Updated: Feb 21
Moving: The Day of Reckoning Is Here!
Today I welcome Susan Gardner as a contributing author on a series of articles about moving. Whether you're moving cross-country to "be closer to the grandkids," finally going to your dream home, or finally going to a retirement community, you have to move. As our author would say, you get to "pick up every single item and put it somewhere else." Susan's expertise in this area is hard won. Enjoy this series.
Nothing brings to light the clutter in a house more than moving. A house only becomes empty by someone physically picking up every single item and putting it somewhere else. The box stashed in the back closet will be opened, the bag of unfinished projects will not be ignored, and the strategically placed junk drawers will be emptied. Every piece of furniture will be moved somewhere. Every dust bunny will hop freely!
Professional organizer Peter Walsh describes two types of clutter that collect over years. “Memory clutter” is stuff, like an old school program or a newspaper clipping, that reminds you of important events. In the “someday clutter” category are items you don't toss because you “might need them someday.”
With the decision to move, “someday” has arrived. Either you need the item or you don’t. And with moving imminent, that fact holds true for memorabilia, as well. Whether you pack things yourself or have someone else pack, you have to make the decisions that set in motion the emptying of one place and moving things into another place. Indeed, the day of reckoning is here.
But, practically, how do you choose what to sell, donate, or “trash” among the things that you will no longer keep? Who wants your stuff and how do you get it out of the house?
First, estimate the volume of all you hope to discard. When you look at broad categories of things, you can make long-range decisions. For instance, if you plan to sell a moderate to large number of items, you have different options than if you are selling a handful. You can go the professional-help route or the do-it-yourself path, or a combination of both. Starting with the big picture can help you avoid getting bogged down in the minutia of individual decisions.
If you decide you want to move ahead on your own, you have several options for selling items, depending on the quality and quantity of your things:
Yard sales, an old standby, are a good option for items valued at $100 or less. A yard sale is fairly easy to organize and execute, especially if you have family and friends who can give you time in the week prior and during the sale. You can have a yard sale at multiple stages of your downsizing process, clearing out things from your house as you go along.
Online ventures, such as Craig’s List or Let Go, provide a way is to sell items individually. I have had success with both and find making the sales easy to accomplish. An important safety tip is to meet in a public place for the actual transition. You can even arrange the meeting for a police station. Let Go is a smart-phone app that advertises your item locally. You take a picture of it and price it; then you are given the option of adding additional pictures and a description. So far, I’ve sold a ukulele and a car. The over-the-door chin-up bar got a nibble but didn’t sell! I liken Craig’s List and Let Go to a yard sale one item at a time.
Neighborhood list-serves, when available, combine the best of both options. You can take a photo of your nicer items and put a price on them. Then, assuming no policy-prohibitions, send the information out to local folks. You may want to stipulate that the buyer is responsible for moving the item. As a courtesy, be sure to repost to the list when the pieces are gone.
If your items are numerous and potentially quite valuable or if you have the need, then professional help options are there for you. If you think you may want to have some type of big sale toward the end of your downsizing, involve potential sellers early. They can let you know what types of items they need for the sale to attract the best buyers. Otherwise you may sell the “good stuff” easily yourself, but get stuck with things a commissioned seller cannot use to have a profitable sale. It is to your advantage and to the seller’s advantage to make the most possible at a sale as the professional seller takes a percentage of the sale’s profits after the expenses are covered. You pay the professional for targeted expertise.
Estate sales are available on-site and online. Traditional sales are planned and marketed by people who are experienced in evaluating, pricing, and staging items in your home. They staff the sale and take a percentage of the proceeds, and the sale attracts local buyers. Online-estate sales, such as through Everything But The House, are another option, specifically for households that have an estimated minimum of $15,000 in value and may have special items. Their staff take professional pictures of the things being sold and list them either individually or in a lot. The sale takes place over seven days. The staff handle payment, shipping, and delivery. The advantage of the online approach is a worldwide market, especially reaching potential buyers interested in specific types of items, such as collectibles or wood-working tools, for instance.
Auction houses are good options for items that are of unique value. The process usually begins with sending pictures of your items for initial evaluation to auction houses. The advantage of selling higher-end art or furniture, for example, through auction is the ability of the auction house to target the sale to a greater number of interested buyers.
The best advice I can give on selling the valuables in your house is to talk with your friends who have gone through this before, either as a seller or a buyer. Hear their recommendations and war stories, and then shop around for the seller who seems like the best fit for you.
