Excess Stuff – Sell It or Donate It?

I read an interesting blog this past week by the Clark Howard Staff. It was entitled “39 ways to sell your old stuff for the most cash”. Below are some tidbits from their blog and my take on it.

According to the Wall Street Journal report several years ago, Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on goods and services they don’t need. According to Orlando Sentinel, nearly one out of 10 American households rents a storage facility, costing anywhere from $125 to $165 a month. Of those who rent the storage areas, 65% have a garage, 47% have an attic, and %33 have a basement!

It’s obvious that we have a lot of stuff we don’t need and that we are paying monthly just to keep those things out of sight.

The blog’s take is to get money by selling these items. A lot of good ways are mentioned including ebay, Bonanza, eBid, Etsy, and Craigslist. For designer clothes they mention Tradsey,com, Poshmark, The Real Real, Threadflip, 99Dresses, and Buffalo Exchange. They also suggest consignment stores. For gold, firearms, musical instruments, and collectibles, they suggest Pawn Shops. They then go on to list yard sales, and a couple of links for selling to people who live nearby and links for used electronics. They even list some websites to help you determine value of collectible items or antiques.

The first step is getting organized.

I have some clients that have 25 or even 40 years of “stuff “in their basements, attic, spare rooms, offsite storage, garages, etc. Most of the stuff is stored there because:

  • It just needs fixing
  • I’ll need it someday
  • It was inherited
  • My children may want it
  • It brings back great memories
  • I think it’s valuable
  • I’m holding it for someone

The sort begins. This I plan to keep. This I plan to sell. This I need to give to ____ if they want it. This is trash.

They may be fairly good at culling out what they plan to keep (but usually some of these items will also have to go). And the very obvious trash is taken out. But it is the “This I plan to sell” piles that begin to become unreasonable – especially if they are looking at a deadline. And the “This I need to give to__”  also takes a lot of time.

I encourage these people to keep in mind that selling takes time and the return is not as great as they might think. All of the “keep to sell” items will need a further sort and a decision on how they are going to sell them. The items will need to be cleaned, polished, or repaired.

As they sort through their items, I would rather the self talk be more of “Would I go 20 miles and spend over $20 for this?” rather than “Someone might buy this.” I would encourage every sorting session to end up with a big pile of items to donate and trash with just a few items for the sale pile.

Those items that are going to be sold could be divided into possibly real value and good items for a garage sale. Then, if time is an issue, hire someone to do your selling. That person can also usually help you determine what really is worth the time and expense to put it on the market and what is not. If they plan to have a garage sale, they should be aware that the sale also takes a lot of time sorting, organizing, advertising, setting up, and holding the sale.

Just think about it. Think what your time is worth. Then decide and act.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

The Zone Plan – Workshop/Garage Zone

I choose to work in the workshop/garage zone during September. The weather has begun to cool down. Summer equipment is ready to clean and store. Fall yard equipment needs to be accessible.

Storage areas can get pretty messy and unorganized in a year. They are not in your main living area and therefore not so visible. It is so easy just to walk in and dump items “just for now.”

I actually have two areas to tackle. One is a small room off the carport that also holds the hot water heater. The other is our shed house behind our home. Whatever your zones are, you should start with deciding the purpose of the area. In your zone, do you plan to:

  1. Park your car
  2. Store your trash cans/recycling
  3. Store gardening tools and accessories
  4. Have a potting area
  5. Have a workbench for projects and a place to hold tools
  6. Store bikes and other sports equipment/outdoor games/camping gear
  7. Store outdoor entertainment supplies

Once you deicide how you will use these storage areas,  bring everything outside. If this is a large or much filled area, do it by sections. Sort like with like. Put aside items that are broken or have not been used in the past year. If an item is broken, decide if you need to replace it or just trash it. If you have items that are duplicates or that you no longer use, donate them. Tool banks can make good use of your extra items. (http://toolbank.org ) Get rid of expired seeds, old chemicals, and paints.

Knock down cobwebs and sweep the floor of the area you have emptied. Now decide where each zone should go. If you are working in your garage and plan to park your car, pull the car in now and mark off the space with tape. Allow plenty of room for the car doors to open.

You want to place items that you regularly access near entrances. As you are grouping your items in each zone, look for containers to hold small items that are rattling about. A clear shoebox without the lid can hold gardening gloves; a flat basket can hold gardening tools. Maximize your wall space. Utilize shelves, pegboards, hooks, and nails to keep items off the floor. Avoid stacking containers as you are sure to want something that is in the bottom container. Label the containers.

You’ll be amazed at how much more room you have now that you have discarded some items and bunched together and stored away the rest. Now reward yourself. A hot shower and a cool drink on the deck my be just the thing.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Children and Clutter

While it has been a long time since I have had children living in my home, I remember some of the “stuff” that started pouring into our home before the first little guy even arrived. I look around at friends and clients with children and grandchildren and see how the “stuff” can take over parts of the home.

Each new child in a household increases family possessions by 30% and that’s just in their preschool age. How can that happen? Extra furniture, clothes, linens, toys, and bottles are just the beginning. Before the baby actually arrives, these new belongings are usually stored in the “baby’s” room and perhaps some of the kitchen. But then they explode onto counter tops, floors, and tables throughout the house.

