23 Comments

  1. I go through my closet every few months or so and throw out, donate, give away, or sell anything I haven’t worn even once between the last time I did it and now. Keeps me from being consumed by clothes, but even I still find myself holding onto shirts from high school for some reason.

  2. You make such a good point, Penny! We often think our stuff is somehow special and valuable, when, in reality, it’s just stuff.

    Before we moved to northern Ontario, I sold a bunch of our stuff. Everything from my desk to some old iPods I’d been holding on to. For me, the longer I hold onto something, the less emotional attachment I have to it. In this case, I was able to see the sales are pure financial transactions and just try and get as much money out of my old stuff to help with our moving costs.

    • I think that is the point that I am finally at. I just want more cash to either throw at our mortgage or toss into HP’s college fund!

  3. I bought a desk for $400 on Crate and Barrel ten years ago and now I literally cannot give it away. No one will take it, and it’s been sitting on the porch with a “free” sign on it since Saturday. It’s a good life lesson.

  4. FIRE in the hole

    Some people vastly overprice their items at garage sales. Because these had meant something to them, at some earlier point.

    My neighborhood used to have an annual garage sale day which was well-attended, so I had a friend borrow our front yard to sell their stuff. But they priced their items so high that in the end they had to drastically reduce prices (losing out on the customers who would have bought at the reduced price 3 hours earlier).

    And then they had to haul a bunch of stuff at the end of the day to the Salvation Army.

    A related issue that maybe you’ve addressed before is when parents or grandparents assume that their relatives want their stuff after they die. It’s so valuable! It’s a china pattern that isn’t even sold anymore! But maybe your heir doesn’t want it. The guilt involved can be enormous. I had an aunt gift me a chair when she downsized. It was nice of her, and we used it for many years, and then I passed it on to a young friend. My father was upset, since his sister had given me the chair, and I just gave it away! But why do you want someone to feel beholden to STUFF? I loved my aunt for herself, and was lucky and grateful that she’d thought to give me the chair in the first place — but why should I have to own it forever?

  5. Jody

    Still unpacking/settling in from my recent post-divorce move and I’ve started a box of things to try to sell, I just need to make the time to get pictures and list them. Includes a few pieces of clothes, some housewares, and a very old pressed glass compote that was a wedding gift. Because 20-something newlyweds are just pulsing for a collectible very old compote?? What is a compote used for anyway??

    I’ve been donating a lot of unsellable stuff or things I just don’t think will sell. I have already sold some big items – chair, wine/fruit press, a purse, a very large microwave you could fit a turkey in. Another chair and a solid wood coffee table/2 end table set are up next.

    I tried to pick some things up in thrift shops last year to flip on eBay and that didn’t work so well. Even though similar items sold well, mine just didn’t move. I don’t know why and I’m at the point where I’m thinking of just donating them back to the thrift shop. It’s very frustrating.

  6. Your stuff isn’t worth what you think it is, whether it’s fashion, furniture, household items, memorabilia, or whatever. I’ve been looking at selling off some of my baseball memorabilia that I wrote about not too long ago, but then I see identical stuff selling on eBay for next to nothing. As much as I’d like to have some extra income in the budget, I have to remind myself that the important part is getting it to someone who will want it and not just stuff it in a box in the closet.

  7. I have a rule to not buy luxe brands full price. These things (especially clothes) depends on the reputation of the maker. Coach has been outed in recent times although they still try to come off as a luxury brand. Most of the market thinks they’re over saturated — but that’s the scary thing. Since these things depend on reputation and public “attitudes” towards the brand, one is essentially buying and risking money with these items. I think the Chanel jumbo flap beat or came close to beating market returns but that’s just another symbol for the growing wealth divide in that those who can afford it can sell it to those who can afford it at a price that matches the returns of the market. (Or that’s how I think about it in my head!)

  8. Dang it Penny. You can’t give away the hook first!!
    I gave away a dozen brand name purses last year. They’d been accumumating because I’m obsessed with purses, and I paid anywhere from $75-200 for each, but I just couldn’t handle them siting in my closet and being ignored anymore. I gave a few away to friends who could definitely use them, and gave the rest to a nonprofit my friend worked at for their silent auctions. It felt GREAT to ‘get rid’ of them. But in reality, it felt great because they were finally not rotting under my inability to pick things that I really wanted. Since then, I’ve decided I’m going to only buy things that I REALLY want and will have meaning in my life. But if I DO want it, then it doesn’t matter how much it costs, I’ll buy it (ofc I’ll wait for sales and stuff; I wouldn’t throw money out of the window, but I also stopped buying things JUST BECAUSE they were on sale… Ohhhh all those Kate Spade sales!!!). It’s really helped keep my purchasing down, and even though things are more expensive, I end up spending much less, because I am still in love with the things I bought after long contemplations. Win win! Less waste, less $$$, more happiness 🙂 I really can’t wait until I’m moving and I can just… get rid of everything from my life though. Every time I travel, makes me consider how little I really need to be content and going about my day… So what’s all this clutter in my apartment that I never use?!

  9. This is so true.

    I never think of my stuff as valuable, but then comes the time to sell something.

    The price I would like to receive vs the price I would be willing to pay for that used item makes it painfully obvious that I think of my stuff more valuable than it is.

