How to get rid of everything prior to a long-distance move
September 11, 2020 11:56 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are considering a move to another country in 1 - 1.5 years. I have several questions about the concrete logistical details of the "get rid of everything" step.

We live in an apartment in Seattle, and have one old car.

1. How can we easily sell a number of items in a manageable way?
2. How can we make lots of large & small items leave our home efficiently? This would be for either donation or disposal. We don't have a big vehicle for hauling, or an option for something like a dumpster in front of our apartment.
3. Once we have a firm date, what's a good timeline for getting rid of essentials that are NOT coming with us (bed, kitchenware, etc)?
4. What might help us decide which things are worth keeping and shipping?
5. Where does getting rid of our car fit on that timeline?
6. Is there a person or service that can help with any of the above?

posted by yukonho to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Contact the local family services folks who supply household items to those in need and set up a time to do the deed. Nobody will take your bed. As one who has downsized several times, sadly, selling things will never yield what you think it will bring in.
posted by Freedomboy at 12:11 PM on September 11, 2020 [11 favorites]

For getting rid of the stuff you can't easily sell, there are many Junk Hauling services around. They've been wonderful when dealing with wrapping up an estate. Look for one that recycles and donates items where possible, so it doesn't just all go to the dump. They should take care of everything for you, by coming into your apartment and carrying all the designated items out.
posted by Diddly at 12:13 PM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

In my city Habitat for Humanity will pick up donations. The small things will need to boxed up.
posted by tman99 at 12:14 PM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

My brother-in-law and his family moved from the US to Europe about 4 years ago and did this. They waited far too long to start selling things and ended up doing things like shredding old papers/selling their mattress the day before the move. (And contrary to Freedomboy, I've sold many mattresses, but you have to sell them to someone who knows you and sell them cheap -- kids of adults we worked with have been thrilled to get a "big bed" even if it wasn't brand new.)

As far as selling your car, ideally you can find a friend/family member who wants to buy it but can wait until you leave -- my husband ended up buying his brother's car (they sold the other a few weeks before the move) but didn't take ownership of it until the day of the move so they could keep using it. You'll probably make less going this route. Otherwise maybe CarMax with a rental for the last few days?
posted by jabes at 12:14 PM on September 11, 2020

One way to get rid of things quickly is to hold a yard sale where everything is free. Pick a day, set everything out, post lots of signs saying everything is free, and most of it will disappear. Provide bags and boxes, group stuff together, and you'll be surprised by what gets taken. What's left can be donated or trashed.
posted by XtineHutch at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've seen "pay what you think is fair" sales go well in extended-friends circles. The sellers usually have posted albums with photos of individual items on social media, then taken the first reasonable offer. Things that didn't sell that way were then listed with formal prices for the general public, but letting acquaintances have the first pass at it can whittle that work down a lot.
posted by teremala at 12:21 PM on September 11, 2020

When I moved cross country I sold my truck on the way to the airport. In my case, I was selling to a friend, so that was easy to arrange. But having transportation up until the last minute was really helpful. If you don't want to wait quite that long, maybe plan to rent a car for the last week or 2 you're in the country.
posted by mollymayhem at 12:24 PM on September 11, 2020

Buy Nothing groups are pretty active in most neighborhoods around Seattle.
posted by matildaben at 12:26 PM on September 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

We recently wanted to get rid of a piano that the tuner said was a loss, sound board. Turns out piano movers can make "disposal calls" and just make it disappear. They were very professional & said it was their 3rd disposal call that day. You didn't mention a piano, but this info might help someone coming to this thread later.
posted by forthright at 12:32 PM on September 11, 2020

We have had success with transferring beds by offering them free/you pick-up on Craigslist if it’s functional.
posted by childofTethys at 12:39 PM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

We just moved our family from the USA to another country.

1. I cannot believe how effective Facebook marketplace was at getting rid of our stuff. It took a fair amount of time managing responses to the ads, dealing with flakes, etc, but someone came and got every single thing we listed, often at a few hours' notice, loads of interest in every ad we posted, even stuff in poor condition (which we disclosed, of course). You'll never get what things are "worth", but we were willing to take losses on furniture just to have people haul it away.
2. For things you don't want to list to sell, Goodwill or similar is probably your best bet. I did several car loads of miscellany once we knew what we weren't taking.
3. This is tricky. We made a very comprehensive spreadsheet inventory with a "destination" for everything (like: ship, sell, donate) and starred items we were going to need right up until the last minute. I think the key is to figure out exactly how your journey is going to look; ideally you would use staying with family or an Airbnb or something to overlap, say, a week before your lease is up and use that week to go hell for leather on FB marketplace to get rid of those last essentials. As a backup, you could have the number of a reliable junk hauler.
4. Definitely get some free quotes from international movers! They can talk you through everything and can definitely advise about things that are going to be particularly expensive. It's done by volume, not weight, so there's some surprising math there (you might find you're paying for 1/2 a shipping container, even if you don't fill it, so might as well fill it). We didn't ship anything bigger than a side table, really.
5. We sold one car to Carmax, very easy and quick. Again, might not get as much as you could get somewhere else, but it's very convenient so was well worth it for us. We sold the other car to family so we could keep using it until the very end. If you don't have that option I would do Carmax and then rent a car to cover the last week or so before you fly.

