Ready to Throw, but Where to Go?
By Ellen Oliver
“Spring cleaning” may have captured the market on inspirational phrases to motivate you to clear out the clutter from your home, but tapping into that “back-to-school” mentality is another good time to think about downsizing your items. So, you’re ready to clean out your excess treasures or inherited items, but where should it go?
Professional organizer Ann Deluty of Stow Away Organizing sees people needing help getting rid of items before a move or downsizing after the children are grown, but doesn’t think it should always cost money to get rid of your excess possessions. “I don’t like to recommend options [for getting rid of items] that cost too much money,” she said. “You should be able to downsize without paying for it.” Unfortunately, options for getting cash for your stuff are limited.
While there are places where people can sell their items online, Deluty said some people don’t like to use Craig’s List because they don’t want strangers coming to their home and E-Bay, an online auction site, requires an account and the ability to ship items. Yard sales are another popular way to earn some cash for your low value items and Deluty recommends proceeding with the decision to part with the items, even if you don’t get money in return. “If my stuff doesn’t sell, I donate it. My time is worth money,” she said.
To get rid of larger items, Deluty likes the local consignment stores, like Tables to Teapots in Acton and Still Life in Hudson. However, visit either store and a potential consignee learns that consignment does not mean antiques or junk. “They want new items, from the past two years or so,” said Deluty.
If you have a lot of no or low value items, Deluty often hires a hauler who removes items by weight. Deluty has used Junk King, who will go through the items and donate eligible items. “The owner gets a charity slip,” said Deluty. For smaller hauls of items, Deluty said buying a Bagster from stores like Ace Hardware and arranging for pick-up is a good option, however those items go into the trash.
For items with some life left in them, but not worth your time selling, Deluty recommends posting them on one of the growing number of free recycling sites, such as Freecycle (www.freecycle.org or search Yahoo groups for a local group) or the ReUsIt Network (http://www.reuseitnetwork.
Clothing consignment stores are worth a try, but they seek designer labels and newer items, leaving much of a closet in a donation bag. Most people are aware of the Salvation Army in Hudson, drop-off boxes in the area or one of several charitable organizations who will pick up your goods and leave you a donation receipt for your tax return.
Before you trek to a local box or donation center, check the accepted items list on the internet since charities are limiting what they will accept. “Goodwill and Salvation Army are getting pickier about what items they will take,” she said. “The Salvation Army won’t take a table without chairs or a used couch,” said Deluty.
If you have excess large or small household items, Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts (HGRM – www.hgrm.org) in Acton accepts goods to outfit a home from dishes to prints. HGRM then offers the items free of charge to people in need, such as domestic abuse or disaster victims, who are starting from scratch to furnish a home. Items can be dropped off in Acton during set times, but a donation is requested if you would like your goods picked up. The items they will accept changes depending on their needs, but their website says they take mattresses and upholstered furniture in good condition. If you really want to sell your upholstered furniture, Deluty recommends Craig’s List.
Another area to target when reducing clutter is toys. After yard sales, Deluty recommends Freecycle again for most items. “Parents have a hard time getting rid of Legos and Duplos. They’ve watched their kids spend hours playing with them,” she said. “With Freecycle, you see it go to a family who will enjoy them like your kids did.”
Stuffed animals are “dead on the market” according to Deluty because of concerns about germs. Deluty said people occasionally post requests for plush animals on Freecycle or Craig’s List, usually to support a specific need such as one woman’s search to provide teddy bears for State Troopers to keep in their cars to comfort a child after a traumatic event.
Keeping in mind all areas of your home, you can recycle electronics thanks to the annual Boy Scout’s Troop 1 of Stow’s fundraiser. If you have the time to break down your items into pieces, separating out the metal and saving up until you have a bulk quantity, you may be able to get money for your non-ferrous metals at metal recycling firms.
Not Sure if it’s Valuable?
If you happen to have items that are truly treasures, Deluty said professional organizers keep a list of local reputable appraisers with specialties in areas such as jewelry, sterling silver and collectibles like Limoges figurines. She also pointed to a well-known local resource with open appraisal hours. Skinner’s auction house (www.skinnerinc.com) in Marlborough hosts an open appraisals session for paintings and prints on the first Tuesday of the month from 1:30pm-4:00pm. “You can get an appraisal and if you choose to consign with us, we have the forms to sign up right then,” said Kealyan Garner.
The monthly event is very popular, so be prepared to wait in line. “It’s first come, first served so get here early,” said Garner. “You can bring three pieces per person.” The auction house also hosts other appraisal events, but they aren’t regularly held like the paintings session, so Garner recommended signing up for their newsletter to learn when events are scheduled. If you don’t want to wait, you can also make an appointment to have pieces appraised.
Deluty said thanks to the popularity of shows like “Antiques Roadshow,” local organization often hold appraisal events. “The Wayside Inn has an annual fundraiser where they have an appraiser come in,” she said, adding that organizations in Stow have hosted appraisal events as well. She also cautions people to be realistic about their goods prior to seeing an appraiser. “’Antiques Roadshow’ has given people the wrong impression. Not everything is worth something,” she said.
Professional organizers like Deluty can help you assess the probability of getting money for your items and where to have them appraised if they have value. While we may think our possessions have monetary value, realistically there are limited options to easily earn money selling used items. The best option may be to aim for donation receipts and the value of an uncluttered home.