sale, meaning a bunch of families get together to sell their used items at once. If you live in a neighborhood that frequently has them or you’re willing to set it up yourself, you may gather enough items to leave the Web behind entirely and have an old-fashioned yard sale! Participate! You’ll never know who’s interested in the things you have, and you never know, you may be able to directly trade something you don’t want for something you do.

    Just get up early though – the good stuff goes early at most yard sales!

Remember that above all, the goal of spring cleaning is to give yourself a fresh start and get the old stuff out to make room for the new – or for nothing at all, for that matter. Most of us have too much “stuff” in our lives anyway, if you need an excuse to tidy up and get rid of the junk that’s probably cluttering up your life, why not take a brand new spring season as that motivation. Anytime is a good time to streamline your life – you don’t have to be the geek who manages to barely fit his or her chair among the piles of old computer coffins and cases; you can be the geek with the zen-like workspace that’s devoid of extra junk and nonsense (unless it’s the junk and nonsense you want – no way I’m getting rid of the figures on my desk!) and the apartment that has plenty of storage space, even if you’re not actively using it.

Plus, all of the things you aren’t using that you’re holding on to for no reason than to sate your inner pack rat (or for useless geek cred – I mean really, who are you trying to impress? You know you’ve got skills, have confidence in them, you don’t need junk to prove it!) could be recycled into something useful, go to good use in someone else’s hands, or make you a bit of coin on the way out the door.





3 responses to “Spring Cleaning!”

  1. davidd Avatar

    Another option for clearing out those books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines might be your local library. The Friends of the Library in my town sponsors monthly used book sales, the proceeds of which support the library. Items for donation may be dropped off at the library during regular operating hours. The library here also accepts used magazines in good condition. They have a “free magazine shelf” where donated magazines are put out for people to take. Check out your local library to see if they offer similar programs.

    eBay has recently become more attractive to occasional sellers in that the insertion fee (the fee you pay to list your item) has been reduced to ZERO — that’s right, it’s FREE — if your starting price is less than one dollar. If it’s something you were thinking about tossing or donating anyway, but were wondering if it might bring a few bucks, snap a couple of quick pics and post it up with a low starting bid… ‘cuz ya never know with eBay!

    eBay has also simplified their final value fee schedule (the amount you pay if your item sells): it’s now a flat 9% commission on the sales price, with a $50 maximum fee.

    A caution about eBay: be aware of the cost of shipping. Shipping costs have gone WAY up over the past several months. Your best bet for most items is a USPS Flat Rate envelope or box. If you can pad a small item and squeeze it into a Flat Rate envelope, you can ship it for five bucks. The Flat Rate box prices have gone up to $11 for the small box and $14.50 for a larger size. If your item won’t fit in a Flat Rate box, be sure to box it up and get a shipping quote before listing your item on eBay. It’s easy to watch your profit evaporate at the post office, and even walk away from a deal with a net loss, if you’re not careful about shipping. Try to avoid listing your item with a vague “buyer will be charged actual shipping cost.” You’re much more likely to sell your item if you provide a shipping cost in your listing. All that being said, it’s a lot of fun to see some goofy little piece of junk you were going to throw out surge up to fifteen or twenty dollars in the last few minutes of eBay bidding. As long as you don’t go in expecting to make a fortune, eBay can be an entertaining option for clearing out some clutter and maybe picking up a few extra bucks.

  2. Alan Henry Avatar

    Excellent catch on donations to your local library! Most libraries are definitely looking for and willing to accept your donations of old media, from DVDs to CDs to old paperback books – and if they don’t want them in their collection, they’ll probably sell them to raise money for the library, so it’s a double win! Great tip!

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