Spring Clean Your Way Into Cash

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Couple Clearing Garage For Yard Sale
Mark Bowden/Getty ImagesOne man's trash is another man's treasure.
By Geoff Williams

Depending where you live, it may or may not look like warmer months lie ahead, but the calendar doesn't lie. If you're like a lot of people, you're already thinking about spring cleaning.

And, if you're like a lot of people, you're dreading it.

But keep in mind that spring cleaning doesn't have to be a complete pain in the neck. If you think about it strategically, you could make money the next time you pull out the vacuum, gloves and garbage bags. Here are four ways you could clean up while cleaning up.

Hold a garage sale. According to StatisticBrain.com, there are an average 165,000 garage sales -- or if you prefer, yard sales -- every week in the U.S., and if we were to pool all the profits, we'd have $4.2 million. Granted, on your own you probably won't get rich -- after all, the price of the average item sold at a garage sale is 85 cents. Still, it's a relatively cheap endeavor, other than your time. You can post a free ad on Craigslist or on sites like GarageSales.com.

You could also post your items on eBay (EBAY) or Amazon.com (AMZN), but if you're selling a lot of clutter, be prepared to lose some money on transaction fees and shipping costs. In other words, if you have a lot of stuff in your house that you think someone would pay good money for, but not much more than 85 cents an item, you're probably better off going with the garage sale.

Recycle for cash. You can do far more than recycle the aluminum cans or copper wiring you have lying around -- although that's a start. For instance, there's a company that may recycle your cellphone, tablet or MP3 player. EcoATM.com, for example, tells you where to find the nearest ecoATM, which looks like an ATM, and into which you can drop your device for an appraisal. If you have an old iPhone, for instance, the machine might spit out as much as $400.

"EcoATM takes over 5,500 devices, which means even old satellite phones and text pagers might be worth something," says Randy Erman, director of product marketing for ecoATM.

Or if you have an old musical instrument gathering dust in the basement, perhaps from your high school band days, you could check out Reverb.com, an online marketplace for musical instruments and gear. You have to do the selling, which means taking a photo of the instrument and listing the item online, and there's a 3.5 percent transaction fee. In any case, if you have a good instrument that you know you'll never use, it might be a smart move.

Sell your old house parts. Maybe you're renovating and replacing something in your home that isn't broken or bad -- just old -- and you want something new. Before throwing said item away, do some research.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-Many house parts, including bathroom fixtures, appliances, cabinets, doors, an odd window and even scads of old switch plates and light fixtures can be sold or donated for reuse elsewhere.%"Many house parts, including bathroom fixtures, appliances, cabinets, doors, an odd window and even scads of old switch plates and light fixtures can be sold or donated for reuse elsewhere," says Bill Golden, an Atlanta-based Realtor with RE/Max.

This isn't just wishful thinking. There are websites that specialize in selling house parts, like HistoricHouseparts.com and Rejuvenation.com. So there may be a market for the old parts you're storing inside your house. Golden suggests selling them on Craigslist, or if you have enough items, possibly doing a yard sale, highlight in the ad that you have house parts. One of his clients did just that, which prevented her from actually having to have the sale.

"A lady who saw an ad for the sale featuring almost all house-part items bought [the] entire inventory for use in her rental properties. These things that used to be junk now often have increased cachet -- and value to you -- as they become part of green renovations," Golden says.

He adds: "It may go without saying, but your house parts will have greater value if there is some bulk there. Either a lot of different items or a good bit of one item."

Sell your stuff to a consignment or resale store. Some secondhand thrift shops will take your old clothes, CDs, DVDs, Wii games and so on, purchase them and resell them. If you don't feel like running a garage sale, it might be worth your time to stuff some items in a box and drive to a consignment or resale store.

People often interchange the terms, but there are key differences between the two. "Resale stores pay their customers cash on the spot to buy their gently used items, whereas consignment store customers wait weeks to get their money," says Jim Wollman, vice president of franchising for the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based NTY Franchising Co., the parent company of Clothes Mentor, a chain of more than 100 resale stores throughout the country.

You could, however, get paid far sooner than expected if you opt for a consignment store. You're paid after your merchandise sells, so if it sells quickly, you get paid quickly. Still, Wollman's point is correct -- with a resale store, you get your money immediately; with a consignment store, it may take awhile.

Exactly how much you get varies, and of course, all stores are different. Some focus on clothing, others sell sporting goods and some are all about selling used video games. If you go to a thrift shop, generally you're donating your used merchandise, but at least you'll get a tax deduction.

If it's not money you're after -- you just want to get that old stuff out your front door -- you could hire a professional organizer to help you clean your house, or you could call in a junk removal service. Either can easily set you back hundreds of dollars. But with any luck, even if you do hire professionals, maybe you can offset at least some of the cost by selling some items of your own. After all, you want to clean out your house, not your wallet.
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