  10. Great post! Nothing makes one more aware of how little one’s things are worth to others than trying to sell used furniture in NYC. Because people need to figure out a way to move items themselves (which almost certainly requires spending more money to hire someone with a car), Ikea-type furniture is almost worthless, and practically every week, one sees a pile of formerly nice furniture (better than Ikea) on the curb from someone who moved out. At least I was able to give away my own (terribly cheap, mostly Walmart) student housing furniture to other students who could put it to good use.

    After doing a few rounds of my own decluttering, seeing so many clothes I barely wore and that I could tell no one else would want to buy because I didn’t have great taste as a teen, it really drives home the importance of consuming less, and only buying the things you’ll really use.

    One other, much less useful, takeaway here is that I have weirdly good luck with Thredup reselling. I typically get ~$40-$50/bag for about 6-8 items that they keep, none of which I’d expect to get much traction with if I tried to resell individually (items that were pretty boring, items from brands that are very generic/either widely available on the secondhand market or old and not desirable). The one time I sent in nice stuff (which actually was a big risk, in hindsight, since they were definitely worth the effort of listing myself), I ended up getting $140, which was reasonable. Of course, it’s sounding like this isn’t a representative experience, and if they’ve stopped taking new resale bags, then that’s no longer an option anyway.

    • That is so helpful to know about ThredUp, Xin! I was actually able to order a clean out bag using a different email address. I’m not sure if I’m being blackballed for some reason 😉 Honestly, if they give me $40 for this giant box I just filled, I will be elated. We shall see!

  11. This is something I am learning more and more the older I get – as well as the more time I spend in the military. I have made 3 moves since joining the Air Force, and my fourth move happens in just one month. It is across the country and I am purging things like never before. It’s made me realize that filling my apartment with stuff (just to make it look put together) was poorly thought out and stupid. (Sidenote: I blame my ex for many of the dumb purchases we made during the first year after I enlisted).

    Now, I’m desperately trying to throw the (not even expensive) stuff out. $80 ottoman from Target? Couldn’t even give it away. $150 chest freezer? $80 because it still had meat in it that my friend wanted. $1000 Washer and Dryer? Not even going to try. Settling on just taking the set with me.

    Penny, you are on point when you say that everyone is overwhelmed with stuff – clothes especially. I have become very picky about the clothes I choose for myself, and it feels great. I’m just now reaching a point where I’m okay with not having a bunch of stuff and actually waiting until I can afford things I really want.

    Your post is perfect and relatable!

  12. I just moved into a little apartment and got rid of 10+ bags of stuff. I donated most and then sold some in a garage sale. I didn’t put too much effort into since I just wanted it gone. It no longer had value to me.

    However, when I was paying off debt I did sell stuff on Craig’s List and made several hundred dollars. Haha on coming back with money or missing a vital organ! I alway met in public places hoping to prevent the latter 😉

    Kudos to you on your selling perseverance! Yeah, these lessons make me think twice before I buy more stuff.

    • I think I am inching closer and closer to that feeling, Ms. Fiology. I really just want my house to be as empty as possible to make more room for us to live in it! But I realize that I’ve already done such a number on the environment with my consumerism that I’m trying to be mindful about how I get rid of it. It’s hard to be patient, though.

  13. I took a nice Coach purse to a local higher-end consignment shop near where I lived. I ended up getting around $24 (I think one of the staff people bought it on a discount day since the sales price was significantly less than what I was told it would be). I wish I had just donated the dang thing and taken the tax deduction. On the positive side, it makes me think long and hard before buying something in the first place now. A hard (and costly) lesson learned.

    • I hear you on that one, Jenny! I always think long and hard about my purchases now. Do I love this enough to wear it out? If I don’t, do I really need it? Or would someone else be excited to end up with it? It’s helpful. I wish I had that mindset then.

  14. Hi Penny!
    I have so much old clothing that I want to clear out of the house. Yet, those same problems of sunk cost and sentimentality have prevented much of any success on my clothing decluttering. At least you got some money back for your shoes? What am I supposed to do if no one will pay anything for my outdated stuff?
    I have a couple of big bags full of things that I hope to upcycle – that’s about all I can come up with. I do pull out a few things to donate every so often, but it’s difficult – especially because I’ve read about what happens to a lot of donated clothing (clothing I purchased at full price).

  15. Bonnie

    Great article. I’ve taken some books, CDs, records, and DVDs (although it’s REALLY hard for me to let go of books) to Half Price Books a lot over the past year, and it’s sobering to think of how much I initially spent on those items only to get a tiny fraction of that back in cash (not to mention how cheaply they are sold at HPB later). Same with the clothing I’ve sold at consignment stores. I also often think of the clothes and household items I’ve donated to Goodwill and other similar places–even after dropping off bags and bags of stuff, I’ve never ONCE wished I hadn’t given any of it away (or even remembered what was in the bags!). Exception: books. Whenever I do part with a book, I find myself thinking about it even years later. So–I will likely always have a huge library. I am trying to be more judicious about buying books, though, and focusing on checking them out from the library (OR passing on a book immediately after reading it so that it doesn’t get fully integrated with its friends on my shelves :).

  16. This is partially why I don’t bother trying to sell things. I’ve given multiple, crappy beds away. I want someone to do the effort of getting it out of my house and I know that a gently used one can definitely help someone who can’t afford the $200 one from amazon. Buying less, but better is finally something I can afford to do and it makes such a difference. No one will ever buy my bespoke suits, but they won’t ever be for sale. They are used and loved and contributed to my lovely tailor’s life in Thailand. I will have them for years with proper care.

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