I happen to have too much clutter at home and set up a photographing area in my furnace room with a white cardboard trifold (for students). There is a florescent lamp overhead. This is great for small items, but there is nothing like natural sunlight for the best picture.
I just starting using some props to help with contrast and size relations. Props are good for staging and creating atmosphere. But if your item is already patterned or intricate, then its best to leave the background as plain as possible. I use colored poster board or pattern sheet paper to help offset white items.
Clear glass is quite tricky. Natural light (no flash) works best. The yellow gingham paper underneath the Tom & Jerry glass helps to brings out the design.
Cropping pictures and editing software - I just use Microsoft Picture Manager that comes with the office home edition, which has a great easy color edit feature for white. Simply click on an area that is suppose to be white and it will adjust all the colors in the image in relations to the white background. I am not able to achieve a decent white background otherwise.
Here is a photo without the white color adjustment, camera with flash:
After the white color adjustment.
I will have to take some new pictures of objects to better illustrate my technique.
How do you create a white background appearance?