Personal Stories – The perils of decluttering

I have developed a personal philosophy against keeping things that are no longer useful to me. Practicing what I preach, I have used various means to get rid of old stuff. Here us a run down of the pros and cons of each method:

Recycling: Personally dropping your waste off at a reputable recycling center is the only method of ensuring my old junk doesn't end up in some landfill (here or in China). In my county, most waste can be recycled for free, but my local waste company charges by the pound for electronic waste. Electronic waste is a huge source of clutter and also deceptively heavy. Two old Power Macs, an HP laser printer, giant old scanner, busted TIVO, and some old mac keyboards and uni-button mice weight 156 pounds and cost us $86 to recycle. Plus I had to drive an hour to get to the recycling hub, which added another $5 in gas. I never felt so violated by helping save the planet.

Chucking Stuff in the Garbage: This is the disposal of last resort. I wish recycling were easier (and cheaper). We pay for monthly trash pickup, and normally my family's single 13 gallon trashbag is dwarged by the giant plastic trashcan on wheels.

Leaving things on the curb: My town has a once a year dump day and will take almost anything you leave by the curb. Dump day weekend is marked by a parade of old trucks and vans that circle the neighborhoods looking for choice trash. My wife and I made bets on how long it woud take for someone to haul off a dresser and it was absconded while we were still talking. You can leave things on the curb anytime; I recommend arranging trash for easy picking and placing a "free" sign on it to remove any doubt of disownership. Cost to us: nothing.

Goodwill: Useful but relatively worthless electronics can find a good home through donation. Some people actually watch video tapes on analog televisions and listen to CDs on 2 speaker sound systems. Donations are tax deductible so we made a little money on that deal.

Garage Sale: My wife an I had a garage sale after our marriage to get rid of all of the duplicate items. We got rid of a lot of stuff in one day, but it was a lot of work and when it was over, we still had a lot of stuff to get rid of. In fact, we are still trying to get rid of it all 3 years later. Be garage sale smart: put the big items closest to the street, advertise you high value items like DVDs and games, and be willing to accept any price, no matter how low. You can make some good money if you run a sale right.

Craigslist: What has happened to Craislist? It seems to have been infected by scammers and consumer ignorant sellers and buyers. I don't want to put money into an escrow account in England or trade my old laptop for Honda Civic parts. I was a little creeped out by the guy who met me in his pajamas and gave me a $100 bill for 50 of my DVDs. I recommend treating Craigslist like a garage sale in gang territory: be discrete and sell it cheap.

Ebay: I hate ebay and PayPal. They make you pay and are not your pal. But my mother-in-law has an ebay business and sold some action figures for me. She knew what she was doing and sold them for more than I expected. However, she really didn't care for answering all of the buyers' questions and the tedious packaging and mailing each figure. I can't blame her. Ebay is perhaps the best way to get market price for a single item but requires the most work of any method listed here.

Consignment stores: This is something my wife and I have discussed but haven't tried. The idea is great: selling and buying used stuff for it's actual market value. Maybe after people are fed up with the hassles of Ebay and Craigslist, consignment stores will really take off.

To summarize: 1. Sell an item as soon as you no longer need (before it can depreciate any further). 2. If you can't sell it,  give it away. 3. If you can't give it away, recycle it. 4. If you can't recycle it, trash it. 5. Ponder why you have so much junk in the first place.

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