How to Get Rid of Stuff
Tips for downsizing, decluttering, and getting rid of items you no longer need
There are numerous reasons for wanting or needing to get rid of stuff. If you’re planning a move to another country; or even just planning a move down the street, getting rid of stuff can be a daunting task. If you’re getting older and have a lot of stuff that’s sentimental, it can be difficult to part with those possessions. If a loved one has passed and you need to clean out their things, it can be stressful to think about how to get rid of stuff.
American households accumulate a vast number of things. According to Jeanne E. Arnold, co-author of Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, contemporary U.S. households have more possessions per household than any other society in global history. It’s no wonder that even the thought of dealing with all that stuff can put the brakes on plans to downsize or move.
When Paul and I moved from Rhode Island to Arizona in the early 2000’s, we thought we had been successful in getting rid of excess stuff. We sold many of our antiques at an auction, put some of our furniture in a consignment store, gave away items to family and friends and donated a lot of things to Goodwill. However, 18 years later, as we prepared for an overseas move to begin our Portugal journey, we realized that many of those things that we absolutely could not live without and had to move across the country with us were still in the original moving boxes, in the garage, unopened. Lesson learned.
WHAT THIS ARTICLE COVERS
Shipping your possessions overseas is expensive. And depending on the country you’re moving to, those big, oversized American items may not fit in your new space. The intent of this article is to offer tips, ideas, and resources on how to get rid of stuff especially when you’re contemplating a move to another country. The information here may also be useful if you’re planning a move to another state or just want to downsize.
Topics we’ll cover include:
Embracing the “love-line mindset”
How to begin the process
How and where to sell your stuff
EMBRACING THE “LOVE-LINE MINDSET”
Many years ago, when we owned a country store built in 1799 and lived in an apartment above it, we bought and sold antiques. Sometimes, if we found an especially nice piece, such as a farmhouse cupboard, or a vintage basket, we would keep it and enjoy it in our home or display it as ‘not for sale’ in our store. After a while, we would challenge ourselves to what I like to call the “love-line mindset.” Did we really love that cupboard or basket so much that we would never part with it – or was it okay to enjoy it for a while and then let it go and sell it or gift it to someone else to enjoy? This question often prompted us to really think about how we perceived the value, and sentimentality of things.
Start thinking in terms of letting things go. After all, they’re not people or pets, they’re merely things. Mentally visualize the feeling of relief and accomplishment you’ll have once you have removed the materialistic clutter from your life. Embrace the “love-line mindset” even before you even begin to sort through your stuff.
HOW TO BEGIN THE PROCESS
The process of getting rid of stuff should begin as early as possible. Ideally, if you are one or two years out or longer before moving or downsizing, start now. Of course, a lot depends on how much stuff you have accumulated, so your timing may be shorter or longer. No matter the amount of stuff you must sort through, the biggest mistake people make is to procrastinate.
If you look at all you must go through at once, you’ll become overwhelmed, so pick one small area to start – a cupboard shelf, a corner of a closet, a section of the garage, basement, or attic - and set aside a specific amount of time to devote to the process. Try starting once a week for 30 minutes without interruption and allot more time as you proceed. Don’t be tempted to go from area to area or room to room, picking an item here or there, because if you do, nothing will get done.
Keep in mind the following points:
Just because you paid a lot of money for some of your things doesn’t mean they’re worth that now. Unless an item is highly collectible/rare/desirable, be prepared to sell your things at a fraction of what you paid. After all, your things are second-hand now.
Things like those Franklin Mint collector plates, figurines, or dolls are not an investment. You won’t get much for them.
If you’re thinking about giving many of your mementos to siblings, children, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren, even if you think they’re family heirlooms, think twice. They may not want your gifts.
In the area you start with, create 3 piles and label them:
Pile # 1 to label – Items to sell
Believe it or not, there’s a buyer for nearly everything. From old vinyl records and musical instruments, old books, license plates, bakeware, board games, vintage lingerie, and glass bottles, to Grandma’s old costume jewelry, old sewing items, and vintage clothing, there’s a good chance you have stuff people will buy.
Pile # 2 to label – Items to give away to family/friends/donate
Keeping in mind that relatives or friends many not really want your things, create a pile of potential items to give away or donate to a charitable organization.
Pile # 3 to label – Items to keep
Ask yourself if you need the items you want to keep. When was the last time you used the item? What reason are you really keeping it? Is it an item that can be replaced or purchased new once you move to your new location? Be realistic. The goal is not to keep everything.
You can create your piles wherever it’s convenient, in a basement corner, a space in your garage, or in a spare room. Put your piles in boxes, bins, a table, or shelving – whatever is easiest - with the appropriate pile label so you can refer to them later.
