What’s the real value of stuff we don’t need? We all think we should get lots of money for selling stuff we no longer need on Ebay. But beware! Simplification does not mean monetization! Our stuff has value way beyond money.
Did you grow up, as I did, with Depression-era parents, grandparents, or other influential people? And did you learn from them that it’s fine to simplify and get rid of things but that everything has value and it is your job to extract that value from each and every item? I know the answer to that question. It’s yes. I offer as proof eBay and Craigslist.
Every item in our homes or lives has a ‘mental value’ and that value is calculated in our minds. It’s usually ‘close to what we paid for it’ or ‘a lot more because it’s now a collectible’. And that value — and the potential to monetize it — often paralyzes our ability to part with items.
What My Father Taught Me About Selling My Unwanted Stuff
So now I want to tell you a story of my then 85 year-old father quietly shutting down his 4 bedroom house to move into an apartment. And I want to show you what my Depression-raised father taught me about the fallacy of selling stuff on Ebay. His house had no more than most for its size, but it was still 4 bedrooms, a living room and a family room, and formal and casual dining area. That is a lot of furniture, and a lot of stuff.
Initially, as the ‘right-hand daughter’ instead of right-hand man, I sought to get an inventory of things, and find comparable items on Craigslist, to sort items value and donate those of less value, and spend the time to sell the items that clearly had value. I walked dad through the list of things that fell into those camps. And he said to me words that will forever echo in my brain: “You are under the impression that selling stuff on Ebay and Craigslist is the right approach. It isn’t”. He proposed the following thinking.
Imagine the Home You Want to Live in In the Future
For my dad, it was a one-bedroom apartment with den. Then imagine what can realistically and usefully fit into that space. Check those items for functionality. If they are not the best of their type, replace them with something else that can do the job more reliably. Then set those useful needed items aside.
Then look at everything else. What in that group can you simply not live without emotionally, no matter how irrational the choices?
Set the Emotional Items Aside and Donate Everything Else
Now look at everything left. Is there anything in that group that has a value of $500 or more? Set those items aside. Take everything else and donate it.
Call a charity whose aims and beliefs align with yours, and ask them to send someone over with strong arms and legs and let them remove the items to charity. As you watch items leave the house, don’t regret the $100 imagined value of that chair or table; instead imagine the grateful person who perhaps lost their home to a flood receiving this item, or finding it in a thrift shop. Put that grateful smile of their discovery in your mind.
Imagine What it Would Take to Sell the More Valuable Items
Before the truck leaves, give the driver a soda pop, ask him to wait just a moment, and return to the house. Review your imagined items that have $500 or more in value. Now imagine what it will take to sell that stuff on Ebay or Craigslist. You will have to post them online, accommodate people both trustworthy and not into your home or property to view the items, you will have to negotiate prices, often diminishing the value of the item before your eyes.
Now revisit the face of the grateful smile of discovery of someone else finding this in their home or thrift shop for some ridiculously low price. Call the person from the truck back into the house and have them take all of the ‘stuff you thought had value’ away.
Bring the Realistically Useful Stuff and Your Mementos With You
And that is exactly what my Depression-raised father did. There is a family in his home town who now has an almost fully furnished house due to his generosity. They lost their home to a fire. They now have another home with furnishings in it. He knows that (not who they are, just that they exist). And he has mentioned a few times that he’s at peace with ‘giving it all away’.
Stuff Hangs Around in our Homes Because We Think It Has Value
What we don’t calculate is how we’re denying someone else the pleasure of using that item that otherwise sits in a corner, or a box, or in a storage unit across town.
Learn from my dad. Just imagine the face of someone discovering this item for their use, and recognize that the value they derive is larger than the value you might get by selling that stuff on Ebay.