After living in our house for nearly twenty years, it’s safe to say we’ve filled it up. As we begin the process of downsizing, though, I find myself wondering where all this stuff came from and what I can do to get rid of it. Which leads me to today’s topic, rehoming our stuff. Some of it is simply stuff that should have been thrown away long ago, such as instruction books and warranty information for appliances we no longer own, gadgets that have come apart and the parts have been separated over the course of years and the 2 dozen hair picks in a bowl in the bathroom (only one of us has hair). These were the easy things to deal with, the next part is trickier and, if you are in a similar position, I wanted to tell you what I’ve learned thus far.
If you are like a lot of people in the 21st century you probably have a collection of old electronics. The question is what to do with those old cell phones, iPads, laptops, desktops computers, and cables. Amazon has a trade-in program for tablets, Kindles, cell phones and video game consoles where you get Amazon credit for each item. But, to take advantage of the program, they have to be in VERY good condition. This might be better suited to the person who looks to upgrade as soon as a new version comes out. If, however, you are like us and you use your electronics until they literally die of old age then you may have to look for another solution. For a smart phone, check with your service provider about a trade-in. We were able to trade in our iPhone 5S’s through AT&T when we upgraded to the iPhone 10. We got enough to pay for two cases so I considered that a big win. For an old laptop, like my 2008 MacBook Pro or my iPad 2, there are people on Ebay who will buy computers for parts, so I may get a small amount of money that way.
Speaking of eBay, they will charge you a fee for enabling you to sell your stuff. Craigslist doesn’t, but it comes with other well publicized risks. A better way is to use Facebook Marketplace. Like Craigslist, you won’t be charged a fee for selling and you’ll have to set up a place to meet your buyer, but unlike Craigslist, you have access to your buyer’s Facebook profile so you have a way to get info about your buyer before you meet to close the sale. Just remember that you will almost never get the price you ask for, so take that into consideration when setting your price. I’ve sold a number of items this way and I’ve found it a lot less of a headache than using eBay and I’ve met a few very nice people in the process.
The problem with selling items one by one online is that it takes a lot of time. If you have a lot of items you might want to explore an online consignment service such as EBTH (Everything But the House) that will take your items list them online and take a percentage of the sale. You can also look for a brick and mortar consignment shop. There are shops that specialize in everything from children’s clothing and toys to designer wear for men and women. This is a great way to make room in your closet and get a little money in the process, just don’t expect others to pay top dollar for your 1980s big shoulder padded jackets. The challenge when downsizing is to avoid the temptation to put that money into more clothes. Lord help me, I do love beautiful fabrics! If you have books, cd’s or dvd’s to get rid of, look for a consignment store that specializes in media. Here in Tennessee, we have a chain called McKay’s that will buy books and discs for cash or store credit. They generally offer more in store credit than they do in cash, so, if you’re like us and you don’t want to be tempted to buy more be ready to accept less.
As the weather warms up, plan a yard sale. It’s a great way to get rid of a lot of stuff quickly, but it also requires a lot of preparation. Depending on where you live it might make sense to plan your yard sale for the first weekend of the month since that’s when a lot of folks get paid. Also, check to see if you need a permit because rules vary from place to place. Don’t forget to advertise in the newspaper AND online and make street signs to help traffic find you if you don’t live on a main thoroughfare. Even better, talk your neighbors into ganging up for a neighborhood yard sale. Everyone splits the costs of signage, and crowds are bigger because they can hit lots of sales in a short time period. On the day of the sale, don’t forget to have lots of small bills and change on hand! If you need help planning a yard sale, there are lots of resources online to help you. Simply Google “how to plan a yard sale”. Also have plenty of coffee on hand…the best yard sales start EARLY and people will pick through your stuff at the butt crack of dawn while you are still setting it up.
Carolyn works with a fair number of young adults who are just starting out and who have limited funds, so a considerable amount of our kitchen equipment has been taken to her office and given away there. Several of her nephews have also benefitted from the great kitchen purge of 2018. (Really, how many iron skillets does one couple need?) Another donation opportunity to consider if you still have an iPod, check with local senior centers and assisted living facilities because many of them use iPods in music therapy programs for dementia patients. Finally, as you plan, strongly consider helping others by donating clothes, shoes, hats, scarfs and gloves to a local homeless shelter. These are items that are always in need as are toys, reading glasses, towels, sleeping bags and blankets. Check with shelters in your area to see what they need and how to donate. Your items may mean the world to someone in need.
Lastly, what do you do with the stuff you can’t trade in, sell or give away? Check with your local public works department to see if they have places to dispose of old electronics. Our county operates an electronics recycling center where residents can dispose of computers, phones, cables, tv’s or even cd’s and dvd’s. They only require you to bring your ID to prove county residency so I have a box packed and ready to go there.
Our downsizing process has only just begun, and these are the things we’ve learned so far. If you have other sources that you’ve found helpful, let us know in the comments below. We need the help!