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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Putting On a Garage Sale

Posted by Tim Stobbs on July 12, 2015

Well after many years of ignoring the idea my wife finally convinced me to try running a garage sale.  Normally I’ve won this argument over the years with the simple statement of: we don’t have enough stuff to sell.  Yet because of my recent purging activities I dug my own hole on this one and finally agreed to put on a garage sale.  I really just wanted to sell a handful of things and toss the rest but my wife have having issues with tossing that much stuff so I gave in only after extracting the promise we would donate as much as possible for the leftovers but after that any left would be tossed.

Overall it was equal to a three solid days work of preparation the week before for the sale that ran over Friday evening and Saturday during the day.    It took that long just to set up the garage space, sort and price everything and put it all out on display.  We kept our pricing generally low in order to encourage sales (we were doing this more to get rid of things than make money) and we kept everything at easy to calculate amounts like $0.25, $0.50 and $1. That also included time to put together an ad and post it several different websites (for free of course).  Then I picked up some change from the bank for $220 in fives and change (which by the way was a bit too much, but you do use a lot more change than you would guess).

Our hours for the sale were Friday 3 to 7pm and were supposed to be 10 am to 6pm on Saturday.  Yet in reality we never made it that long.  We started to realize that the customer traffic on Saturday was so low that it won’t be worth keeping the sale open the full hours.  So about 2:30pm after less than 10 customers we started to clean up the garage and toss a few items in the trash and then put together a pile of stuff that we would try to donate.  Only three higher priced items were left that we will give a try to selling online.

In terms of sales honestly it wasn’t a good use of time.  We sold $253.50 in the first day and just $25.25 in the second for a total of $278.75.  A good lot of the sales came from a handful of items the two biggest ones went for $40 each and included an outdoor play structure and a crib.  Those two items sold in the first 30 minutes of the sale and I wasn’t even remotely surprised since I was answering email questions about those via our ads prior to the sale even starting.  So I learned that apparently having a few higher demand items is really helpful to drive some traffic into your sale.

Yet in terms of stuff, I have to admit that for getting rid of things it is a fairly effective way to do it especially if you want to see the get reused rather than just tossed into the trash. I would estimate at least 2/3 of our stuff sold and lots of the big things.  I understand my wife’s point of view on this one as the boys did a major purge on their toys so we have over half the items in the sale were just toys.  Those did very well for sales, one boy’s mom  bought a huge amount of our old Thomas trains.  I was also amazed about some of the things that sold.  I put out two old garage cans that I had from our previous house that I don’t use and both sold even when every person in this city has access to a large bid for their trash provided by the city.

To provide motivation for all this work we decide in advance that all the cash from the sale was going to be spending cash for our vacation and because the boys were helping haul stuff up from the basement for the sale and sort all their toys we promised them some of that money to spend during our vacation.

In the end, I’m glad it is over and I personally never want to do it again, yet my wife pointed out that will be at least one more sale…when she closes down her daycare for good when she retires we will have a huge sale prior to downsizing the house.  I suppose I could put up with that if it means she joins me in early retirement.

So do you ever put on a garage sale?  Are they worth the effort?  Or do you just shop at them?

Book Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Posted by Tim Stobbs on May 7, 2015

So after hearing about The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo a fair bit in the media I borrowed a copy from my library and started to read.  After all I’ve had passing flirting with minimalism over the years so I figured it couldn’t hurt.  But to be honest, I didn’t expect to learn much from the book. Damn I was wrong.

For for being a fairly short book Marie manages to pack in a lot of insightful comments on people’s behaviour to our stuff.  The first one to struck me as being hugely helpful is the average person is never taught how to purge or organize anything except in a haphazard way from family or perhaps friends.  So what happens is our homes (no matter how large or small) tend to build up WAY to much stuff.  Now how messy you are will determine how obvious the problem is, but volume still often exceeds what we can reasonably store in our homes.

Then people try to deal with this huge backlog of things but often try to do it just a little at a time which is like trying to swim up a river a foot at a time.  You might make some progress but you are going to feel exhausted from it all the time and likely give up.  So Marie’s solution is simple…do one monster size purge in your life and then you are done (it may take months to finish).  This isn’t to say you don’t need to do a little purging once and a while afterward, but organizing your stuff if pointless until you get rid of a huge amount of it.

Marie’s method is interesting because she doesn’t focus on what to purge, but rather what to keep.  Her criteria of it must ‘spark joy’  as you handle each item sounded weird to me until I stumbled on the idea of  that means: do you love the item?  So by default there is no maybe pile…you either love and keep it or it gets purged.  It’s a somewhat brutal method, but given the amount of crap people own it is surprising effective criteria.

Then to hone your decision making skills she points out a method of doing it by category of object for the entire house instead of by room.  That way you get practice on the easier decision items and work down to the hard decisions like sentimental items.  Her suggested list is clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany) and lastly mementos.   Komono is further broken down into CDs/DVDs, skin care, makeup, accessories, valuables (passports, credit cards…), electronics and cords, household equipment (stationary, pens, sewing kits…), household supplies (expendables like tissue, detergents, medicine…), kitchen goods/food supplies and other.  Your stop point for purge is when you feel comfortable with what is left.

After you do your monster purge then you start to organize things .  At which point most storage solutions are not really required since you actually have like 25 to 80% less stuff.  Then the trick to preventing clutter from all from coming back is to keep everything in its place.  Assign a home for EVERYTHING and put it back when you are done using it.  She cautions not to try and organize as you purge as you will lose focus and then stop.

Overall I’m done clothes, books, DVDs and still working on papers…I got side tracked by having to finish my taxes.  I have to agree with the idea of the monster purge idea as once you get going you hit a sort of momentum that makes the effort of keeping going easier.  My motivation for this is the dream of waking up in  house where I love everything that is there…my neglected items are gone and I can FIND things easily.  She rightly points out without some kind of goal in mind the process really won’t work.

This isn’t to say that some of her ideas are a bit odd like unpacking your purse or bag completely at the end of each day after you get back home from work.   Umm, no thanks. Too much work for no real point. Or that she treats objects like they have personality and you should thank them for their service.  So feel free to ignore the really odd ideas in the book…I am.

In the end, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the book and I am finding it useful so far.  It remains to be seen if I can complete the process, but I’m enjoying the results so far.  So have you read the book yet?  Do you think Marie is nuts or brilliant…or perhaps in between?

In and Out

Posted by Tim Stobbs on December 29, 2014

Ugh, Christmas is over.  The presents are unwrapped, you have setup, washed or otherwise started to use your new gifts.  Good for you.  Now on the flip side what are you getting rid of?

Pardon?!? All to often we get new stuff in our lives and don’t even give it a second thought that perhaps this would be an excellent time to also consider getting rid of a equal number of items to ensure your pile of stuff doesn’t grow.  I personally try to get to this the week following Christmas.

In some cases, this is a very easy thing to do.  For example, I got a new pair of jeans and tossed an old pair that I had previously fixed a hole in the pocket of.  The rest of the jeans were also starting to wear out so it was an easy decision to make.  Heck while you are in your closest you could just do a check in to see if you actually wear everything you have in there.

Other things are a bit more complex, like we got a new Keurig coffee maker for a gift.  So does that mean I should toss out my old coffee pot.  Perhaps, but I also use that coffee pot a LOT right now.  So in this case, I’ll take a wait and see approach to decide if I will use one more than the other and if I should get rid of something in the future.

Giving stuff and receiving it is easy to do.  Getting rid of things isn’t always so easy especially if you have problems tossing perfectly usable items (like I do).  So I tend to use the following methods:

  • Give it to a friend. In some cases, you might have someone else who can use something you used to have and they would love it.  When this works out it is wonderful for everyone.
  • Donate it. Nearly perfect used clothes are easy to donate and so are small household goods to some charities.  Other things you have to consider if it would be really useful since it is fairly won.
  • Sell it. Online sites make this significantly easier to do now and you can also give something away for free if you do not feel it would be worth selling.
  • Or if you just can not find a way to get rid of it…throw it away. I hate to do this, but accept sometimes I can not find something a home.

So do you do a post holiday purge?  If so, how you do handle it?