Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

Following Graham Hill’s recent NY Times Op Ed, a far-reaching conversation has opened up about stuff–namely living with less of it. And to the best of our ability, we’ve tried to dole out sound advise for getting rid of your stuff. We’ve tried to help you navigate the perilous waters of eBay. We’ve looked at the online yard sale that is Krrb’d. Even though we haven’t written much about it, who doesn’t know about Craigslist? All of these services offer great ways to make money when offloading your stuff–the perfect present for your new edited existence.

But you know what? Selling stuff is a pain in the butt. Unless, you have very desirable, coveted items with clear market values or you are offering things at rock-bottom prices, your selling process is likely to be fraught with haggling, answering questions, shipping and dealing with scammers. Sure, pros can handle these situations with aplomb, but for many of us, selling can be more stressful than keeping.

We know it’s tough to do, but sometimes the best thing to do with our great, valuable stuff is give it away. When considered carefully, most of us will find selling is not worth the effort. While “time is money” might sound a bit facile, the fact is our time is worth money; you don’t work at your job for free do you?

To illustrate: Someone who makes $50k a year gets paid about $25/hour for his or her time (see how we got that number here). Let’s assume that’s your salary and your free time is of comparable value. Looked at this way, the cost/benefit analysis of spending an hour or two selling the Cuisinart you bought for $200 for $50 on eBay isn’t quite there.

There is no shortage of ways of giving your stuff away. Friends and family are an obvious choice. Craigslist has a free section, where things get quickly snagged. There’s Freecyle, a national grassroots network of people reusing and keeping “good stuff out of landfills.” There are tons of worthy charities such as Goodwill, many of whom will pick up your stuff and provide tax deductible receipts (you still have a couple weeks!).

We were recently turned onto a website called WebThriftStore, which allows charities to set up virtual storefronts. Through the site people can donate stuff as well as buy other people’s stuff. Donors actually send their stuff to buyers, cutting out the store. Proceeds go straight to one of the site’s partner charities and you get a tax receipt. WebThriftStore provides free mailing labels and shipping supplies for the donor.

While donating your stuff to a good cause might not have the dopamine spike of a wad of cash, it might have more influence on your long term happiness.

How about you? What’s your favorite way to give? Or do you know a secret way of selling that’s not so much of a drag?

  • New York is an anomaly, I know, but when I was in the process of moving out of my Brooklyn apartment I put a lot of stuff on the curb (“displayed” nicely) – I probably put out 10 pairs of shoes, 20 books, 5-10 kitchen items, and 15 clothing items. All gone within 2 hours.

    • Beth

      That works here in the California Sierras as well. Have place a horse saddle as well as a quilt out on the front fence with FREE on the item and its gone within an hour. Often place a box with FREE on it out next to the gate, with items we no longer are using and they get taken quickly.

  • Kirstjen Lorenz

    Every time my husband gets a new pair of shoes, we put an old pair of shoes out on one of the newspaper boxes in our neighborhood. They are gone in a flash. We live in a loft building & people regularly put items they no longer need in the loading dock area & it always seems to be gone, taken by some other resident, it appears.

    I also keep a bag in my closet & regularly drop any item of clothing that bugs me into the bag & take them to the mission periodically. It seems easier to do as I go through life than to dedicate a Saturday to cleaning out the closet.

  • eBay is piloting a program in San Francisco, San Mateo and San Marin counties called ‘Sell it Forward’. It’s in partnership with Goodwill. They’ll send you a postage pre-paid mailer to be used for gently-used clothing, shoes, and handbags.

    Goodwill will determine what can be sold within 14 days on eBay and will give you 50% of the sale, the remainder of the stuff gets donated to Goodwill and you receive a tax receipt.

  • Ross Porter

    As you might imagine, this is hard with kids. Kids, or at least my kid, don’t like to give things away. So I recently resorted to small bribes. If he is a little short of saving for a new video game, I’ll chip in a bit. If he gives away a few boxes of old things and helps me take those and other boxes to Goodwill. I don’t yet know if I am creating bad habit (expecting money for being nice) or if I am creating a good habit (purge before purchase). So far 12 boxes gone for $10 in bribes.

    • Beth

      Paying him is akin to hiring him to clean out the garage. He cleans, he gets paid. Could help create a good work ethic.

  • Janet R

    Using salary as representing the value of someone’s time is a fallacy. No one is paid for their time – time is simply used to approximate the amount of value someone produces on average when they are doing their actual work. People are paid not for their time, but for their work product! Some people’s work product is more valuable than other’s, but no one’s time is more valuable than anothers. We all have a limited time here on earth and it is equally valuable to each of us.
    It iis a fallacy to think “If I just spend an hour doing x, so it will cost me $y, because that is my hourly rate for doing my job”. It only cost you $x if you would, in fact, have spent that time actually doing something for which you will be paid. Not for work you theoretically could have been doing instead of – say, drinking coffee and deciding what to do with your excess stuff.
    That said, I find it MUCH easier to just give away my excess stuff.

