With the warmer weather, many people will soon be doing their annual spring cleaning. Rather than throw everything into the garbage to be hauled away to a landfill, consider some alternatives that not only will help the environment, but may even be able to make you a buck or two in the process.
eBay: The axiom "One man's junk is another man's treasure" has never been truer than today with online auction sites such as eBay. All of the stuff that you decide you no longer need can be placed on eBay to earn some extra dollars. The issue most people have with eBay is the time involved. Depending on the amount of stuff you no longer need, it could take several months to clear it all out if you place it on eBay yourself. Doing it yourself will likely get you the most money, but if the main priority is to get the items out of your house as quickly as possible, eBay still offers an option. There are plenty of people who will sell your stuff on eBay for a percentage of the profit. You can search on the eBay site for "trading assistants" in your area to help you sell the stuff. There are also more and more retail outlets where you can bring in your items and drop them off for the store to sell on eBay. If it's a choice between throwing it into the trash and making a few bucks, this might be the way to go.
Craigslist: Another option is to place your unwanted items for sale on a site like Craigslist. This is especially useful for larger items that would cost quite a bit to ship. Since Craigslist is a classified outlet connecting buyers and sellers near your home community, it will be much easier to sell large items such as furniture and appliances where locals can come and pick them up, rather than through an online auction. Unlike eBay, there are no fees to list an advertisement, so it can also be a good place to list items that you aren't sure will sell.
Garage sale: If you have a large assortment of items that you want to get rid of, a garage sale may be an option. While it will take some preparation and time, it can be a fun family event. It will also make you some extra money for things that you were going to throw out anyway, and you can clear your house of all the unwanted items over a weekend.
Donate: Another option is to take everything down to your local charity. While you won't get any money upfront for the items, you can get a receipt for all the stuff that you donate. The value of these items can then be written off on your taxes if you itemize. If you choose to go the eBay or Craigslist route, anything that doesn't sell can also be donated to charity for the tax write-off.
Sell directly: There are certain items that you may be getting rid of that you can sell directly to Web sites or retail outlets. For example, if you have old cell phones that you no longer need, you can sell them directly to a company such as CellForCash. Clothes that are in good shape can be taken to a consignment shop. CDs, books and DVDs can be taken to used-book stores.
Trade: Sites such as Zunafish allow you to trade old CDs, DVDs, video games and books for others you have been looking to purchase. While you don't get cash for them, by getting ones that you wanted, you save the expense of purchasing them on your own. The advantage of trading is that you can often get a better trade for the items than you would be able to get by selling them.
If you aren't looking to make any money and just want to get rid of the stuff, there are still ways to keep it out of the landfill.
Leave on the sidewalk: If you live in an urban area or an area that is quite busy, all you may need to do is place the stuff on the sidewalk with a sign that says "Free" on it. For many, this is probably the quickest and easiest way to get rid of the stuff. In many urban areas, everything you place on the sidewalk will be gone in less than a day.
Freecycle: For those who don't have the sidewalk option, you can list the stuff on Freecycle. This is a community-based board where you list things that you no longer want, and anyone who wants them can claim them and pick them up. You'd be surprised at what others want, and virtually anything that you list will likely be claimed.
Which method you choose ultimately depends on how much time and effort you want to expend on getting everything out of your house. Still, one of these methods should fit your time constraints and give all those things that you don't want a new life outside of the landfill.
Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.