One important factor is your expectations of the resell value of items. As a rule of thumb, realize that things of like value when bought will be of like value when sold. A couch bought for $1,200 ten years ago may bring 15 or 20 percent of that value, depending on condition when sold. Cheap items bought new will be sold cheaply when used. Higher-end items bought new will also be sold at the higher end of used items. Few things hold or appreciate in value over years beyond their initial value. If you think you have an exceptional piece, have it appraised by someone who specializes in the type of item: jewelry, art, furniture, etc. Setting realistic expectations is part of the job of professionals who deal with high volumes of items, and your trust in them is of utmost importance.
As with selling, you have different options available depending on your expectations and values:
Targeted donating takes more time but can be exceptionally rewarding. For example, when clearing your kitchen, consider donating good items to organizations, like a homeless shelter or food bank, that help vulnerable people move into safe and permanent housing. If you have up-to-date and good quality professional clothing, organizations like Dress for Success and the YWCA provide interview clothing and a wardrobe appropriate for work for people seeking employment or who are newly employed. Art supplies and things for creative re-purposing can be donated to places like smART (Scrap-made art) or Turnip Green Creative Reuse. 1 Please remember to donate things as soon as you no longer have need for the items. The longer they hang in a closet or sit in a cabinet the less useable they will be to people who have a real need for your unused items right now.
Less targeted donating is easy to do. Donation sites are as available as fast food! Plus, any number of organizations, like ARC or Amvets pick up from your porch. Goodwill picks up items inside your home that are of size or quantity that cannot be easily brought to a drop-off site. Allow a couple of weeks to schedule pick-ups. Please note that these organizations are looking for things which have an “as is” resale value and make a determination onsite about what they will take. I have had items rejected before, like an office chair with one wiggly arm. Consider again your neighborhood list serve. Put your free items out near the street with a “Free” sign to indicate the give away to passersby, and notify your neighbors of the treasures for the taking.
Keep in mind that you are responsible for evaluating the monetary value of your donations on the receipts made available by the receiving agency. Sometimes donating items become more advantageous than selling items when you consider the effort and net revenue of selling versus the value of a tax deduction.
Finally, let’s look at the “trash” that is inevitably a part of moving. Scrutinize the debris, and you will likely see that a good portion of what is no longer of value to you or any other person can still be disposed of responsibly through recycling rather than simply adding to the waste stream. Again, you can “do it yourself” or turn to professional helpers:
DIY: To learn what’s available in your particular area, check with your county’s waste management facility. There may be limits to amounts that can be brought to landfills each month, and these are usually monitored by registering your driver’s license when you enter. Certain items and quantities may have a small service charge. Here’s what a recent trip to my nearby center looked like:
Stopped at the gate and showed my license. I would have had to pay a fee if there had been anything like tires or a full trailer-load. When I asked questions about particular places to drop things, I found the staff to be very helpful.
Dropped off chemicals, batteries, oil-based paint, light bulbs on the cart by the first shed. (Latex paint is not accepted and should be dried up and put in regular garbage.)
Recycled plastic, paper, and so on in the next bins.
Unloaded electronics next at the pallets that follow.
Put flattened cardboard in the compacter.
Drove around to the dumpsters and dropped in metals first, wood second, and general trash next, according to the directions given by the employees.
With Helpers: If you do not want to do it yourself, you have other options for removal of junk. Some people will remove scrap metal for free if they will be able to sell it for their profit. These people are most often found through local social media or Craig’s List. With other professional hauling services, like College Hunks Hauling Junk or Stand Up Guys, you pay according to how much of the truck you have filled. A full truck is usually around $450 with the minimum haul being around $85. These hauling services donate and recycle a high percentage of what they remove from your house and provide you with donation receipts.
Find for Support for Yourself
If you find yourself bogging down in the decisions and losing sight of the big picture, reach out for support. Find someone who can help you streamline processes, handle items, or shore up your confidence in what lies ahead. A friend or family member is a good choice. Recently I did this for my sister in the midst of her move. To help you get moving, an outsider can be beneficial. Consider a professional organizer. Check out the website of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) to find organizers near you and who have the specialization to help with your particular needs.
The more efficiently you deal with the items that you will not be moving, the more resources you will have for the move. Make sure you put the money you earn from sales aside to use for moving expenses. Moving is an exhausting experience. Use your energy where it matters most, and be sure to reach out for moving support as your relationships and finances allow. In the next blog I will talk about forming your team of packers, movers, and organizers.
Susan Gardner, CPO-CD®, MDiv, is a professional organizer certified in Chronic Disorganization. Through Clearing the Way Home, she guides people in areas like organizing their homes, downsizing, or shifting expectations of organizing to meet individual challenges. Following a career as a pastor, Susan has organized for the last twelve years. She is a member of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization and the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals.
Published January 24, 2022 for distribution April 19, 2022
1 Scrap Made Art and Turnip Green are local to Nashville residents, similar organizations can likely be found near you.