The United States has 3.1% of the world’s children but we own 40% of all the toys bought worldwide. All of these items come into the home by way of our own purchases, baby gifts, and continual grandparent gifts, and then they tend to stay.

So what is the answer to all of this incoming clutter?

  1. Every season look over clothing. Are you planning on having more children? If so, take the outgrown clothes and really look at them. Are they torn or stained? Did you really like them? Discard all that you would not use again and then store in labeled tubs those clothes that you are keeping. If this is your last planned child, donate or give to friends the clothes that are still in good shape.
  2. Every 6 months look over toys and books. If your child has outgrown them, either pack them away or store them for the next child or donate.
  3. Encourage grandparents to give gifts that give a memory (think trips or events) instead of physical items.
  4. Be selective in what you buy. Buy a few quality items instead of an abundance of the latest fads. Teach your children to take care of their toys and each holiday or birthday encourage your children to donate some of their gently used toys to others and discard unwanted toys that are broken.
  5. As children get older, have them be an active part of the purging process. Each season have them choose the items that they really love and/or feel they need, and then donate the rest. Teach them that each and everything they own must have a place to be put away.

While there is no way not to increase clutter with children, there are ways to control it.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Off the Floor and Out the Door

You’ve had enough of all the clutter lying around. You decide to take action – either by yourself, with a friend, or with a professional organizer.

You start the sorting process. This box I keep. This box I donate. This box is for items that I plan to give to specific people. This I trash. This I will try to sell. You are on a roll. But time gets away from you and you need to stop for a while. You know that you still have a lot to do. So, you just stack up those sorted boxes and get on with life.

Much, much later, you start in again – and then later you start yet again. Meanwhile, those sorted, labeled boxes are stacking up.


You don’t have to finish the whole job before getting those boxes out of your space.

Go through the keep box. Ask yourself where you would use these items. Take the items to that space even if it messes that space up a bit.

Put the donate boxes into your car and in the next day or two take them to your donation site. If you have time, inventory them for a receipt. If you have not had time for 2 years to inventory the items – just take them anyway.

Take the items from the box for specific people. As yourself when you will see those people next. Make a note to take the item to them at that time. If it will be more than several months, you might mail the item. Remaining items put in your gift holding area until the proper time.

Trash – well, you probably did do that one.

Go through the sell boxes. Decide now – are you going to consign them, take them to an antique shop or flea market, or get someone to put them on Craig’s list or EBay for you? Make those contacts and see what will sell. If after a couple of years of saving up stuff thinking you will eventually have an estate sale, ask yourself how much will you really make? Is it worth having your house look like a storage unit for the last few years?

Get everything you have sorted out of your living space. Then, repeat the process when you have the time. You can do this decluttering project in bites. Reward yourself after every round! Enjoy your open space.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing the Breakfast Room Using the Zone Plan

It’s finally spring! Many people like to do their “spring cleaning” at this time of year. I prefer to do a “zone plan” and do my deep cleaning/purging/organizing all year round. I divide my home into 10 zones and work on one zone a month – skipping the months of July and December. By the end of the year, I have touched everything in my home and rearranged items to fit my currrent vision.
This month I focus on my breakfast room. It is located at my back entrance so for you this might be your mud room or another small room in your home. I use this room for overflow for parties, storage for rarely used cooking wares, party supplies, food storage containers, china, and crystal. I also have a closed top shelf that holds suitcases and baskets. I like this room to be open, inviting, and light.
This year, as I go through my storage closet, I will pack up my good china and silver. I no longer use these items when entertaining. I have a son and daughter-in-law who will be glad to inherit these items now. I may also have food containers that have lost their lids or party decorations that no longer fit my style. All of these items will go. I am sure I have a suitcase or two that I have not used in the past couple of years. These will be donated. My goal is to eliminate items in every area. New things come in during the year so some items must be discarded each year or my space will become crowded and disorganised. As I clear the shelves, I deep clean.
At the end of the month, I will put fresh flowers on the table and look forward to throwing a party soon.
For more help on organizing your space, order my workbook From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home. http://timespaceorg.com/order_book.php

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

10 Things to Throw Out Now

Sometimes we just want to declutter or organize our home but just don’t know where to start.
What are somethings we have in our home that take up space but are really “no brainers” when it comes to a quick, easy purge?

1. Excess paper– This paper can be computer printouts that you no longer need, copies of paid bills, unnecessary receipts, or even old newspapers and articles. Quickly sort through your mounds of paper stuck here and there and see how much can quickly go into the trash or recycle bin. Keep asking yourself, “Why do I need this?” and “What is the worst thing that can happen if I throw this away?”

2. Extra clothes hangers or speciality hangers you are not using. Open each closet door and look inside. Pull out all those old wire hangers or hangers that you bought for a specific purpose and never use.  Return the wire ones to your dry cleaner and recycle the rest.

