The result will be that instead of clutter, you’ll have space and a refreshing sense of Spartan simplicity—and you won’t have to look at all that stuff you never use, and probably should have never bought. And instead of money disappearing into the cash registers of retail centers all over your neck of the woods, you’ll have some money in the bank for a change.
People complain that they work too much. But maybe the problem is that they “need” too much. Sure, you work to pay the bills—but lots of those bills wouldn’t be quite so high if you didn’t feel compelled to live a lifestyle of shopping and constantly compiling stuff. It’s one thing to work long hours to provide for your family. It’s another to endure endless work weeks in order to get more stuff.
The other problem with stuff is that once you’ve accumulated it—a process that generally requires an outlay of money—you often incur more expenses taking care of your stuff, or at least finding places to keep it. Hence, the necessity of walk-in closets, 5,000-square-foot homes, and $300-a-month personal storage units. If you hadn’t acquired all of that stuff, you wouldn’t need all that extra space—and you also wouldn’t have to work so hard to pay for all of that stuff, and for all of that space to hold your stuff. People say “stuff happens,” but this sort of stuff doesn’t have to happen.
So, in honor of spring, while you’re doing the annual clean-up, why don’t you also clean out? Getting rid of stuff is a literal and figurative cleansing process.
• Pros: No registration required. Free. Easy to use.
• Cons: Unqualified, unreliable buyers. Many listings. Spam.
• Pros: Strong branding and traffic (eBay is where people go to buy used stuff).
• Cons: Registration required. Long listing wizard. Moderately priced fee structure.
Or a community garage sale (which work better than if you’re trying to do it solor):
• Pros: Fun socializing with your neighbors. Spread out the costs.
• Cons: Lots of work, you have to watch your stuff for hours. Lots of negotiating (if you dislike it).
Garage sales, yard sales, tag sales—whatever you want to call them, they’re renowned as being spots for snagging bargains. But if it’s something you don’t really need, and worse, something you don’t even have space for, then it’s not much of a bargain. In fact, it’s wasted money, however little you’re spending.
Take it from Mighty Bargain Hunter, who admits to being something of a garage sale junkie, and who recently came to a better understanding that he wound up regretting a lot of the “bargains” he nabbed:
I’d go stark-raving crazy buying up all of these bargains for (a) things I had an immediate use for, (b) things I didn’t have an immediate use for, but were such a good deal, and (c) things I had no need for, but thought I could resell. Some of the things in (b) and (c) I actually did use/resell, but a lot of it I didn’t, and I ended up either getting rid of it, or storing (and moving) it.
After doing some secondhand soul-searching, here is the kernel of wisdom he came up with, which I couldn’t agree with more:
Accumulating stuff is overrated, even at rock-bottom prices. Bargains are great, but too many bargains is too much of a good thing, especially when they’re cramping your house.
One more note about storage: I recall that last fall, there was a fascinating story on self-storage in the NY Times magazine. It was fascinating because so much of what people kept (and keep) in storage is straight-up junk: plastic toys, trinkets, VHS tapes, cheap furniture. Often, it’s the kind of stuff few people would buy at any price at a garage sale, and yet there are people paying a couple hundred bucks a month to store it.
Why? The pack rat mentality, I guess. There’s the reluctance to just throw stuff away, which I have problems with. But also, there’s laziness, as this quote from the Times story reveals:
“Human laziness has always been a big friend of self-storage operators,” Derek Naylor, president of the consultant group Storage Marketing Solutions, told me. “Because once they’re in, nobody likes to spend all day moving their stuff out of storage. As long as they can afford it, and feel psychologically that they can afford it, they’ll leave that stuff in there forever.”
So, to recap, you pay for stuff that’s not important enough to actually want to keep in your home, then you pay for a place to keep that stuff, and you keep paying—regularly, monthly, easily over $1,000 a year—because you’re too lazy to do anything about it.
For more about stuff, here’s some classic wisdom from the late great George Carlin: