Divesting ourselves of a household
July 26, 2012 5:10 AM   Subscribe

How to divest of a household worth of stuff other than giving it away?

We currently live as a family of three in the usual household of 'stuff'* - furniture, white goods, toys, tools, camping gear, appliances. In the next 1-3 years there is a good chance we will want to be rid of most of our stuff. My son is going away for school and my husband and I will be working in different cities. He is in the army and would live in the mess, I would get a studio apartment that would perhaps be furnished. We quite like the idea of getting rid of most of our possessions and definitely don't want to put stuff in storage for years

This leads to two questions:
- how do we sell everything? Is an estate company about the only way? Garage sales don't seem that popular here ( we live in the UK). While I realise we won't 'get our money back' on everything we bought I do want to be sensible and find a way to get the best money I can if we do sell stuff.
- Have you or anyone you knew done this and regretted it? The are lots of blogs talking about downsizing and simplifying and how awesome it is, but I would like to know about downsides as well.

* We actually also have artworks and collectible books but I know these need to be dealt with by specialists rather than general household dealers.
posted by Megami to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I"m in London and I've spoken to a few people at Markets / Car Boot Sales who were selling off all their stuff to move into Canal Boats or smaller apartments. I think thats one way to get rid of a lot of things like tools, books, small pieces of furniture - but will possibly take a lot of work.

Otherwise you can also list individual items on Gumtree, Loot or Ebay say. I have done this in the past when moving house. But again it can take a lot of effort.

In London at least there are occasional Garage Sales that I've seen but its true that they are not very well attended. Compared to the hoards roaming around some of the Car-Boot sales on the outskirts of London on the weekend. I think that is the best bet.
posted by mary8nne at 5:27 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Friends of mine helped raise funds for their travelling by auctioning off all their possessions thusly:

put price stickers on everything
held a party for all their friends to come over
people bought what they wanted and organised collection

Everything not sold went to a car boot sale, charity shops or the tip.
posted by gonzo_ID at 5:48 AM on July 26, 2012

You're most likely going to get much less than you anticipate, because your things are other people's "junk." An estate sales company will help you with pricing and with setting up to sell your things to their best advantage (in the US, at least, they set up in your home and price all the things that are for sale and run the sales), but there is a commission.

You could do your own estate sale, of course, but if that's not popular where you live, you might be disappointed with the turnout, so you might want to contact an estate company and see what they think of your stuff.
posted by xingcat at 6:04 AM on July 26, 2012

I went through this in the process of selling my parents' house after they died and I came to the conclusion that it was more work than it was worth to try to sell anything except genuine high value items. Unless the selling process is fun for you, think about it as work, and look at your hourly rate - I don't think it will be good.

tl;dr: treat your possessions as a sunk cost, and anything you can sell as a bonus. You will be much happier that way than if you try to think about the replacement value.
posted by crocomancer at 6:53 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in the US, in a neighborhood known for its "Antique" stores. There's one very close to my house that is more of a "Thrift" store. They will buy entire households of stuff.

You might want to drive around your area and see if you have a similar type store and see if they'll buy your entire house of stuff. You may get 10% of what you paid for everything, but it's better than moving it at additional expense, or hassling with ads.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:54 AM on July 26, 2012

Do you get a tax deduction for charitable donations? You could clear quite a bit more that way than selling things.
posted by musofire at 7:01 AM on July 26, 2012

You can't get a tax deduction, though charities can claim Gift Aid back on the donations (Fara wrote me a letter to tell me how much).

I did a car bootsale and I was lucky to make back my pitch fee. I don't know if I was doing something wrong as I have heard takes ofd people doing well on them, but it involved giving up an afternoon, paying £13 for the pitch and having to deal with a lot of fairly rude people (a man told me that I was ripping him off by charging 50p for some fuzzy felt, and then said he would take the box he bought for 30p out of his bag to show me - he was so rude and offhand that I was really taken aback). I live in London and near where there are a lot of Aussie and Polish travellers and yard sales are not popular at all - they're just not part of the culture here. I don't even know if estate sales exist other than for extremely wealthy people who leave things like fine art or cars behind. Mind you, I was selling general bric a brac rather than tools or toys. Your son might be too young, but the stall next to me sold some old Transformers to a collector.

