Sell or donate? Here’s how to decide.

You’ve done it. You’ve decided to de-own an item and say goodbye to it. What next?

Well, it’s another decision – sorry! You need to decide next on what you’re actually going to do with the stuff. There are a few options that can be simplified into:

  1. Sell
  2. Donate
  3. Recycle or landfill

If you’ve decided it’s too good to toss, you’re down to two options – give away or sell. Sometimes it’s an easy decision. If the item is worth thousands then yeah, you don’t have to agonise too much. But what if it’s maybe worth something but you aren’t completely sure and need to figure it out?

There are two things to consider when deciding whether to sell or donate. The first is how much time you have, the second is how much money you have (or need).

  1. If you have time but no money

    Selling stuff takes a lot of time and effort. There is research to be done, people to call, photographs to take, things to upload, people to message, space to find to put the stuff in the meantime … it’s a fair amount of work.

    However, if you have the time and need the money, selling privately via Facebook groups, special interest groups, specialty dealers etc WILL be worth it financially. You could also try a Garage Sale or a car-boot sale too.

  2. If you have money but no time

    Honestly – just donate it all. Call a charity and have them come and collect it in one go. It’s fast and it’s easy. Not to mention good for the charity that receives it!

  3. If you have money and time.

    Donate it, but go the extra mile and find small, specialty charities that the stuff goes directly to those in need. It’s very satisfying to know your stuff is going to be well used and appreciated. Ask your friends for their favourites and curate a list that suits you and your passions (and the stuff you have!).

  4. If you have no money and no time

    Try an auction house – you just have to pack it all up and get it there, and they do the rest (they take commission for their trouble but you still get around 75% into your bank account). Or you could hire someone (a student, family member, someone on Airtasker) to sell the items on your behalf for a cut.

If you’re still on the fence, ask yourself if the stress is worth it. Is losing $50 of potential sales worth it for the shorter to-do list on the weekend? Look at it like it’s an investment in your mental health. That’s like spending $50 on therapy!

How to avoid this downsizing mistake

Downsizing is very different to a regular move. There are additional things to consider, the biggest being decluttering your belongings so that they fit in the smaller space.

Many people discover only after they have moved, that they can’t comfortably fit all of the stuff they brought with them into the new home. One client recently had well over a dozen boxes of stuff that would not fit in their new apartment.

There are a few impacts that this has:

  • Things cannot be unpacked into the most convenient or effective home and things get “stashed” where they fit, which means later things are hard to find
  • There are unpacked boxes often left for a long time in the living areas, getting in the way
  • Alternative storage may need to be arranged, which has a high monthly cost.
  • The new home feels cluttered and isn’t quite the “fresh start” that is anticipated

The main solution to this is planning. Plan, plan and plan some more.

Many clients remember to plan out their large furniture, and measure up their spaces to ensure that it will fit, or to buy new items if the need be.

What people often fail to do, however, is think of the “stuff”. The spare dinner sets, all the vases, their photos, craft supplies, shoes, stashes (spares of things, extras and duplicates for “just in case”), memorabilia, paperwork, travel supplies, books, tools and electrical stuff, outdoor gear and more.

We recommend you spend some time doing a full inventory of the belongings that you’re taking with you. Write down EVERYTHING, and then, thinking about the space available in the new home, allocate every single item (or at very least, each category) a home. Where your volume is higher than the space you have available, you need to cull down to size.

This planning ahead will help you be a bit more accurate in the amount of belongings you declutter and help you get the fit into the new home just right.

“I might need it someday”

This is a really common thought that occurs to people when they are trying to declutter.

It pops up when they come across an item that they haven’t been using, either for a very long time, or not yet at all so far. It’s something like a box a phone came in, or a length of ribbon, or a spare screwdriver, or an umbrella, a jar, or a piece of wood.

It’s been languishing under a pile of stuff for who-know-how-long. Now they know that they haven’t been using it, they might not have even known they had it n the first place. So, because they are trying to declutter and a goal is to make more space, the logical part of them says “I should cull this”.

