Well, we don’t think November went the way many people thought it would, or hoped it would. The first weeks of the new administration have been rough for just as many people. And based on actions just these past few weeks, the impact is about to get a lot more wide reaching. There have been a lot of blogs posts from us on why we’re downsizing—simplicity, flexibility, and opportunity among our chief reasons. We always wanted to travel. We never thought that desire might be accelerated by what is occurring in our home country.
How do you accelerate downsizing a five-bedroom home you’ve spent almost 20 years in, filled with the hobbies, memories, and general accumulation from living? Many Americans don’t park their cars in their garages, letting stuff overflow into the space. There is a rise of three car garages in new homes as well, allowing you to maybe park a car but also have a workshop, or a place to store sports equipment, or… The struggle is real.
You must formulate a plan. You must stick to it. Brutally. No storage units—storage units mean you pay money beyond your regular mortgage or rent to procrastinate. What’s the motivation for getting rid of that stuff, once you can’t see it? Sitting in a storage unit going through boxes sure sounds like fun. So: there are a few options.
The Gifting Economy
Get rid of stuff fast: your best resource is probably Buy Nothing (BN). We’ve talked about the Buy Nothing Project, where you can join a local “Buy Nothing” group, and either get rid of stuff (yeay!) by giving it to people in your neighborhood, or acquire stuff you may or may not (boo) need. There are mental gymnastics associated with this exercise—or at least there were for us. There’s that perception of “I paid money for this, someone else should pay money for this!”
Why gift something?
It took a while, but the sense of money for goods gave way to a sense of joy in helping neighbors. Rather than dropping off at Goodwill, and not knowing if your stuff made a difference, you could know without doubt that someone wanted it—and meet your neighbors, too. Oh, and one thing BN is really good for? Moving boxes.
Every week, we assess what we are okay with giving away. There’s a post to the Buy Nothing group, with the disclaimer that items requested will be re-gifted if not picked up.
But what about the things you do feel you should get money for? There’s a tradeoff. You may get cash, but generally, there’s more touchpoints involved. You have to respond to inquiries, set up times that may or may not be convenient to your own schedule, and physically meet people (as opposed to Buy Nothing, where we often leave stuff in a box on our driveway). So, this is getting rid of stuff the slow way.
We’ve tried a few different things. Craigslist. OfferUp. The usual problems associated with both things—flaky people chief among them. But our best results have come, again, from local connections: our area’s Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook group. Within 24 hours of posting, we had inquiries for all the items we had listed. Within a week, we’d sold half (and had them out of our home). And rather than listing each item individually, we just made a Google spreadsheet. The first time we posted it was shockingly successful. The next time, less so, but different days see different behaviors. Keep going til it's all gone.
We’ve also successfully sold a few small, high value items on Ebay, but if you’re goal is to get rid of things quickly, this is not typically a viable option. But if looking to maximize your value out of an item that you can hold on to for a while, it’s a good option.
And finally, donations are a valid and often smart way to get rid of those final stubborn items. Many items can go to specific places. Old computers that still work great? Consider gifting them to a kids STEM non-profit - Kids Quest on the greater eastside of the Puget Sound for instance – or a job retraining program. Musical instruments? There are many musical programs that operate on shoe string (violin string?) budgets. Upgrades you bought for your house that you’re never going to install? Talk to Habitat for Humanity. Barring that, St. Vincent de Paul and Goodwill are great options if you don’t know where else something should go.
We're not sure. We may end up doing the tried and true estate sale / garage sale to move the last group of items quickly. In this day and age of being able to use Venmo or Square to buy something, cash is no longer the only option for having people come by your home to buy stuff. What else? We'd love other ideas folks have had to get rid of stuff, big and small, because they needed to or simply wanted to.
We’re still finding the best ways to reduce as much ‘stuff’ from our lives as possible, and getting more ruthless about what’s truly important to us. It’s hard, and we still probably have kept things currently that another five years from now we may wonder why.