  • P Vincent – Brisbane Australia

    When I started editing my life I started a project which I called Edit 365 where I made a commitment to myself to give away one item every day for 365 days. I started taking my ‘give away stuff’ into work and put it on top of a filing cabinet with a sign saying “Free Stuff – Please help yourself.” It was amazing. Over a period of moths I gave away unused photo frames, unworn baseball caps, old magazines, old ornaments, unused kitchen gadgets, a kite, coolers bags, a kettle …. People just came into the office and took the Free Stuff. The funniest part was, after initially not being able to believe that I was just giving things away, people actually began to detour on their way from one end of the considerably large office so as to walk past the Free Stuff Filing Cabinet just to see what they could pick up!! One man’s Edit is another man’s treasure 🙂

    • empowrd

      Please get in touch friend if you live in Brisbane! ryan at empowrd dot org

  • Shanna

    I sing this tune ad naseum to my friends and family who finally get the idea that too much stuff=too much life energy expended to manage it! I can’t tell you how many garage sales that I have offered to assist with (no longer) that yield less-than-satisfying results.

    It’s like buying a new car, for the most part, the value is left on the *lot* when you buy new (anything). Find local charities, sharing libraries for tools, etc., the library for books and other media. Move it on, get on with your life–there’s so much more to life than tending to your dustables!

  • At one of the local organic markets and a wonderful community, the Northey St markets in Brisbane, there is a man who gave away all of his possessions and now lives on nothing but uninhabited houses and giveaways. One of the things he instigated at the markets is a give-away stall where people can not only drop off any small goods to give away but can just grab anything they like. He also spends a lot of time talking to people about minimalistic living. So on my Sunday treks to get my organic veges, I can drop off things as I cull, knowing that they will be going to a wanted and good home. Having just done another cull on my book library, I have some 15 books to drop off tomorrow. It’s a wonderful exchange.

  • Sam Hadlock

    I’ve thought about giving stuff away… and I’ve done it. It feels great. But I’ve wondered about decluttering my own house/home/life and in turn cluttering up a friend or family members? Any thoughts on this? How do we give but help others stay clutter free themselves?

    • Beth

      Thats a GREAT question. Would they use the items or would it be more akin to creating a hoarding situation?

  • Pat Friedlander

    My favorite giving away activity has been passing on my books. I used to keep a basket by my door and when people left my place, I’d tell them to find a book (or two). I took books to parties with the sign ‘free to a good home.’ Now that more people, myself included, are reading electronically, i reduce my actual book collection by taking books to the shop where I get my hair cut–and Richard gives books to his customers, some who are still old school. I learned years ago that I rarely reread books–maybe Confederacy of Dunces or anything by Anthony DeMello. I actually give things to anyone who needs them. My niece, recently returned from Korea, now has the first set of dishes I ever owned, plus lots of glasses, cutlery, serving plates, whatever I could get in her car. She has my old Bose cd player/radio that she and her boyfriend have hooked up to their TV. Her brother has more ‘family dishes.’ Much of my furniture is hand me down from my grandmothers–furniture that was purchased used over 100 years ago, in some cases. In an earlier part of my life, I was a Franciscan, where the philosophy is to love things but not become attached to them. Still works for me.

  • Celeste-O&R

    We donate extra tools or building supplies to Habitat for Humanity.

  • Beth

    My local group has been a godsend, because I can post an item and its gone within a few hours. Including everything from sewing items to small jars of screws and nails. To furniture and clothes. Not that we have ever lived in a space bigger than 400 sq ft, even with one child. But even the small stuff can accumulate.

    With a child we were and are more French in our lifestyle so the idea of scads of toys has never been an issue. But as he aged well loved but mint condition toys would go to the toy lending library or the free clinic in town.

    One thing I learned from the late Steve Jobs was have a set outfit that you wear daily. This means I need fewer clothes, yet I always look presentable. This is also a French idea when one considers the size of a French armoire for clothes, vs the average Americans walk in closet, often with clothes with the tags still on them.

  • Tania

    I found when I set aside stuff to sell on eBay, it never got done so now I give to the local domestic violence shelter. Whatever they can’t use in the shelter, they sell in their thrift store. Proceeds go to their programs and the store itself provides vocational training in marketing, customer service and merchandising. They also provide women and their families with household goods and clothing as they often leave a violent situation with no belongings.

    I am still working my way through too many magazines. Stopped all subscriptions and as I finish my old issues, goes right in a box in my trunk to be dropped off at the library system used bookstore. I also drop off each time I have a doctor’s appointment. They always appreciate it.

    Facebook! I’ve given away many things by posting a pic on FB with a first come first serve.

  • Carvagio

    Salvation Army is a better choice over Goodwill industries, whose CEO earns millions/yr. and pays some workers subminimum wages.

  • nancy

    There are so many places to donate nowadays. You can almost always find somewhere that will take your stuff. Especially if you have antiques. They can be a pain in the butt to sell and honestly it’s so not the hassle. You’re probably not gonna get what it’s worth anyway. If you have items like that you can turn to and they’ll help you out.