Once you have created your piles, step away from them. In a few days or even a week, go back and look at each pile and adjust if you need to. We have performed this exercise each time we have moved. The items we thought we couldn’t live without, suddenly didn’t seem that important. Pile number 3 dwindled and piles 1 and 2 increased.
HOW TO SELL SOME OF YOUR STUFF
Sell on Online Marketplaces
People buy stuff. I know firsthand because 3 years prior to our move to Portugal, I started to sell a lot of our stuff using online marketplaces.
Here are some of the types of items I sold: used paperback books, handbags and wallets, vintage linens, old license plates (1980’s-2003), vintage lingerie, pants, tops, sweaters, shoes, shawls, jackets, costume jewelry, vintage books such as old Nancy Drew mystery stories, Waterford crystal glassware, vintage sterling silver and silverplate flatware, duck decoys, depression glass, China place settings, Christmas-themed glassware, vintage car emblems, vintage photographs, old cameras, old wicker and rattan baskets, ceramic and porcelain figurines, old Christmas ornaments, vintage sewing notions such as pincushions, buttons, and thread, vintage crystal chandelier parts, cookbooks, old postcards, music CD’s, and acrylic CD storage cubes.
Spend some time researching online marketplaces such as Etsy, eBay, Reverb, Bonanza, ThredUp, Swappa, and Poshmark to see the types of items people are selling - from used clothing, books, antiques and autos to jewelry and electronics. If you have the time, create an online account, and try selling your items on one or more of these platforms (if you have sizable items, such as a piece of furniture, you can list your item on eBay as “local pickup only”). You might be surprised at how much you can get for your stuff.
If you don’t have the time to sell items online yourself, consider using a service like iSoldIt. They are eBay sellers with franchises in 9 states. Bring in your items (must be in good condition) and they will sell them for you on eBay. You receive a percentage of the sale.
Craigslist – this is the original online local marketplace platform to sell your stuff. When you log onto the Craigslist website, it should default to your local area. You post an ad on the website, upload pictures and an item description by following the listing prompts. For more information on how to use Craigslist, check out this resource.
Facebook Marketplace – Facebook Marketplace is a popular platform to sell your items locally. You can easily list your items for sale using an iPhone or Android phone. If someone is interested in your item, they will contact you through the Marketplace app to either purchase it or come to your home to look at the item. For more information on how to use Facebook Marketplace, check out this resource.
OfferUp is a local marketplace and is like Facebook Marketplace. You list the items you have for sale using the OfferUp app on your iPhone or Android phone. If someone is interested in your item, they will contact you through the app to either purchase it or come to your home to look at the item.
Always use caution when using a public-facing platform like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp. To be safe, it’s best to have your items viewed in an outdoor space or garage. Never be alone and do not let strangers into your home.
Online marketplaces are easy to use but you must have the time and the patience, and you must be realistic about pricing your items. This resource provides information on how to start selling your stuff using a variety of online marketplaces.
Local Ways to Sell Many Types of Items
Consignment Stores – If you have time to get rid of your stuff, consignment stores may be an option. You bring in your items to sell and receive a percentage of the sale when the item sells. Consignment stores have different policies and requirements for the types of items they sell. In most cases, if your items don’t sell within a specific time period, you can either pick them up or the shop will donate the items. Sometimes consignment stores will purchase your items outright. Be sure to inquire if this is offered.
Do a Google search using the search term, consignment stores and [the name of your city or state], to pull up a list of shops in your area.
Yard Sales or Garage Sales – You can sell your stuff by conducting a yard or garage sale. Arrange items neatly on tables or create box lots. Price each item and be prepared to accept offers (often low) for your items. Depending on where you live, yard/garage sales may or may not be allowed. If you live in a private community, check with your HOA for restrictions. Be sure to advertise your sale. This resource provides ways to hold and advertise a yard or garage sale.
Flea Markets and Swap Meets – You can set up a booth or table at local flea markets and swap meets to sell your stuff. This takes some advance planning, but your stuff will be seen by a variety of buyers including antique dealers, resellers, and collectors. This resource from Flea Market Insiders explains how to successfully sell at flea markets and swap meets.
Pawn Shops – if you want to quickly sell your stuff such as musical instruments, jewelry, collectibles, etc. a local pawn shop may be an option.
Local Ways to Sell Specific Types of Items
Do you have specific types of items you’d like to bring into a local store to sell? Many communities have shops that buy specific types of items such as vintage clothing, vinyl records, gold and silver, musical instruments, books, and sporting equipment. Here is a list of independently locally owned and operated franchise stores that buy specific types of items as well as non-franchised stores with nationwide locations:
Cars – Headquartered in San Diego, CA, SellMax buys used cars in any condition. If you agree to their offer, they’ll pay you cash. There are SellMax store locations in most U.S. states.