I have downsized a lot in the past few years out of necessity. A lot of stuff went on eBay but thi s is less of a good place for people selling their own possessions and more a marketplace for businesses these days - things that would have sold for a fair bit five years ago go for very little now (though the recession might have something to do with that too.). If you have any branded goods (Cath Kidston, Le Crueset, basically John Lewis/Selfridges stock) it's still worth doing, otherwise I'd go with Gumtree, especially for appliances which are heavy to post.

Definitely put the camping gear on Gumtree, it's still festival season and that stuff is expensive.

Books you might be able to trade away with Amazon for a giftcard - they've just started doing this and it isn't very publicised yet. They pay for the postage, you just need to box them up and tape on the label. Non-fiction seems to be the biggest return. They take games and DVDs, I think, as well. I sold some of my CDs to MusicMagpie.co.uk - the return is poor, unless you have fairly obscure titles, but if you've digitised them it will work.

I have regretted getting rid of some things, mainly because they were things I'd kept with me for a long time. In particular, I have a hard time getting rid of things that are 'useful', even given the sunk cost principle. I'm never going to be a minimalist - I like weird little trinkets and I sew, so it's not really compatible.
posted by mippy at 9:07 AM on July 26, 2012

how do we sell everything? Is an estate company about the only way? Garage sales don't seem that popular here ( we live in the UK). While I realise we won't 'get our money back' on everything we bought I do want to be sensible and find a way to get the best money I can if we do sell stuff.

When we moved out of the US, we had a bunch of sales where I charged my friends $1 per book or CD, with discounts for bulk purchases. This sounds incredibly cheap, but it was slightly more profitable than selling books to bookstores and CDs to the used record store. The only advantage to the bookstore was that I was able to drop off several boxes in one go; what they didn't take we put out on the corner and it was gone in a couple hours...

Most everyday household stuff is worth less than you think. Everything you keep means either paying for storage or paying for a larger flat to keep it in. So by not divesting yourself of these objects, you are costing yourself more money in the future. Whereas if you sell it for even 5p you're slightly ahead.

As far as charity shops go, there's a heart association shop in Brixton that does furniture; you could donate bulkier stuff to them?

The thing with Gumtree or Freecycle, like Craigslist in the US, is that there's a certain time commitment involved. so if you're selling a bed or other large furniture, people often flake out or are running late... if that's stressful for you or doesn't work with your schedule, maybe an estate agent is a good idea.

There are stalls at Deptford Market with piles of bricabrac and other junk; you could talk to one of the sellers and see if they'd give you a couple quid for boxes of whatever you have lying around.

- Have you or anyone you knew done this and regretted it? The are lots of blogs talking about downsizing and simplifying and how awesome it is, but I would like to know about downsides as well.

I don't regret it; we left stuff in storage, but in hindsight I wish we'd gotten rid of more.
posted by dubold at 10:24 AM on July 26, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your great answers so far. Going by what you have written, I have obviously given the impression that I expect some kind of windfall from selling our stuff - have no fear I realise most of it is not worth much in money terms if resold. I guess I am more wondering is it worth the effort of listing some of the bigger, newer items (Bosch washer that is only a few years old for example) or just letting a company come and deal with everything, or just giving it away.
posted by Megami at 11:37 AM on July 26, 2012

If you have time and interest and are not attached to things to where you would be offended if you don't get your asking price, go for it. If you feel like it's a big PITA, then just let someone else deal with it. It's just stuff, not worth agonizing over.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:53 PM on July 26, 2012

I'm currently regretting getting rid of some of my books. I thought they'd be available via library if I wanted to read them again (they're not)... repurchasing them would cost a fortune, and they're not for sale digitally yet. *sigh*

The books are the only things I regret.
posted by theplotchickens at 4:57 PM on July 26, 2012

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