10 Ways to Get Rid of Stuff Frugally
It's a symptom of our crazy consumer culture that how to get rid of stuff is such a common topic of discussion. Stuff just seems to accumulate in American homes like plaque in our arteries, and too much of it can really drag down the efficiency of your home.
Since my family is moving across the country in less than two weeks, getting rid of stuff has gone from a "I really should do that" item to a top-of-list emergency. My goal is to not have to pay to have anything hauled away. Here are 10 ways I've been clearing out the excess. (See also: 25 Things to Throw Out Today)
1. Sell It Online
If you have an item with enough value to make it worth your time, by all means list it for sale online. In our current move, I'll be listing our dining room table and couch on Craigslist. I use eBay for high-end children's clothing — in my experience, anything that sells for less than $20 is not worth the time it takes to do an eBay listing and mail it off. Of course, you have your own idea of what is worth your time, and it may differ from mine.
For books, DVDs, and video games, it can be convenient to sell on Amazon or another site where you can enter the title or barcode info for quick product listing.
2. Hold a Rummage Sale
My experience with rummage sales over the years is that they have not been worth the time I took to plan and conduct them. For instance, if my husband and I made $130 during a five-hour rummage sale, and figure we spent at least five hours planning it, that works out to earnings of $13 per hour, split between two adults. Since either of us can make much more than that working, it seems like we'd be much better off giving the junk to charity.
And yet, I find myself answering the siren song of rummage sale again this weekend. Oh well, at least some people make money on their garage sales, so maybe I'll get lucky this time.
3. Sell It Through a Store
I have mostly done this with children's clothing, but in the slow economy, more and more shops are opening up where you can sell adult clothing, furniture, and other items at consignment. This is nice because once you drop the stuff off, you don't have to worry about how long it takes to sell — just check with the store later to find out if you made any money.
You can also check with specialized shops such as used bookstores and video game stores, where you might get paid upfront. Today I received a crisp $10 bill from Gamestop in about five minutes. That sounds great until you hear that I had just handed over 15 old video games, some of them still in sealed packaging. My lesson on that one was that it doesn't pay to procrastinate when selling games and other media or electronics — the older they get, the less you'll get.
You don't get paid for stuff you unload through Freecycle, but you do earn the right to request items from other members. I really like using Freecycle both to pick up needed items and get rid of unwanted ones. It's my experience that someone will claim just about anything you offer on Freecycle. The downside is that — at least in my local group — it's not that uncommon for people to fail to pick up what they've claimed, leaving you wondering how long you should leave the item sitting on your porch.
5. Give Items to Friends
Our household has been the beneficiary of friends' moving days in the past, so of course we will pay it forward by sharing some useful items with friends. Items I will give away include houseplants, half-used jars of spices and other food, and a vacuum cleaner.
6. Choose Charities That Pick Up
If you have a large number of boxes or bags or furniture to get rid of, call a local charity thrift store, and you may find they'll be happy to send a truck over. (That's why I woudln't pay to have stuff hauled away, unless it was truly too useless even for a thrift store.) Some charities regularly schedule neighborhood pickups — I periodically get calls from both AmVets and Purple Heart to arrange pickups, and I almost always have a couple bags of stuff to put out. Don't forget to get a receipt so you can deduct the estimated value of the items from your taxes.
7. Check With Your Kids' School, Your Church, or Other Local Organizations
Sometimes you have some nice, newer items that you can't use, and you don't feel like sending them to a junk shop. I'll be giving some gently used kids' games to a local children's organization, and some school supplies to the kids' school.
8. Curb It
Most communities charge extra to have the garbage crew haul off a piece of furniture or other large item, but don't worry — in my experience almost anything remotely useful or recyclable will walk off on its own if you put it on the curb or in the alley a few days before trash day. The item we most wanted to get rid of was an old pole to a basketball hoop we'd pulled out of our yard — it still had concrete around the base and was extremely heavy. It took a few weeks of waiting, but eventually a scrap metal collector rolled through our alley and managed to haul the thing away.
9. Lose It
Once, when I was in Tokyo, I decided I no longer wanted a book I had brought along and tried to leave it in a public place for someone to pick up and enjoy. No such luck. People in Japan are so helpful that I was chased out of a hotel lobby, a cafe, and a taxicab with my book. It became a game for my friend and me, and we finally successfully ditched it in a cavernous arcade.
Here in the United States, it's easy to ditch your possessions in public and hope that serendipity finds them a nice new owner. Of course, I don't mean you should litter or dump some junk on the side of the highway. For books, do this in cafes or on public transit. If you live in an area with a lot of homeless people, you can pretty much deposit used clothing or shoes on any street corner or alcove and count on them going to good use.