Getting rid of Stuff

Getting rid of StuffWe’d lived in our house for over 30 years and we’d travelled quite a bit, always bringing home things that caught our fancy.  At one point we both worked from home so we each had a fully equipped office.  I repeatedly gained and lost weight over the years so had clothes in sizes from 12 to 16.  Books, some of which we’d had since childhood, lined the walls.  Our CD collection ran into the hundreds.  The glass cabinet of mineral specimens and fossils overflowed into cardboard boxes underneath (we both did geology as our degree).  Things that we weren’t using just got shoved in the loft or under the stairs.  We had so much Stuff it just wasn’t funny, and storage is expensive.

We started the decluttering process 13 months before departure and it was just as well we did.  Tackling the loft first, we tried to be ruthless. Did we really still need our A-level notebooks? Clothes I hadn’t worn for 20 years and wouldn’t even if they had fitted?  Museum tickets and beer bottle labels from long ago trips?  No, no and no.  Some things we photographed before throwing away.  Some things we sold.

It’s amazing what people will buy on Ebay.  An information leaflet from the time we went to see a friend in West Berlin on the British military train was snapped up by a private museum in Germany.  The Sellotape tin in which I kept stamp hinges as a child was bought by a props guy for a TV series set in the 60s.  Half used bottles of perfume, old kitchen equipment inherited from Mr V’s grandmother, clothes from the 1990s – it all sold.  Often the key was to stick the word ‘vintage’ in the description.  We’d always list our items for a week, starting them so they’d finish early on a Sunday evening, the time most buyers are online.  If something didn’t sell we’d relist it, perhaps at a lower starting price.  Only after 3 or 4 listings would we throw it out or take it to the charity shop.

Our dining room became our stock room, with piles of items listed or still to photograph and list next time.  We salvaged and saved every bit of packaging material we could – cardboard boxes in all shapes and sizes, bubble wrap, polystyrene (Homebase was good for this as well as boxes), shredded paper.  A friend who ran a shop saved binliners full of the packing peanuts in which his stock arrived.  Using recycled packaging helped keep down the amount we charged for P&P, which was important for making sales and getting good feedback ratings.  We still needed to buy brown paper, parcel tape and the plastic mailing pouches which were easiest for clothes (it was far cheaper to buy these online).

I guess we were lucky – Ebay is heavily biased in favour of the buyer in any dispute and there are some unscrupulous people who will claim not to receive goods, or change their mind about the purchase and claim they were damaged, but we had no problems.  However I only shipped to the UK, north America, western Europe and Australia/NZ – places with reasonably reliable postal services.  Also we were only selling low value stuff (nothing more than £80, and most things under £10) and things that weren’t prohibitively expensive to post (because if it’s returned for a refund the seller has to pay for the postage both ways).  Heavy and/or bulky items like furniture were sold on a collection only basis and requests to ship declined.  Altogether we raised about £2000 via Ebay – on stuff that we would have had to throw out or give away if we hadn’t started the process early.

We found two large boxes of LPs under the stairs.  We’d not had a working turntable for years so goodness knows why we still had them.  We didn’t relish the idea of trying to post them but the secondhand record shop in town was only interested in jazz and 1960s stuff, not the 1970s progressive rock that made up the bulk of our collection.  However, he did give me the number of someone he thought might take them.  Bev came to the house to look them over – bizarrely, he bought many records to ship to Russia, but he also had a stall in London’s Camden Market.  He really knew his stuff, explaining what sleeve or label details made an LP particularly collectible before checking whether they were there, and beaming when he found we still had pristine posters in the sleeve of Dark Side of the Moon when we’d denied having them.  He carefully divided the collection into 4 piles – 50p each, £1 each and £5.  Over £100 in total.  That just left us with some classical and oddments that he didn’t want.  Someone off Ebay took the classical as a job lot for collection and the rest went to the charity shop.  We called Bev later to deal with our CD collection too, once we had acquired it all as MP3s.

We never resorted to a car boot sale.  They charge sellers money, and we really weren’t sure our stuff would sell all that well, especially if we happened to pick a rainy day.  They are probably more worthwhile if you have a lot of stuff to sell all at once, whereas we were doing it gradually.  We could perhaps have done a garage sale, if we’d had a garage.

We decided to sell our cars – we had no garage in which to keep them, and aging hatchbacks weren’t going to appreciate in value by standing idle for 18 months.  They went on Gumtree, and both attracted the attention of scammers wanting to pay by Paypal – but did sell quite quickly.

There were two things that just would not sell – books and video tapes.  We had a lot of books – hundreds of them.  The only ones that sold were very specialist (some of our university text books for example) or rare vintage hardbacks.  Paperbacks were a non-starter with Amazon selling them for 1p.  Glossy, heavy coffee table books – nope.  We packed several boxes to keep and took over 20 boxes to a charity shop.

Video tapes we couldn’t even give away – the charity shops didn’t want them.  So they all went in the bin, along with a bunch of audio cassettes.  Moral of the story – as soon as a new technology looks as though it will really take off, sell the old stuff!

It’s funny thinking about all that Stuff now.  It was important enough to us to hang onto it for years – now I can’t even remember what 95% of it was.  Even the things we kept that are now in storage – I don’t miss them and never think about them.  I can’t imagine what most of those boxes contain; I can just about remember some of my clothes and jewellery, and the furniture.  Oh well, it’ll be like having new stuff when we unpack it – if we ever do.  I strongly suspect that another Ebay sales frenzy will take place after we get home.

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