I hope that helps. Please message me if you have other questions or want specifics or anything, we literally just did this so it's fresh in my mind!
posted by cpatterson at 2:15 PM on September 11, 2020 [4 favorites]

I just got rid of most of my belongings in a move, but I had a couple of months to get rid of stuff. The sooner you get started the less stuff you will end up junking.

For getting rid of stuff locally & quickly I had the most success with the Offer Up app. I'm not sure if Craigslist's high ratio of flakiness was worth it, but I did also list and sell a few things there. Offer Up was very efficient, only takes a second to make a listing, & people actually showed up when they said they would. I don't use Facebook, but all my friends kept recommending that.

I got rid of all my furniture via Offer Up, but my backup plan was the various charities near me had pickup services (Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army). That seemed easiest and better than junking it.

Mattress went to a local recycler, I think run by the county. Just drive up to a loading dock, dump the mattress, and drive off. Free and quick.

All my art supplies, notebooks, tools, all of my pens and random post its, or anything like that all went to a local charity for teachers to get supplies for their classes. Probably one of those near you. That was a good way to get rid a lot of random useful stuff that thrift stores won't take.

Anything worth a reasonable amount of money that didn't sell locally that would fit in a box I listed on Ebay. This may or may not be worth it to you, but if you can weight the packages and print the labels yourself it's pretty low hassle way to get a steady stream of boxes headed out the door. I would re-use the same photos I had already taken for Offer Up, then find the item you're selling on Ebay somewhere and click "Sell One Like It" which auto-fills the listing. Price it 20% lower than what other items have sold for (search "Completed Listings") and it'll go quick. Only use USPS priority mail - then you can order all the boxes and shipping supplies for free from the USPS website and have them delivered. When you ship things schedule a pickup with your carrier via USPS website. I got rid of a lot of stuff that way and never visited the actual post office.

Books and other media I used Decluttr and Sell Back Your Book. Basically you just scan all the barcodes of the stuff you have and they'll take at least some of them for money. Just put it one box and it's gone, very easy way to get rid of bulky books if you have a lot.

Otherwise anything useful but not worth selling went to a thrift store. I would call all the ones in your area and get a list of things they don't/won't take. Sometimes what one won't take, the other will. So if you plan it out you can make multiple drop offs at a time and separate it out by their policies.
posted by bradbane at 2:37 PM on September 11, 2020 [10 favorites]

I did KonMari before my last big move and I highly recommend it (get one of the books, other resources skip or don't explain steps). Part of the process is envisioning your future life and thinking about what you want to bring with you for it, so it goes well with moving. Don't bring stuff with you that you don't even like and won't use!

If you have a lot of books, I used the BookScouter app (also a website) with a spreadsheet to get prices from a bunch of sellers, some will take things others won't, all buyers have a minimum. You get a little money and the knowledge that some of your books will get reused.

The Habitat ReStore by me takes all sorts of weird household stuff that Goodwill won't.

I sold mattresses to an acquaintance who was furnishing an AirBnB rental.

Long ago, I did a google sheet of things I was getting rid of and sent the link around - an online photo album you can caption and delete things from once claimed would probably work well and the photos don't have to be as good as for selling to strangers.
posted by momus_window at 3:46 PM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Get rid of the car now, you live in Seattle!

I just did a big move and people will take your ANYTHING if you post it soon enough. I put my nalgene lid for free on Craigslist and it sat there forever before finally getting two genuinely-interested people on the same day. Thrift stores throw a lot away, but if you take a TON of pictures and post everything online, people are more likely to take things they actually want. Like a lid.
posted by aniola at 3:49 PM on September 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Get rid of the car now

Easiest and maybe fastest way to do this is to donate it, like to your local PBS or NPR station. (KUOW info here.) They'll tow it away and auction it off, then tell you what they got. It's a tax-deductible donation (that is, if you can deduct enough now to exceed your Standard Deduction).
posted by Rash at 4:02 PM on September 11, 2020

Occasionally when the outbound pile got too overwhelming, I would post it for free as a lot. That was popular.
posted by aniola at 4:23 PM on September 11, 2020

Look into your local Freecycle list. A sampler of things I got rid of with basically no effort before a cross-country move (people came to my house and took these things!) that I would have thrown away:

- old egg cartons
- broken flowerpots
- some unlabeled freezer bags of cooked food that were years old and freezer burned
- half-empty lotions, shampoos, etc
- a headless plastic raccoon toy
posted by music for skeletons at 4:52 PM on September 11, 2020

KEXP will take car donations too if NPR isn’t your speed. I’ve had nothing but flakiness from Freecycle in Seattle; Buy Nothing is far more reliable, and Craigslist is somewhere in the middle. If you do Facebook Marketplace, the groups more specific to your local neighborhood are the most reliable.
posted by matildaben at 6:06 PM on September 11, 2020

Moved from Australia to USA. Sold some small appliances bd furniture via my workplace bulletin board (way less flaky than a public website). Sold bikes online. Gave away camping gear and unsold furniture to friends. Donated clothing and kitchen stuff. Donated old car about a week before leaving. Shipped artwork. Took clothing and mementos on plane, paid for an extra suitcase. Did this all in the 2 months before moving.
posted by emd3737 at 9:07 PM on September 11, 2020

I did this when moving from Bermuda to Austin. Give yourself plenty of time to get rid of your stuff regardless of the way you get rid of it. We used a combination of local buy and sell, Goodwill, the dump, and posting a Free sign on stuff we left outside our house. Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t end up stressed at the end
posted by jasondigitized at 11:48 AM on September 12, 2020

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