Over time, I’ve picked up a few bits of wisdom in this slow-downsizing adventure. Some were not initially obvious to me. Here are a few takeaways that have jelled in the past year.
Stick with the things that work, and know when to quit. My local consignment store works for me, so I’ll stay with it as long as I have clothes they will take. At some point, I may run out of worthwhile items. They don’t take everything, and not everything sells. Likewise, More than Words (a Massachusetts-based organization) meets our needs for donating books, and we like their mission.
Remember that time is money, and to repeat one of my gems from 2017—“your stuff ain’t worth squat.” Both selling and donating take time, but selling generally takes much more time. When considering whether to sell or donate, don’t be lured in by magical thinking or tales from a friend who reported they got $50 for a single vinyl record. I investigated the value of all our vinyl records. (Discogs in particularly helpful.) Some of the figures seemed widely out of whack with what we could realistically get. Was my copy of the Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers” really worth $81?! (Just look at the number of copies of a particular title that are available through websites.) Prospective re-sellers would point out scratches that lowered the worth. Was I being taken in by the on-line hype? If we wanted to try to sell these on our own, we might be able to obtain a higher price, but we don’t want to run another business, much less in sales. I will face the same problem with some books I have that used and antiquarian book sites suggest have value. Cut my losses and donate to More than Words? To be decided.
Check your hunches before chucking your “archives.” I was surprised a few years ago when my college wanted copies of old yearbooks. Didn’t they already have a copy from each year? But they did want them. This time around I checked with the college archives about their interest in my entire four-year collection of college newspapers. Surely, they had these? They did but said they were bound, and they liked loose copies, which were easier to copy and scan. They also wanted those other various bits of paper I saved that had been deposited in my college mailbox. (I know, I know…) Maybe with everything being digital, these pieces of paper have a story to tell?
Enjoy the gift of giving. As it happens, I could have sold my three-quarter sized Brazilian guitar that has been sitting in my attic for decades. But when I saw the request for such a guitar on the “Trash Nothing” site, I had an easy way to relieve myself of it to someone I had a chance to meet. No regrets. Individual donations can also be made to friends.
Consider the effort required by different donation methods. I love Big Brothers Big Sisters. Every month they text me with the date they are picking up in my neighborhood. I just box or bag everything up and leave it on the porch. Easy peasy. Goodwill, which is just a mile away, is also stress free. They have good hours, and I am frequently in the neighborhood (even though parking is poor). The on-line sites seem simple, but every time I posted items to give away, I would get multiple responses. Some people would promise to show up and never did. Schedules needed to be coordinated. I found it less time-consuming to respond to requests for items (one person only to deal with!) rather than posting items, but even that involved some back and forth. And the record buyer? He did a house-call, so I rewarded him with some of our best records at bargain prices.
Ask around. I had read somewhere that retirement and nursing homes liked greeting card covers, so I called a couple of local ones to see who might like my collection. I learned they also liked stationery items (copy paper, folders, post-it notes, and other things I had in abundance after I closed my business as well as craft items.
Don’t neglect what’s in front of you. I spent a lot of time in the basement, ignoring my overstuffed desk drawers. The upstairs drawer clearance allowed me to see what I had. Now I can find what I need more readily. I also managed to read (or skim) and recycle all non-book reading material that had been accumulating—magazines, newsletters, special newspaper supplements.
What have you learned in the course of downsizing? What are your favorite organizations for donating things?