Shedding The Clutter From Our Lives

How to dispose of the old stuff around your house, and make money doing it.

One of my weekend projects in the spring of 2011 was to construct a cold frame to start our vegetable seeds in. The goal was to use what I already had around the house, without having to spend money. Being pedantic is a sport I find lots of pleasure in. Luckily, I had replaced 11 of our first floor windows, and kept some of the storm window sets for cold frames. This combined with leftover plywood and scrap lumber from the garage repairs I did last summer provided me all I needed. I had the project completed within about 2 hours.

I was surprised that I was able to sell the old wood windows to someone who wanted them for a garden center he was opening. I had them for sale at $10 each, and I ended up selling them for $150 for the whole stack. I also sold several of the old aluminum storm window sets for $10 each, but kept enough of them for our cold frames. I was just about to throw them out when the buyer contacted me.

My normal order of activities in getting rid of stuff is to see if it will sell on eBay at a reasonable price. If it is too large, or a niche item, I use Craigslist. I can say I have sold more stuff on Craigslist than I have on eBay. I use a Google Voice number so I can control communications with the potential crazies out there. When we escaped the tyranny of NY last summer, I was posting items on Craigslist, using PayPal for financial transactions, and shipping items across the country. It was like running an online store. One buyer came to our home to purchase our kitchen set, and logged in to our computer and paid me via PayPal. I then logged in and confirmed the payment was received, and helped them load the items.

If the items I was getting rid of were not worth much, I'd use Freecycle. This organization has local groups where people post and look for free items. The idea is to help someone out, and at the same time keep the items out of the landfills. One person's junk is another person's treasure. I had mixed success with Freecycle, finding that when something is free, the people who commit to picking up the items aren't real motivated to actually show up. Much of the free stuff ended up in front of our home, labeled "free". Unwanted household items get dropped off at a local charity, where they can sell it flea market-style to raise funds. Any items remaining end up in the garbage. The garbage pile is small.

The astute reader will notice that yard sales are not part of the mix. About 12 years ago, my honey and I had set up our yard for a sale. It was a gorgeous day, clear skies, perfect weather, and a light and arid breeze. Our tables were set up, all items priced, and we were about an hour from starting the sale. I looked at her and  asked "how much is all of this stuff going to make for us?". We did the calculations, and determined that we'd net about $200. The next question was "would you pay $200 to do whatever you want on a day like this?". We grabbed some cardboard, wrote "FREE" on it, stuck it to a tree, and went hiking. At the end of the day, we put the few items left in the garbage, and basked in the satisfaction of having been able to enjoy such a great day together. We haven't had a yard sale since then.

So attack the clutter! A home is much easier to clean without so much stuff. And don't replace the clutter. We often ask each other how much an item will sell for online after we are tired of looking at it. This keeps us from purchasing many items.

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Kathryn Longo September 30, 2012 at 07:10 PM
How apropo! I woke up this morning and decided to spend part of the day working on clutter elimination - daunting task so I try to spend at least one hour every Sunday working on this. And I agree, garage sales are a waste of a beautiful day!
Robert Prol September 30, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I'm happy you found it helpful! Getting rid of stuff feels great.


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