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The holidays are creeping up on us, whether you are celebrating Sint or looking forward to Christmas and New year parties, it’s the time of year to start cleaning the house in readiness for the cards and decorations, visitors and their gifts.

If you are anything like me, things you need to make the celebrations complete seem to fill up every nook and cranny of the house. By the time I have bought and hidden presents, stocked up on drink and food, started preparing traditional foods following the holiday planning schedules advocated by Delia, Nigella, Martha and Ree there is hardly room to sit down in our pretty but admittedly cramped Dutch cottage.

So this year I’ve started a de-clutter, so that I will have room for the Christmas tree, cards and presents. But it’s a de clutter with a difference – if I can make money on it, that’s great, but if not, I want to make someone else happy with my cast-offs.

Tip 1 recycle mobile telephones.

I have a collection of old mobile telephones along with their charging cables, their instruction books, and the CD’s that come with them so we could download the photos we took. It seems that everyone views my office drawer as the place to dump these items when the newest model arrives on the market, so I’ve dragged everything out of the drawer today and sorted out what I had.

First I went online to the site www.cash4mobile.com. I took the newest old mobile and found the model number (did you know that you can find the model number under the battery?) When I checked on the cash4mobile website they offered me €12 for this model if I signed up and followed their instructions. So I did.

Working through the pile of old mobile phones, none of the others had cash back on them, but I could recycle them through a Dutch website called http://www.oudetelefooninleveren.com/goede-doelen. I packed three more mobiles up in a jiffy bag and addressed to them. Finally I took a rubbish bag and threw out all the charging cables, etc in the trash.

The whole operation took under an hour. I’m getting money on my bank account, and I’ve donated to two charities. Sounds good to me!

Tip 2 convert old gold and silver into cash!

There is a cupboard in my house which houses all the stuff I use to dress the table for parties and Christmas. I have pretty plates, table cloths, and precious family pieces such as the silver and blue glass bonbon dish which I only use at Christmas. I also have some very nice silver serving spoons. But I have to be honest, there are also pieces I will never use, which my mother passed down to me.

I went through that cupboard yesterday, and focused on the silver I will never use. After that job was complete I decided to sort through my jewellery box. I have a habit of losing earrings, so I have a tidy collection of gold and silver odds and ends at the bottom of the box. There were also a few rings and brooches with a distinctly unfashionable look about them.

I gathered this little hoard together and bagged up the silver in one bag and the gold in another.

As you know the how the gold price fluctuates, but low or high there are several international firms who arrive in an area, book a room in a big hotel, and advertise locally that they are willing to turn your old gold into cash. That is one way to get cash for your old gold, but the prices they offer are not the best, and its better to shop around on the internet to find who offers the best deals.

One of the best kept secrets of our village is a jewellery store that buys in old gold and silver for excellent prices. You can find out more about them here http://www.oudgoud.nl/ .

So I popped out this morning with my two bags of metal, and had it valued. They were very honest, and gave back a couple of dubious pieces which had no real silver or gold content in them, but the rest were split up into the different purities of gold and silver, then weighed and I was offered €103.80 for the lot.

Amazing, what value there is in a few scraps of metal, which I have no more use for! The money is coming into my bank account within a couple of days. Another worthwhile hour spent!

Tip 3 clear out your fridge, freezer and pantry.

I often find that there are half used jars of sauce at the back of the fridge, and frozen packs of leftover dinners in the freezer. What I want to do over the next few days is plan meals that clear up these bulky items, so that there is room in the fridge and freezer for the Christmas goodies to come.

My pantry also needed an overhaul, I find it’s a good idea to go through my stock of herbs and spices every so often, sometimes these little pots get pushed to the back of the cupboard and forgotten, then when you are looking for ground ginger or cinnamon, all you can find is a horrible rusty tin with a solidified lump of ground powder in the bottom. As if that will add any flavour to your Christmas festivities! My spices were still in good order, but I was running low on some of the dried herbs, and the bay leaves seemed to have escaped and littered the pantry like autumn leaves. I will be sure to buy new packets of herbs over the next week.

Finally I made a list of those pantry staples I was running short of, dried pasta, and rice, tinned veggies such as tomatoes and beans, and checked through the baking ingredients, so I know I have enough sugar and flour for when I start to make cookies and things.

Tip 4 delve into the glory hole to find the Christmas decorations!

Each year I buy something new to add to our collection of Christmas decorations, but the majority I keep from one year to the next in two big boxes in the “glory hole” on the stairs.

Its always a good idea to get the decorations out early and check over what I have and what I need, but this year, I wanted to empty the “glory hole” and see what there was lurking in there that we definitely did not need any more.

We have a charity shop in Purmerend which is a recycle centre for used goods. Its mission is to protect the environment and provide work for disadvantaged people. Each December they have a “Christmas Market” and welcome donations of second hand Christmas decorations.

So I popped along there with a box full of those decorations I have grown tired of, but whose sparkle has not yet dimmed.

Tip 5 – sell old toys on the internet

We have boxes of old toys tucked under the eaves in our attic, and I’ve found that this time of year is a great time to get rid of items like Lego, Duplo and Playmobil by selling on the internet. I have an account with  www.Marktplaats.nl but www.speurder.nl and www.ebay.nl work just as well.

I sort the boxes, and make sure I have complete sets, (or almost complete) then take a photo or  two. It takes a minute to upload the photos and place the advert in the toys category.

I generally get a pretty good response, and I remain flexible on price – after all my goal is to get rid of clutter, and make another family happy with our toys, not become a millionaire. I am careful always to make clear on the advert that the buyer pays for the postage, however, and its useful to know that parcels sent anywhere in the Netherlands have a standard charge.

oOo

So these are my top 5 de-clutter tips: Steps I have been taking over the past weeks to get rid of my clutter, recycle items which still have life left in them, and make a little money here and there. As I write this I feel virtuous but I cannot understand why my house still feels full of “stuff”!

If you have any more de-clutter tips to share please add a comment to this post and I can add it into my routine!