Converting your trash into treasure - upsides and downsides

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., May. 29, 2013
- Contributed Photo

This time of year people are trying to get outside, go away, or just stay home and relax. But for many there is the need to purge the old homestead of stuff they have been storing for years, moving around all winter, or unconsciously accumulating.

The solution lies in the proverb dating back to at least the 18th century: "One man's rubbish is another man's treasure." But identifying that particular person who regards your trash as a true treasure does not come in one simple or singular way. Thankfully, we have several ways to make the connection.

The real challenge is to find out how to make the connection quickest and, hopefully, for the maximum amount of “treasure.” The route is most obvious if you have a piece of collectible trash. You find the collectors of such items, and parlay a deal. For things such things as books, precious metals and antiquities, that is easy. But the last time I assessed the treasure in my basement, I didn't see any autographed baseballs, Olympic medals or NFL championship rings.

Having wandered through all of the solutions that follow, I can recommend them all. That is to say, don't settle for selling everything through one channel. Find one that fits one or more certain items, and get the most out of it. Each channel has its own pros and cons.

Auction websites like eBay offers a worldwide audience. Whatever you get paid is found money, perhaps more than you imagined. This is the ultimate trash-to-treasure channel. Stuff that won’t sell in your driveway will fly off the online “shelf” to a worldwide market. Used basketball shoes, “vintage” Commodore computers, prom dresses. You can sell the impossible. The cost of selling these treasures is the time and effort required creating the listing, and packaging and shipping the items. Even though you get some treasure for your trash, it takes some time and consumes some space while you are waiting for the sale. And, of course, there will be some residual trash to dispose of.

The old stand-by channel is the tag sale. With a few signs and some advertising, on a good-weather day you will get traffic, people will take the stuff away, and pay you what they think it is worth to them. The cost of traveling this channel includes setting up shop and running the store for a day or a weekend. Some people just can't bear the pain. You won't get rid of everything, you might not sell those things you really want someone to take off your hands, and you may be left with the really bulky items. Residuals go to the curb. Someone may take it away in the dark of night, but the trash collector might leave it right in front of your house.  (We will come back to this.)

Do not overlook the recycling channel. Target the recycler that treasures in the type of trash you are purveying. Asking my adult children to cart off their boxes of trophy-treasures would not provide me with any treasure. So I have looked for possible outlets. in Madison, Wis., no longer accepts those plastic treasures it used to recycle to non-profit organizations for their own award programs. I have found, though, that making direct contact with organizations such as United Way, Special Olympics and Boy & Girls Clubs might give me a donation option.

Finally, donate what you cannot sell to a qualified charitable organization that will provide a receipt. Deduct those and other donations from your federal and state tax returns. Keep some money in your pocket, and, instead, picture yourself giving a refrigerator, five old pair of sneakers and six bags of clothes to the IRS or DRS. There's your treasure.

Let us know what you think!
Please be as specific as possible.
Include your name and email if you would like a response back.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the code without spaces and pay attention to upper/lower case.