What to do with things OTHER than books?

If you handle used books, you often end up with  people coming with piles of books from an estate.  A relative has died and they’re left to try and clear out the house.  Often, this is someone not from the area, so they’re clueless as to where to take things.  Usually by the time they got to the books they’ve dealt with the common objects like housewares and clothing.  Now its the things that they know (or think) have some value and aren’t sure what to do with.  They don’t want to throw them out.  They want them to go to a “good home” or to “someone who will appreciate them”.  They’ll often use the same words when describing the books they just brought you.  So since you handled the books they are inclined to ask YOU what to do with those OTHER items.

You won’t deal with these questions everyday, but its good to have the answers handy for just such situations.  Remember, this is someone dealing with an estate.  “Just throw it out” is not what they want to hear.  This may well be what they do at the end, but they want other options.

First stop in many cases, especially if they just want items GONE should probably be either Craig’s List (if they want money for the item) or Freecycle (if they just want them GONE). If its things that are in poor condition and should be recycled, they can find the nearest recycling center through Earth 911.

CDs & Records

Check the local used music store.  If not, most Friends of the Library sale will take these.  Records CAN be quite valuable in some cases if they have the original jacket and are in great condition. If they have no jacket and are scratched, even the Friends may not want them.  In that case, suggest they post them on Freecycle for use in art projects (they’re often melted and reshaped).


Photographic collection

Depends on what the pictures are of.  General snapshots should probably just be thrown out.  A few types of pictures might be worth passing on.

  • School photos of graduating classes, the band, football team, etc= send to the school in question.
  • Pictures of military units=  local VFW post
  • Local landmarks or events=  the historical society
  • UNUSUAL collections= check the internet and see if there’s a museum.  “Unusual” here means things like hundreds of pictures of clowns or old barns or manhole covers.  Something peculiar in its specificity.


things other than books - magazinesYou may or may not handle magazines yourself.  If you don’t, know what bookdealer in the area does.  Generally recent magazines, recycling may be the best option. Unless they’re a couple decades old, or there’s a complete run of them in beautiful condition, MOST modern magazines should go direct to the bin. But that’s probably not what they wanted to hear.

If recent:

  • The local VA hospital will often accept them
  • Various homeless or women’s shelters MAY take them
  • Hospice

If older, but not valuable, their primary use may be letting kids cut them up for art projects. (be sure to only give them APPROPRIATE magazines)  Try:

  • preschools
  • elementary school
  • if its the summer, Park and Rec and other camps



Like magazines, nobody really wants these and most of them will go straight to recycling.  There’s really only two places that might take them.  The local humane society or animal control may take them for paper training puppies.  The library or historical society MIGHT take old local papers with significant news or clipping collections on a specific subject.  (example: 200 clippings about a single local person) Libraries generally HAVE the ones they want, so may only need specific years that were damaged or lost.  Recycling is probably going to be the answer here.

Newspaper can also be used as weedblock for landscaping if they need to do landscaping at the house before selling it.  This is an unlikely use, but worth mentioning if they mention then need to work on the yard.  Otherwise they’ll end up BUYING the weedblock.


Musical intruments

Nine times out of ten, they actually mean “piano” but I’ve occasionally been asked about other instruments.  First stop is to try and sell it to the local music store (as in sells musicaly instruments, not CDs) but they probably don’t want a piano.  Trombone, yes, piano…. probably not.

Choice two is to call the local college music department or the head of the music program in the local school school district.  THEY may have a student in need that needs a practice piano but can’t afford one.  They’re also likely to send people to wrestle the piano out of the house for them!  Which is probably what they REALLY want, someone to take it!


Usually you’ll be offered sheet music.  Occasionally you’ll see player piano rolls.  Sheet music falls into two categories: totally useless and specialty.  Generally if its individual SHEETS its probably only PART of a score for a larger piece of music.  You’re most likely to see “pop” music like this. Nobody really wants photocopies of the 2nd trumpet part for the theme to Jurassic Park without the rest of the orchestral score. Pass on individual unbound sheets 99% of the time.  Music that is bound in BOOKS in generally either a book that you’re intended to make copies from and parcel out the pieces to the various instruments OR is intended to be played solo.  That may have value.  Whether you want to handle it or not is up to you.  Because its a different audience that you probably have walking into the store, you may want to handle it like the instruments above.

Player piano rolls have their fans and you can find them on ebay.  You could either handle them yourself or suggest they put the lot up on ebay.  Or if they HAVE the piano AND the music, take it to the music store or the antiques store.  A generic piano they probably don’t want.  A working player piano with the rolls, THAT might be worth something.  (or if they just want it out of the house, the local senior center MIGHT take it off their hands)



The items listed above are all things I’ve been asked about.  (I am utterly surprised by how often I am asked about pianos)   If its an item you KNOW somebody wants, but you just don’t know which charities handle what, suggest the person make a trip to town hall and ask the town clerk.  Most small towns have some sort of “want list” for local charities and can find out what groups wanted bicycles, photocopiers, wheelchairs, and other items that have clear value… but aren’t something you want to saddle Salvation Army with either.

Truly STRANGE items are probably best dealt with through a referral to a dealer or by offering it on Craigslist or Freecycle.   SOMEONE out there wants a rocket testing equipment (one of the things in our basement)  or a collection of 400 hubcaps.   If nothing else, truly weird things will likely get passed around social networking sites and they may get someone from quite a distance coming to fetch this truly bizarre item.



3 thoughts on “What to do with things OTHER than books?”

  1. Good article Nora! Thanks.

    One thing I thought of while reading this is if your area has regular swap meets it might be a good idea to visit it and find a couple swapmeeters that do house cleanouts. Not pick & choosers but total cleanouts of anything not attached to the foundation. Might find some local B&M ‘junk dealers’ that do it too.

    I knew one guy that with contractor friends would come in and cleanout/paint/do fix up work all for reasonable prices.

    Some dealers pay for the stuff and some expect to be paid for moving/cleaning (and they still sell the ‘stuff’) so you would want to make sure which ones are which as you give references to those inquiring of what to do with their ‘stuff’.

    Would help too if you can check on reputations. Last thing you need is to have your store name associated with some sleazebag that is using you for a reference…

  2. Or you could perhaps learn the values of some or all of these items as many of us have that have been full time book sellers for many moons , and profit from your knowledge? Hmmmm?

  3. One additional note on magazines: if they’re useful magazines (cooking, woodworking, other crafts), as opposed to time-sensitive ones (TIME, People, PC Magazine, etc.), they’re more likely to be re-sellable! Our local Half Price Books has stacks of magazines people go through — a quilt pattern doesn’t really care when it was written, you know? (I’ve been known to walk out with a few dozen.)

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