Come On Board

New materials give homeowners plenty of choices when it comes to deck decisions.



ready to walk the planks? Homeowners building—or rebuilding—decks today are faced with more choices than ever, due to an ever-growing number of decking materials available. And innovative products entering the marketplace every year are changing onetime decisions (Stain? Paint?) into new choices (Softwood? Vinyl? Composite from recycled bags?). It’s not just a question of looks, performance, and price, but in some cases, politics even come into play—a big issue in today’s eco-friendly home-building market.

We’ve all experienced it. Your new dining-room set is scheduled for delivery next week and you need to find a new home for the set it’s replacing—pronto. Or maybe you’re updating your computer system and know there must be someone out there who can use the old one (it’s only two years old, after all), but how do you find a willing recipient? And sometimes you just want to throw something in the trash, but how the heck do you dispose of a used fire extinguisher?
 

(CHART?)

If you’ve ever had a hard time getting rid of something—and who hasn’t?—remember that there are plenty of options, depending upon what you’re trying to get rid of and the shape it’s in. Whether you’re redecorating or just trying to divest your house of clutter, start by taking a cold, hard look at your stuff. If there’s a market for the item and it’s in great condition, you may even be able to make a few bucks on it. (After all, one person’s trash is another’s treasure.) Even if it’s not salable, there are many non-profits looking for donations. If you can find one that wants your unwanted possessions, you can get a nifty little tax write-off and feel good about yourself to boot. For some things, there is just no hope and you’ll need to jettison them.
 

If all this is enough to make your head spin, relax. What follows are tips designed to help you take stock of your stuff—be it furniture, large appliances, electronics, renovation materials, or smaller items—and find out how best to purge your house of it.
 

Furniture
 

You’re doing a little redecorating and found the just-perfect sofa for your
living room. But now you need to find a new home for the old one—and before the fabulous purchase is delivered.

Condition: Great
 

As Antiques Roadshow has shown time and again, people are sitting on some pretty valuable treasures. If you suspect that the credenza you inherited from your great-aunt Sarah may be a precious antique, have it appraised by a professional. A certified appraiser can also give you an idea of what you could expect to get for the piece or what its donated value would be for tax purposes. Keep in mind that if you claim a deduction of more than $5,000 on your tax return, you most likely will be required to attach an appraisal. The IRS website (www.irs.gov) has more information on this. Depending on the results of an appraisal, antiques can be sold to an antiques store or auction house.
 

Many people opt to sell their antiques or like-new furniture through an online auction site such as eBay (www.ebay.com) or a classified site like Craigslist (www.craigslist.org). Keep in mind that you can spend a lot of time putting together descriptions and arranging for payment and shipping. A classified ad in a local newspaper or PennySaver is a good alternative. Even better, many towns have their own websites which display classified ads, allowing you to buy and sell locally. (I scored a Duncan Phyfe dining room set this way.) Local consignment shops also are a reliable option.

Condition: Good Enough
 

If the piece is in decent enough condition, donating it may be the best bet. The National Furniture Bank Association (www.help1up.org) provides used furniture to victims of natural disasters and working