After a year of living out of her backpack, my friend Grace has been doing some ‘severe decluttering’. When I asked her how her long weekend went, she told me that she had just sold everything she had put up on Gumtree to some ‘really lovely people’. I was so impressed by her success, I started asking questions.
Mustbethrifty: What made you decide to sell your stuff?
Grace: After coming back from working in the slum regions overseas I felt overwhelmed and confronted by my storage container…Where did all this stuff come from? Did I really own that many pairs of shoes? And that large suitcase of clothes?
Being away from home has made me realise how much non-essential clutter I owned. Many items have not seen light of day for a long time - sentimental trinkets and gifts (including the box and cards in some cases!), tops and clothes that had been worn once or twice then never to be seen again, uni papers which I kept in case one day I would “need” them, ex boyfriends’ love tokens, unopened/unwanted gifts…We all have these things somewhere in our houses which only come out in serious cleanups!
Mustbethrifty: So why are you selling your stuff, instead of donating to charity/friends or throwing it away?
Grace: I am very careful with my belongings and so everything I wanted to get rid of was either in excellent or very close to new condition. It seemed wasteful to throw [away] something perfectly good…and add to landfill.
Reusing benefits everyone – the seller, the buyer, the environment, the actual item. We live in a highly consumerist society and it was most confronting for me when I…[was] in India experiencing the effect industrialisation and growing consumerism have on waste, pollution, culture and people’s general happiness.
I have given some items away. However there is a limit on what can be given, as I have small sized clothes for instance and have few people I know who would fit in my clothes and shoes. But certainly kitchen goods and some small whitegoods have been passed onto good homes.
I am in the process of trying to sell the other items and if that is unsuccessful I will be donating them to my local op shop.
Mustbethrifty: Where have you been selling your stuff and which avenue was the most successful?
Grace: Gumtree, eBay, garage sale, Facebook, paper flyers and e-noticeboards – I have tried them all.
I think which avenue you choose depends on what you are selling and how you want to manage your time selling. For example, I am not sure if selling an old average-quality bookshelf would be worth putting on eBay because of the fees and commission the website takes. I would think you might do better going through Gumtree or noticeboards. If you are a bit time poor and prefer people contacting you via email or SMS, then the online selling methods would suit you better than holding a garage sale or…hav[ing] a stall at a weekend market.
In Alice Springs there is an invite only Facebook page for Alice residents to sell or exchange items. I liked the concept [used by] this small community. Commodities were expensive [in Alice] and second-hand goods, particularly useful items like bicycles, were in demand and could be shared and sold in this way.
Other considerations are whether you have a timeline to sell and how concerned you are about price. For most of my items I am simply wanting to re-home them to someone who appreciates and will look after them so speed, rather than price, was the trump card. I was so attached to my dear old washing machine I wrote half a page on Gumtree describing how reliable it was.
Mustbethrifty: What was the weirdest thing you’ve sold?
Grace: At the moment I am trying to sell two hand-made pottery wizard statues for my parents. They were made with beautiful craftsmanship and are quite pretty…if you are into wizards! I think selling niche or unique items like this can be tricky – you need to get to the right audience and to do that you have to chose the right avenue to advertise.
Mustbethrifty: And what was the weirdest selling experience?
Grace: I have been fortunate in that all of my selling experiences so far have been safe, friendly and positive. I don’t think it was weird as such but amazing more so…When I sold my large Ikea Expedit bookshelf, the man who came to collect it arrived in a tiny Toyota Prius (ie a small four-door car). He ingeniously tied the massive bookshelf with a piece of rope though the open windows and drove off with the bookshelf overhanging the car roof.
Mustbethrifty: Have you been satisfied with your experience? How would you do things differently next time?
Grace: So far I have had a positive de-cluttering experience. I think it has made me more conscious to think not just twice but three times before purchasing new things to avoid this build up again. We need very little material goods to live well and the saying that what truly matters in life is invisible to the eye is in my opinion very true.
Mustbethrifty: Any tips you’d like to share with would-be sellers/declutterers?
Grace: Do it! It’s easy to declutter - you just have to start and trust me you will be hooked. Separate what you think you will get rid of from things you want to keep and leave it in the pile for a week or two. If you don’t feel an urge or need to retrieve it, it is time to let it go. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure – someone out there will have a use for what you don’t!
Image credits: Tony