As soon as that happens, the emotional side of them jumps in and interrupts with “But I might need it some day!” or “But it could be really handy!”.

So then immediately, there are two teams fighting against each other in your brain. Logic and Emotion.

Usually when there’s an argument between our logical side and our emotional side, emotion wins in the first instance. It’s not really a fair fight, to be honest.

Emotion has a huge advantage over the logical side. Two advantages actually. One is that is gives instant gratification – keeping something you like gives you an immediate sense of comfort and security. Logic’s rewards are more long-term, and so are harder to see.

The second is that Emotion can evoke a physical response in you that is incredibly hard to ignore. It can raise your heart-rate, and make you feel nauseated as it diverts essential activities away from your intestines. It can make you sweat, make you jumpy, make you want to cry. It can make it harder to breath, or you may even hyperventilate. It can make you twitchy and very very intent on removing yourself from the situation, or angry and wanting to lash out.

Poor Logic doesn’t really have a hope against that, does it? And so to make all that go away, Emotion wins and you keep the item.

But every time you let Emotion win in these cases, it gets stronger. Then next time it pops up faster, more intensely. It feeds off your validation of it.

So how do we fight this?

We practice building up Logic so that it has a fairer fight. It still might not always win, but we give it a better chance.

  1. We stop and acknowledge the anxiety that Emotion has brought up. We temper it with facts and truths (for example, it’s true that jars do keep coming in the house, and that most friends will have a jar if you need one, and they are not at all hard to come by and are often free). We allow Logic to have its say, to tell its truths.
  2. We pick fairer fights, one where we know Emotion doesn’t have quite the strong stake in it. If Emotion gets repulsed at the thought of eating foods past their used-by-date, do some decluttering at the back of the pantry because Emotion won’t have quite as much to say about it when Logic suggests something needs to go. Go for the “easy” stuff to help build up that Logic muscle.
  3. We ask ourselves questions. Questions like “If I didn’t have this when I needed it, what would happen?”. Would you be able to borrow it? Use something else? Make an alternative?Be creative with something you already have?
  4. We extend the story. What we’re saying when we say “I might need it someday” is actually “I’m afraid of the consequences of not having this when I need it”. We’re telling ourselves a story that stops at the worse part. So extend the story – what ARE those consequences? What would happen if you didn’t have a spare screwdriver when you needed it? What would happen to you? And then what would you do? And then what? What’s at the end of the story? And is it so bad as you initially thought?
  5. We use our powers of creativity and ingenuity. Tell yourself stories about how resourceful you are and how you will be just fine without The Thing. Tell yourself about how smart you are at making do without, and how strong you are when things don’t go your way. Tell yourself how a little inconvenience won’t derail you, and that it’s unlikely to even happen at all. Back yourself, you can do it.

So next time you find yourself thinking “But I might need it someday”, stop and see if you can give Logic a fighting chance. And the more you do it, the better you and Logic will get at fighting off that pesky Emotion who keeps telling you that you aren’t strong enough.

A privilege honoured with transparency

This business is so much more about people than stuff. And anyone who tries to tell you differently either hasn’t done what we do, or does it very differently to how we do it!

Helping people move from one stage of their lives to another is a privilege to be a part of, and we always do our best to honour that privilege.

Other businesses “clear out” homes – we transition homes from one stage in their history to the next.

Other businesses “buy your stuff” – we help you re-home your treasures, treating them and your relationship with them with the respect they deserve.

Other businesses “move people” – we take the weight of people’s shoulders.

We really love it when we find treasures for our clients, things they didn’t know they had hidden away, or things they didn’t know had value.

Not too long ago we found a hidden, genuine Japanese sword from World War 2, a set of dog tags and a photo of our client’s father from the war holding the sword.  Our client thought this was lost many years ago.  The delight she had when we returned these items was so rewarding for us.

We pride ourselves on our transparency – all of the items we find that have value are always returned to the client or sold with the full proceeds going directly to the client.

Did you know that there are businesses that advertise a similar service, but they instead offer an amount money in return for clearing out the home, and in the process keep everything they find? In these cases, there could be some real treasures you may never even know you or your family members had.

