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Get rid of your junk

Lighten up your life. Clean out your junk. Make some money!

You came into this life naked. It's now a couple decades later and you've been a good consumer so you've got all this stuff cluttering up your life. Whether you want to clean out, move away or upgrade, consider some methods to get rid of that old stuff, and maybe make some money.

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You can throw it all out, but unless it really stinks, like the chair in the Volkswagen commercial, don't do this. Think of the environment -- think of the waste. A better option is to give it away especially if the condition of your things is iffy. Giving them to charity will clean out your closets and improve your karma. Don't forget to improve your tax status as well, by asking for a receipt for next April's itemized tax deductions.

The best option of all is to sell. In other words, get rid of what you don't want and get something you do want -- cash. What a deal! Let's take a closer look at this option and the quickest ways to collect the cash.

Do-it-yourself sign
A sign in your dorm or apartment building is the most obvious and effective tactic -- can't get much more direct or cheaper. John Schmidd, a junior at Oregon State University in Corvallis, like many folks, sold his car by placing a sign in the car window. Joseph Rigg of Philadelphia also likes this approach.

"When I was leaving Los Angeles, I put a sign up in my apartment building to sell a large stand-up fan. The next day I had several interested buyers."

Garage Sale
If you have more than one item, try a garage or yard sale. You might be able to use the clubhouse of your apartment complex. Consider coordinating with similarly over-burdened friends to make it a worthwhile sale. Be careful -- don't buy too much of your friends' junk.

"You can make a whole lot of money, if you're willing to work," explains Cathy Pedigo, of Colorado Springs, Colo., and author of the booklet How to Have Big Money Garage Sales. Two important details -- get plenty of people to the sale, and make the display visually stimulating. Oh yeah, and swallow your pride while those people pick over your once-beloved belongings.

Print Classifieds
If a garage sale seems like too much of an effort, stick with classified ads. At least you can screen customers. Obviously the classifieds work best for big-ticket items (like a computer or car) because the ad itself can cost you plenty. For example, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3 lines for 4 days are $29.99; 3 lines for 8 days costs $34.99; 3 lines for 15 days are $39.99, and other newspapers' rates are similar. Print publications that have online sites generally will put your ad on the Web as part of the deal.

Online classifieds
Your college's electronic BBS connects your ad to students who might be buying what you're selling when you graduate or move. Buyers enjoy the BBS because "because you can browse through the postings;" sellers like it because it's cheap.

"We don't get a lot of ads in the Maine Campus [student newspaper] because the computer bulletin board is free," explains University of Maine student Erin Tucker.

Resale shops
Don't want to find someone to buy your stuff ? Check into a consignment shop, they'll do the selling and split the profits. Or try a used goods store for quick cash.

"There are two advantages to using a consignment [or used goods] shop," cites Larry Bossaller, owner of several Play It Again Sports stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. "There's no cost. Newspaper ads cost money. Also you won't have to handle calls and visitors to your home."

Bossaller recommends calling first to see if they even want your used sporting goods. For example, home exercise equipment that was so hot a couple years ago has close to zero marketability today.

Ready for a new computer? Unload your old one at a used computer store. A reputable used computer dealer will give you a fairly standard deal. Like used auto dealers, independently-owned Cyber Exchange purchases computers based on their "blue book value," according to John Gentile, owner of Cyber Exchange in Clearwater, Fla.

"A lot of people come in when they're upgrading," says Gentile, so Cyber Exchange takes everything, but only assesses value on and resells 300 to 500 mHz computers and higher. They also will accept your old software as a trade-in. In exchange for your computer hardware and software, you're given store credit toward any in-stock software, currently around 9,000 titles. So if you have a computer smaller/older than a 300, consider donating it to a school (and get that tax receipt).

Also popular for resale are books and CDs. Often at used book and used CD stores, you'll get credit toward future purchases rather than cash. If you're cleaning out to make room for new stuff, this is great. But if you're looking for money, call around for a store that will pay. My husband and I did this to unload our duplicate CDs when we moved in together. Since we didn't want more CDs at that time, we managed to get $85 for about 17 CDs.

Consignment shops
Consignment stores are popular with college kids who are into vintage clothing, and sometimes the students re-sell their old bellbottoms and other clothes back. Now you can finally unload those old bridesmaids dresses. But due to a lack of space, many consignment shops only accept clothes appropriate to the current season.

"If there's a stain or a button missing, we won't take it," says Teddi Dison, volunteer for the YWCA Nearly New Shop in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Nearly New combines charity and profit -- the split is 40/60, benefiting the Y, of course.

So now you have some more space in your home, and don't ya just feel lighter too? OK, take a few cleansing breaths -- and then go out there and repeat the cycle: buy, buy buy!

-- Updated: May 4, 2005




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