CarMax also buys and pays cash for used cars (this is the service we used when we wanted to sell our car before moving). Fill out a form online to get a quote for your car or stop by one of their showrooms located in most U.S. states.
Children’s Clothing, Gear and Toys - Once Upon a Child is a chain of independently owned and operated franchise stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. They pay cash for gently used children’s clothing, shoes, toys, and baby gear.
Electronics – Amazon Trade-In will pay you for some old electronics. They restore and resell eligible electronic items or if they’re not resell-able, they will recycle them responsibly. You will not receive cash for items sold in this program, but instead will receive Amazon gift cards that can be used to purchase other items on Amazon.
Apple Trade-In has a reuse and recycling program for used iPhones, iPads, Mac, or PC computers. You may be eligible to trade in your device for credit towards your next purchase of an Apple product, or if the device is not eligible for a credit, Apple will recycle your device for free.
Gazelle is a national company that buys and sells used cell phones and computers. If they purchase your electronics, you can be paid by cash, Amazon gift card or PayPal.
Musical Instruments – Music Go Round is a chain of independently owned and operated franchise stores throughout the U.S. They pay cash for guitars, amps, drums, keyboards, mixers, band instruments and more.
Sporting Equipment – Play It Again Sports is a chain of independently owned and operated franchise stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. They pay cash for brand name fitness and sports gear for practically any type of sport.
Teen Clothing – Plato’s Closet is a chain of independently owned and operated franchise stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. They pay cash for gently worn brand name teen clothing.
Vinyl Records, CD’s and Cassettes – To find a local store that will buy your old vinyl records, CD’s and Cassettes, Goldmine Record Store Directory has a list of local stores throughout the U.S. Scroll down to your state to see the stores in your area.
Women’s Clothing – Style Encore is a chain of independently owned and operated franchise stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. They pay cash for gently used and current style women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, handbags, and accessories.
Online Stores to sell specific types of items
If you can’t find a local store to sell your specific type of item, check out some of these online stores that will pay you for your stuff:
Books – Powell’s is a used book buyer and seller with 3 stores in Oregon. They will pay cash for gently used books if you use their online portal. Fill out the required information and they’ll send you an offer or tell you they’re not interested. If you accept their offer, you can ship your books to them for free.
Comic Books – Sparkle City Comics is in Middletown, NY. The company buys and sells vintage and collectible comic books and comic art. Fill out an online form and they’ll let you know if they’re interested.
Designer Clothing, Accessories, Art, and Collectibles – The RealReal is a luxury consignment business with physical stores in 19 cities across the U.S. as well as online. Once you create an online account, you can ship your items to them for free or if you live near a store, you can schedule a pick-up. They will pay you a percentage of the item when it sells.
Electronics, CDs, DVDs, Games, and Books – Decluttr buys and sells a variety of used electronic and media items. Enter the required information about your items using their online form and you’ll receive an instant price. They’ll send you a free shipping label. You’ll need to be selling at least 10 media items or 1 tech item and the total order value must be over $5.00.
Games – Noble Knight buys and sells gaming items such as Magic cards, RPGs, comics, board games, war games, historical magazines, art books, scale models, action figures, dice, and historical miniatures worldwide. The list of items they buy is extensive so be sure to check out their website for details. You can ship your items to them for free if you live in the U.S. They also offer shipping options for overseas sellers. They will pay cash for your items.
Gift Cards – If you have unwanted gift cards, CardCash may want to buy them. Fill in the name of the gift card and the balance available on the card and you’ll get an instant quote (expect it to be less than the full value of the balance).
Vintage Collectibles - Neat Stuff Collectibles is a sister company of Sparkle City Comics. This company buys and sells original art, vintage toys, pulp magazines, modern comic books, sports memorabilia, and music memorabilia. Fill out an online form and they’ll let you know if they’re interested.
Embrace the “love-line” mindset
Commit to spending at least 30 minutes a week sorting through your stuff
Make 3 piles of items to keep, sell or give away. Revisit those piles every week or so.
Spend some time doing research online to see what is selling and how much they’re selling for.
Start selling your stuff. Use online marketplaces, local stores, or some of the other suggestions in this article.
Be realistic about what you’ll get for your items. Price them too high and they won’t move.
Need more solutions to get rid of stuff? Look for my upcoming articles on how to donate or recycle some of your stuff and how to find estate auctions and liquidators.
Until next time…
I’ve been overwhelmed thinking about a move in 2-3 years. I feel sure this post will help me stay focused. Thank you for all the great resources!
Thanks again from us and my sister!