At another home recently, we found four pure silver ingots hidden away.  Again, we returned the proceeds to our client – these other businesses would have kept this for their own benefit.

Again, it’s a privilege to help people in this transitional phase of their lives, and we pride ourselves on making sure we honour that with transparency and honesty at all times.

If you ever get quotes from an auctioneer, estate clearer or other similar downsizing service, make sure you ask all about their policies regarding sale and disposal of items so that you can be sure you don’t fall victim to any of these methods.

Leaving room for the warm fuzzies

When you declutter or downsize, there will be items that are challenging to make decisions on. There are various reasons, but one reason is definitely that there is a sentimental connection somewhere.

Sometimes it’s an item that reminds you of a past event, or even just a past feeling. It could remind you of blood, sweat and tears that you put into it. It could have been given to you by a loved one, or someone who has passed. It gives you a good feeling that you don’t want to lose.

When you have more stuff than space, it’s important to reduce your belongings – it’s actually necessary. However, you don’t need to give up on off of the things that fill your heart and soul.

When you are decluttering and downsizing, it’s fine if you want to set aside some space for your memorabilia. For some people, it’s a really important piece of who they are.  They key is to be intentional about how much space it can take up. If you’re moving into a smaller home, designate a certain storage area in the new home for your warm fuzzies.  Ideally, you’ll use them and they’ll be in the daily cycle.  Second priority would be to display them. But even if there’s no room to do either (or it’s not appropriate to display Great Grandpa’s love letters or your school reports), you can set aside a space somewhere out of the way to keep them safe.  Sometimes just a few items can meet the same emotional needs as the whole lot.

It’s okay to make space for your heart, just as long as you do it intentionally and it takes up only a helpful amount of your living space.

Being able to keep some things that give you the warm fuzzies is important.

When Adult Children Clutter Your Life

A lot of our clients that are trying to downsize have stuff in their homes that belong to their adult children.  The stuff has been kept for various reasons. Sometimes the offspring have asked for it to be kept for them, and other times the parent has chosen to keep them to pass on one day.

The first category is the most difficult one to deal with because it’s not often voluntary on the part of the parent. I find that my clients have a conundrum – do they store the stuff for their child even though it impacts on their life, or do they risk upsetting or inconveniencing their child by asking for it to be removed?

A lot of parents will feel guilty for requesting that the stuff be taken away. I hear things like “they don’t have much space” or “it will cost a lot to ship it”. They are still looking after their kids, and I can understand that. It’s not helpful though!

I notice that the parents assume responsibility for the items rather than assigning responsibility to the owners of the items. They forget that they are grown-ups who are quite capable of looking after themselves. I love it when the children are helpful and immediately help by removing the items, but I do get disappointed when others unhelpfully drag their feet, refuse to act and make their parents feel guilty. I want to say “They have sacrificed so much for you! Help them live a clutter-free retirement, please!”.

My advice is always pretty consistent – ship it out! If the adult children can’t afford to transport it, they need to choose to de-own it. If they can’t fit it in their homes, they choose to de-own it or pay for storage. They are the ones that need to be making the decisions but either way, it needs to leave their parent’s house.

 

 

The “zone” method of decluttering

When we help clients downsize their homes, or help with an estate clearance, one method we advocate of cluttering and sorting the home is to use zones.

When it’s us that’s clearing the home, we help the client create an “unwanted” zone, where they put everything they don’t want.  Given that we are experienced at knowing what is sell-able, donate-able or just recyclable, we encourage them to not throw anything away, but just to put it in the Unwanted Zone. Then we go through it and sort it into where it will ultimately end up.

But you don’t need us to do this. If you have a large clearance to do, you, too, can also use the zone method. When your Unwanted Zone is full, you then ferry things off to the charities, or the auction house, or other family members and then you go back and start filling it again.

If you work systematically through each room in the home, leaving the wanted items where they are and putting the unwanted items into the Unwanted Zone, you also eliminate a lot of double-handling that can come from shifting items from room to room, or re-sorting something you’ve already gone through.