I love the house where I grew up and where my parents still hang out, but there’s one area that I’ve long-despised. My parent’s basement: the birthplace of generations of spiders and my hatred of junk. Dad thinks every piece of paper deserves consideration. Mom used to work in retail and couldn’t resist a deal. My two older sisters and I have five degrees between the three of us and created a shrine for those textbooks that stole so much of our student loan money.
So the bottom floor of my parent’s pad screams out for attention and naturally, “organize that hellhole and throw a garage sale” claimed a top ten spot on my Retirement Goals List, a feat I recently crossed off. Here’s the before and after reveal because I hate cliffhangers. This is the smallest of the four rooms down there.
My sister and I worked for two weeks straight, devoting 8-12 hours of our day each to clearing, cleaning and cursing. We also hauled, sorted and organized. I’m so happy we did it, but I’m more happy that we’re done.
If you’ve ever read any clutter cleaning books, you know to put all your stuff into four categories: Donate, Throw, Keep, Sell. Here are my similar categories.
Category 1 – Responsibly recycle
Investigate how to return it to mama earth as gently as possible. We just literally Googled [item to recycle] + [city].
We dropped off a whopping 30 boxes of newspapers, coupons, cardboard, old books and older magazines to a paper recycling place. This took six trips over two weeks in my parent’s van.
Paper yellows. Paper molds. Paper rots. Paper stinks. Paper is a fire hazard. Paper invites bugs. Don’t be a paper hoarder. Throw out your junk mail as you get it. Or better yet, recycle it!
Oh, the paper shredder guy may ask you out.
We made $4.28 from various scraps of metal we found in the basement and garage. It was conveniently located at the paper recycling place. This will be the last convenient thing to occur in this Operation.
We took two trips to drop off old lightbulbs and tar and other random chemicals we found in the basement and garage to a chemical recycling drop-off. There was a giant sign that warned us “Don’t get out of the car.” So we just drove up, unlocked the back door of the van and people took out our heavy chemicals while we sat in the air conditioning. I could get used to this.
The chemical recycling place doesn’t accept paint anymore due to budget constraints, so now their website offers suggestions like “paint something else!“
We eventually put all the buckets of paint outside with a giant “FREE” sign and got rid of about half of it that way. The rest we let dry out in the hot sun for a few days and threw in with the garbage per the helpful website’s less perky suggestion.
We dropped old electronics off at an electronics recycling place. Remember boomboxes? The item on the left is an ancient channel changer. At one time all of these things were cutting edge and you had to pay a pretty penny for it. Now, you can’t give them away.
The electronics recycling place doesn’t accept old TVs and they directed us to a parking lot of a gas station that had a giant dumpster somberly moonlighting as a television graveyard. I’m not sure this is a responsible way to recycle it, but there weren’t any other options.
Category 2 – Keep, but organize
I swear I’m not as miserly as I seem. I sold most of my things when I left Australia, but I do enjoy some stuff. I find the feeling of needing something and then having the item that fulfills that need on hand and easily available quite satisfying indeed! I have my clothes. I buy toiletries when my old ones run out. I kept my law school diploma. I’m talking about the actual diploma that lives inside a frame. It used to hang in my office, but now sits in my “do something with this again one day?” box.
Here’s a little bit farther into the room from the first picture. I read that you’re only supposed to keep things that spark joy, but I feel few sparks when I handle stuff, so I struggled with that idea. Luckily, the stuff in my parent’s basement that we kept were my parent’s things and they were better at assessing the spark.
Category 3 – Sell
You would think someone named Thriftygal would love garage sales, but I don’t. I tend to view everything as junk and when I go shopping, I want to know that the items on my Needs list will be available. I am a fan of Craiglist/Gumtree because you can search for specific items. We put some of the bigger items on Craigslist – such as our broken fridge.
Fridge: 9-year old GE stainless steel fridge. We had a repairman come out and he said it needed a new compressor. If you know anything about fridges and care to fix this beauty, I’m very impressed with your mechanical abilities.
And someone came out and bought it! Instead of having to pay $15 to haul it away, we made $40 by selling it to someone and gave it a second lease on life.
You most certainly can get nice things at a garage sale. My mom had a lot of brand new kitchen stuff and my dad had a lot of gardening tools in wonderful condition that he’s too stiff to use anymore. I aimed to make $500 for my parents. No cliffhanger. We made $565 and I attempted to twerk in celebration.
Here is my “Lessons Learned List” that I made.
Lesson 1: You will have no idea what will be valuable one day. It’s better not to keep stuff just because you hope it will appreciate. My mom had collectible Barbie dolls she bought back in the day and which have been chilling in the basement gathering dust. She paid $40/each for two of them a couple of decades ago and we resold both for $20. If we had tried harder on the eBay thing, we may have gotten $25 each. Maybe.
Collectibles are mostly junk. Collectibles are meant to be unopened, so there are a million of them for sale out there that are in brilliant condition. You won’t receive a return on this “investment.” Old toys have resale value because another person in the world decides it has value and is willing to pay you for it.
We did have a couple of water guns that we found in the basement. They are vintage Super Soakers still in the box and apparently worth a little bit of money. You can’t guess which toys will be valuable and which ones won’t be.
Lesson 2: Ebay requires time and patience that I do not possess. We did try to sell my sister’s old wedding dress on Ebay, but our 3-day auction was unsuccessful. I was ready to start my wanderings again and my sister needed to get back to her life on the coast. We ended up donating the dress to Goodwill. Maybe we’ll try Ebay again with the water guns.
Lesson 3: Some people are miserly and some people are generous. Several people gave me more money than the price on the item. Many many more people bargained and bargained and bargained. I get that it’s a garage sale and that’s how it works, but I’d still rather be in the generous category than the miserly category. With garage sales, that difference could be a single dollar. A cheap way to feel good about yourself, eh?
Category 4 – Throw
We threw out so much trash. It’s sickening how much we threw out. I worry about our planet. Next time you buy something, imagine where every bit of that purchase is going to end up in 15 years. Gah, I hate stuff.
Category 5 – Thoughtfully donate
We took about 40 CDs to a CD store (which, for a family of five, is not bad) and Mr. CD owner gave us a whopping $3 for the six discs he deemed worthy. We left the rest behind as a donation to the store. He said they’d at least use the plastic cases again. Win. Win.
We donated our books to my favorite place — the library. Except for the old textbooks, which they had no interest in. We included those in our hauls to the paper shredder place.
Old sheets, blankets, pillows, copy paper and folders
The animal shelter takes these items to use for the animals. Except for the copy paper and folders. I imagine they use that for their business.
Everything left over from the garage sale
We took many trips to the Goodwill and Salvation Army.
Oh, the Goodwill guy may ask you out.