Get Rid of Clutter

Is your home drowning in clutter? We'll show you what to keep, what to toss, and how to reclaim your space.

TOYS:

Keep: Hang on to her favorite teddy bears, his first baby toy, toys with sentimental meaning, and heirloom gifts you may want to pass down (that handcrafted wooden rocking horse or Madame Alexander doll collection).

Donate: Give new toys to a children's hospital (maybe you got three Candy Land games for a birthday) and those in good condition to a local day-care center, shelter or even your pediatrician's office; offer the rest to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

Sell: Parents hunt for toy bargains at yard sales and through eBay.

Toss: Get rid of broken toys that can't be fixed and dirty, noncollectible stuffed animals, which are nearly impossible to sell or donate.

BOOKS:

Keep: Shelve your family's favorites, classics, first-edition hardcovers, glossy art, travel and photography books, and those you've received as gifts with inscriptions from close friends or relatives.

Donate: Give books in good condition to libraries, shelters, hospitals, children's reading or afterschool programs, senior centers, or to servicemen and women fighting overseas (log on to booksforsoldiers.com).

Sell: Earn cash at a local used bookstore or on half.com or amazon.com (just click on "sell your stuff")

Toss: Recycle outdated health books and torn or damaged paperbacks. Check earth911.org to find a recycling site near you.

LINENS:

Keep: Quality linens can last ten years or longer, but cheaper ones start to show wear and tear after just a year. Then it's time to recycle. Keep only towels that are still absorbent and sheets that aren't torn, faded, or frayed.

Donate: Local animal shelters need old towels, blankets, and sheets for bathing and bedding cats and dogs.

Recycle: Keep old sheets on hand in the garage to use as drop cloths or to cover furniture when you paint or do other renovation projects. Towels and ripped-up sheets are great for shining shoes, mopping up messes, polishing furniture or silverware, and washing the car. Kids can also use sheets for rainy-day fort- or tent-making.

ELECTRONICS:

Donate: Unwanted but working computers can go to local schools or charitable organizations. (Find charities at change.net.) Mobile phones can be refurbished and donated to women's shelters, public schools, and various charities (visit collectivegood.com or wirelessfoundation.org for a listing of programs). The Salvation Army and Goodwill thrift stores accept TVs, stereos, appliances, and other household electronics.

Sell: You can list anything that still works through eBay.

Recycle: Because electronics contain hazardous materials, they need to be disposed of properly. Recycle old and broken PC equipment. For information, visit electronicsrecycling.org. Another great resource is earth911.org. Just enter your zip code to locate your nearest recycling center or a list of donation sites. Hewlett-Packard (hp.com) and Dell (dell.com) offer recycling services and accept computer equipment from any manufacturer. Small fees may apply. For information on where to drop off old phones, visit recyclewirelessphones.com<.</p>

PHOTOS:

Keep: Hang on to your pictures of special occasions, gatherings of friends and family, vacations, baby milestones, pets, and happy times.

Give Away: Send doubles of adorable or meaningful pix to Grandma and Grandpa.

Organize: Keep those precious memories easily accessible. Go through photos as soon as you get them developed. Frame favorites or sort them into photo albums or boxes right away, recording the date and event. If you're going digital, save and label photos on your computer in folders; back up files or burn them onto CDs. You can also store them in an online photo album that you can share with friends (check out and shutterfly.com).

Toss: Dump unflattering, blurry, or poorly composed shots and those of people you can't recognize.

KIDS' ART:

Keep: Store love notes, homemade cards, and favorite smallish artwork in sheet protectors in a three-ring binder.

Recycle: Use art to wrap gifts, make pretty book covers for school texts, or as get-well or any-occasion cards.

Give Away: Frame pretty pictures as birthday and holiday gifts for close relatives.

Toss: If you hate to sneak those everyday doodles into the trash, let your child tape drawings on his bedroom walls, in the mudroom, or in a bathroom. When every inch is covered, take a photo of him in front of his art gallery. Let him keep a couple of his favorites, store them in a portfolio along with the photo, and toss the rest. For the technophiles: Scan artwork or take digital photos and burn a CD; kids can watch a slide show whenever they want.

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Copyright © 2005. Reprinted with permission from the February 2005 issue of Parents magazine.

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