3. Ratty bed linens and towels. Think about how many linens and towels you really need. Two sets of bed linens for each bed (you can also count the sofa bed) and 2 sets of towels for each person living in your home plus 2 sets for each guest room are usually plenty. Now take the mismatched and threadbare other linens and donate them to a vet or animal rescue center.

4. Extra vases and flower pots. Save the ones you have used in the past year and let the rest go. It will be great to have that extra shelf space. Florists will be glad to get your donations.

5. VHS tapes, cassette tapes, unused video games, CDs you no longer play. Why are you keeping these? If it is a really special VHS of a family wedding, get it digitized. These items take up a lot of space.

6. Exercise Equipment that you aren’t using. More people use a treadmill to hang clothes on that to use as intended. If you haven’t used this stuff in the past year, let it go and give someone else a chance using it. This is also true of water bottles. I have seen whole shelves of these bottles picked up at some event and then not used.

7. Make up and hair accessories. Let go of all those samples you got because they came “free” with a purchase. You might let go of those “free” cosmetic bags, too. Women’s shelters would love some of this. Curling irons, flat irons, rollers that you no longer use can also be easily given away. You’ll love the extra room in your bathroom.

8. Old electronics. Fax machines, printers, phones, cables, chargers, and items you have forgotten what they even are. Let them go. What cables and accessories you keep, put in plastic bags and label them.

9. Kitchen items that only have one use. Cherry pitters, crab mallets, grapefruit spoons, egg cups, or any item that you have not used in the past year. These really mess up your kitchen drawers and shelves.

10. Games, puzzles, old hobbies paraphernalia. If you no longer do puzzles, if you have not played that game in years, if you don’t really think you’ll use that wooden tennis racket, let it go.  Others may now enjoy what you no longer use. Donate these or give to friends and family.

Now, don’t you feel free?

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Last Minute Holiday Organizational Tips

Christmas is just around the corner. What can we do now to make this Christmas and the next a little less stressful?

As the Christmas cards come in, take the time now to check addresses and update your contact list. Plan now on how you want to handle the card you receive – especially those with personal pictures and notes. I do not keep cards unless there is a very special note or picture. Then the card will go into a memorabilia box. If you like to use favorite cards as gift tags for the next year, put those cards in a small box and label them “gift tag cards.” If you want to keep some of the pictures, consider scanning them as they come in. Another option is to place them in your memorabilia box with other family photos. If you plan to answer notes in the cards, schedule the time to do this now or very likely they will be sitting in a bag or basket for the whole year. (This I know very personally.)

Wrapping Paper:
I encourage you to let go of those little bits and pieces of the roll that are left after wrapping your gifts. You might want to keep some smaller pieces to use as gift tags. If this is your plan, place the small pieces in an envelope or folder to protect them. Paper that came off gifts you received might be kept for next year if it is pristine. The same can be said for keeping and reusing gift bags. If you find that you have a lot of paper left from previous years, now is the time to decide what you really love and let the excess go. Tissue paper can be used to wrap fragile ornaments when packing up after the holidays. Do have one place to store your entire holiday wrap.

Start your gift list for next year now. What have you discovered that your friends and family really love? Make a list. Keep a list of all clothing sizes. Shop all year round and keep all gifts that you buy in one place. This shows you how much you already have when the holiday shopping season hits next year. Tag the items with the names of who you thought of when you bought the gift.

After Christmas, wrap up carefully all your decorations that you plan to keep and use next year. As you box them, divide them up so that it will facilitate putting them out next year. I have all early advent items in the top of one marked box. Others, who do more extensive decorating, mark boxes by the rooms where the decorations are used. Discard broken or unloved items.

As you receive gifts, now is the time to donate what you no longer need or love. If you receive a new coffee pot, donate the old one. If you got a new robe, let the old one go to charity. Have children participate in clearing out toys they no longer love to make room for their new gifts.

Have a happy holiday season!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Valentine Day Clutter

Valentine Day rolls around every February. Cards and gifts are exchanged. Depending where you are in your life, this can be just a few items or a ton.

If you have small children, they will be making you gifts and cards. They also will be receiving many cards and Valentine items from school or interest groups.

A special someone in your life may give you a card and/or a gift.


Now, let’s look at someone 60+ years of age. What if you kept every card, every remembrance, every dried flower? That could be very overwhelming.

Then what do you do with all of these handmade or carefully chosen cards and gifts?

This is a very personal decision but I am pretty sure you don’t want them lying around all over your house.

  1. Box up the best and label them. Then put them away on a shelf and if you wish, once a year, take them out to look at and remember.
  2. Take a picture of a group of cards or items and then let them go.
  3. Make a collage of the best cards and bring it out for decoration each Valentine Day.
  4. Save the best – the ones with meaningful messages written inside or a special poem – and let the rest go. Put the significant items in a special box.
  5. Pass on old cards to schools or nursing homes so that they can re-purpose them into projects.

If this seems like an overwhelming task, break down the project into manageable bits of time and then move on to something else. Get help from someone who will help you talk through why you want to keep certain items and give you permission to let items go. After all, when you toss out a card that your mother gave you 20 years ago, you are not tossing out your mom.

Letting go of some of the memorabilia will clear up space for more happy memories to come your way.

Happy Valentine Day!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer