Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Holy baby crap, Batman! How do I get rid of all this stuff?

I have kids, and therefore am buried in a shit-ton of stuff. As Brandon passes each stage, I am confronted with the question of "what do I do with all this crap?" I've actually dealt with this elimination process twice now; the first time was after Connor was born and we thought he was our last kid. Then we got surprised with Brandon, and I kicked myself for being so efficient and having figured out how to get rid of everything. Now, with each stage that Brandon passes through, I am in crap elimination mode. This is going to go on until he moves his ass out at age 30, so I have made it my business to be aware of several avenues of elimination.

And yes, I said age 30. We live in an area where kids still live with their parents well into their 20s because they can't afford to move out.

Anyway, here are the things that I know about. Some are obvious, some are little-known. Please add, in the comments, what I missed!

Incidentally, many of the options are also a good way to get stuff on the cheap, not just get rid of it!

Garage sales
I'm going to go ahead and guess that this falls under the "obvious" category. But, if you do not have enough stuff to warrant an entire garage sale, buddy up with other families on the street or other friends and do the multi-family sales. Those draw in big crowds with the promise of more crap stuff to buy. Or if you live in an area that does not allow garage sales in the CC&Rs, then buddy up and do a joint sale with a friend who does not have to deal with Homeowner's Associations. 

If you live in an apartment, think about this: At the end of my street, there is a huge complex that has these giant multi-sales. A couple of times a year, I see that everyone has spread out their wares on the large grassy area that fronts the building. Clearly, the residents get together and plan this, and it works for them because they keep doing it. Or, you can do what I saw some woman do last year: She just set up her shit on the sidewalk outside of her complex and hoped for the best. I would think, though, that if one exercised this option, they might expect a visit from the police. There are probably regulations and city codes that forbid this.

**A tip for the clothes: I had a sale where I tossed the clothes on a blanket or in boxes and didn't sell much. Another sale, I actually placed the clothes, yes, even onesies, on the plastic baby hangars they come on when you buy them (I save them) and hung them on a clothes drying rack. MUCH better sales. People get into this shopping mode, because it's "exactly" like being in some baby couture store, and snatch shit up. It's worth the extra effort.

Consignment shops
This may or may not fall under the "obvious" category. I had not thought about this. And thankfully, one of those Godsend friends with kids told me about a couple in our area and I have been thankful ever since. Try to find them in your area, they can be a great resource! Basically, you take your stuff in, they see if they want it, and you get either trade (store) credit for a percentage of what they'll sell it for, or you can get cash, but usually the split will be less if you get cash. For instance, the main one that I go to splits like this: 50/50 for trade credit, and 70/30 for cash, with you getting the 30%. The best ones allow you to use your trade credit on used AND new things in the store - if they even have new items. The ones in my area have a little section of brand-new toys and things, but only one of them allows us to use trade credit on new things. So I prefer that one. Not that I'm opposed to buying used stuff, because I do all the time, it's just nice to have that option.

The downfalls of the consignment shops are that because so many people take their stuff in, they have to be selective on what they take because they only have so much room. I've even taken in brand-new with tags stuff, and they still don't take it because they simply have too many things in that size. Same with baby gear. And one of the shops, if you take in maternity clothes, for instance, you get the money for them only after they sell, and you only get a small window of time in which to sell them. 

Consignment Sales
Sticking along the consignment vein, I recently learned about these regional consignment sale events, like Kids Closet. A couple of times a year, these events come to the area and are essentially a huge, county-wide garage sale. But a bit classier. Click on the link to see if one comes to your area! I did one of these and it was awesome. You set your prices, take in your stuff, pay a small consignor fee, and they sell it for you over a weekend. Kids Closet does a 70/30 split, with you receiving 70%!

The downfall of this one is that it's a lot of work to get your things together for it. A lot. You have to enter the information into their system to create the tags (like description, price, size etc.), then print the tags and secure them to the items. The clothes have to go on hangars. Then you take the stuff to the sale, set it up, and when the sale is over, if you didn't exercise the option to donate the unsold items to charity, you have to go pick them up. Also, in order to make up for the consignment fee, you have to make sure you take in enough stuff to make it worth your while. The "bigger ticket" items, like baby gear, help with that, too. Kids Closet gives you the option to mark your stuff down to half-price on the last day in a last-ditch effort to get rid of your stuff. And the great thing is, you can take in pretty much anything that has to do with pregnancy and kids up to age 12 or so!

I cringe to mention this one because I am angry that they have decided to start taking a percentage of the shipping fees too, instead of just the sale price of the item. I get why they do it, because people overcharge on shipping to save a couple bucks (or pennies) on fees, but when I sold stuff AND BOUGHT THE SHIPPING LABEL FROM THEM, proving that I only charged what the actual cost of shipping was, and they STILL took a percentage of the shipping cost, I was PISSED. 

Okay, rant is over. But bad business practices aside, this can be a good way to offload your stuff. Especially the items that are worth some bucks.

Not really sure this requires an explanation.... You list your stuff on the website, and pray that you don't have to deal with any freaks or weirdos.

Friends and Family
I don't know about you, but I'm at the age where pretty much at any given moment, someone I know is pregnant or has kids a stage or two younger than mine. This is awesome because, if you have friends that don't care about something being used, they are awesome to dump your crap on. Your good crap, of course. Some of my friends and family were absolutely amazing about kicking down or even just lending their baby/kid stuff to me and I am forever grateful for that. Especially after we found out that Brandon, the surprise of all surprises, was on his way - and I had gotten rid of all the first-year stuff. I'm telling you, it stings like a bitch to have to go out and buy all the shit you had just gotten rid of three months previously. Especially if you are not wealthy and freaking about money and a surprise miracle baby on the way. So my standards were lower than low and I was very, very grateful for all the stuff that was passed on to me. Pay it forward.

Regift - with full disclosure!
Last summer, my good friend called and said that she was going to sell her girls' toy kitchen on craigslist, but wanted to know if I wanted it for my boys first. Every time we went to her house, the boys would bee line for this kitchen and play forever. Then, they'd fight over the toy vacuum. So, it made perfect sense for her to ask this. I, of course, jumped on this, but we're talking about a kitchen that retails new for over $150, so I knew that she wasn't *giving* it to me. So I asked her what she wanted to list it for on craiglist, she said around $75, and I was just getting ready to say "I'll write you a check" when it occurred to me that the boys' birthdays were coming up in a month (the older two were born in the same month). So I suggested that she consider gifting it to the boys for their birthday, if she felt that that would work for her. 

She thought about it, and a month later, much to Nate's chagrin, we became the proud owners of a new-to-us kitchen. She got rid of her crap, didn't need to buy birthday presents, or deal with any freaks from craigslist. My boys are learning how to cook. You're welcome, future spouses. Everybody wins. and
I've never used these, but from my lack of understanding, with Freecycle, it's a donation-based thing where you list the stuff you either would like to have or want to give away, and people in your area contact you to either give or get. With Listia (through Facebook), I have no idea except that you appear to earn credits through giving your things away, then you use those credits to "buy" stuff that other people are giving away. It looks pretty cool. After watching the mind-blowing informational video on their homepage, I think I might get started. 

Has anybody used either of these options before? Feedback?

There's always someone in need who would love to have your stuff. If you don't want to deal with the hassle of a garage sale or eBay, and your friends and family are too good for used stuff even from someone they know, donate it. Charities like United Cerebral Palsy even send around trucks and pick up your stuff from your curbside! You don't even have to leave your house. We get those yellow cards in the mail every couple of months with the pick-up date listed, and we'll occasionally put things out. 

Another avenue is to find the family support centers in your area that cater to families in need. I like doing that because I know that the stuff is going directly to a kid who doesn't have a winter jacket or shoes. Or even check with your local foster care program. They'll mostly only take new with tags items (like clothes), but it's worth it when you think about the circumstances that foster kids are under when they are removed from their homes. One lady I spoke with at our foster program told me that many of the kids, when removed from their homes, only have what they can quickly, and under duress, cram into a pillowcase. Some of your new and lightly used toys and clothes can really make a difference in some kid's life. Check with your local agency for their rules. 

And it's the same situation for the people in the domestic violence shelters as the foster kids; the moms leave quickly and under duress with only a handful of items for themselves and their kids, and are in need. Just expect that when you show up at the main office (not the actual shelter - those are secret) with your donation items, they're going to think that you're there to go into the shelter until you can explain. I'll never forget the heartbroken look on the lady's face when I walked in the door with a bag of things to donate and a baby in tow - it was like, aw crap, another one, and she has a baby.... 


Trade Events
I've never done this, but I've seen where people get together and trade clothes and other things, so I can't imagine why it wouldn't work for kid stuff. But since I have never done one, I don't know how it all works. I'm sorry. Maybe get a group of mommies together and get one going? I'll give you this onesie for that BOB stroller. Fair trade? No? Two onesies? 

There's probably a reason I've never done one of those. 

Pack Rat It
Just in case you find yourself in the position that we found ourselves in two years ago - unexpectedly pregnant - a great option is to hoard the holy hell out of your stuff. At least until you go into menopause. No, after menopause, because you can still unexpectedly become pregnant during menopause, I hear. Anyway, on the off-chance that you might have another baby, keep your things. And don't think that a tubal ligation paired with a vasectomy makes you baby-proof. I met a little girl (when I stopped by one of those huge garage sales on the lawn of the complex down the street) who is the product of that pairing. .....I know....????

And then, by the time you are through menopause, your kids will be reaching the age where they might start needing the stuff for their own kids! They probably won't want it, though. So keep it for yourself, when the grandkids come to your house. Much easier on you.

Throw your crap in your yard with a FREE sign on it
I'm getting classy here, watch out. 
This has been one of the most hassle-free ways to offload the big things. We live in a town that happens to be prohibitively expensive, but it also has a very high university student population AND a huge bum population. Winning all around. We also live on a street that gets tons of foot traffic because it's on the way to a bus stop up to the university. So when we put stuff on the lawn with a free sign on it, it's gone inside of a couple of hours. Big stuff, like an ancient dining room table and chairs even. It warms my heart to think about how many games of quarters and strip poker have been played around that table. I just hope nobody has gotten pregnant on it.

So good luck getting rid of stuff! Again, please add whatever I've missed in the comment section. Makes for a more complete list!

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  1. I am using Listia and enjoying it a lot. People get feedback ratings so you can gauge your chances and whether you want to deal with them. And they have safeguards built into the system. Most importantly, it's a way you can turn a bunch of useless crap you have around the house into things you actually do want. It works because a lot of people are using it and there are all kinds of things listed, from laptops and cellphones to power tools, household goods and jewelry.

    If you do decide to sign up I would appreciate it if you would use this link, that way I will get credit for a referral (that's NOT why I commented though! Really! It was because you asked!)

    p.s. Why is it showing me as "unknown"? This is Rebecca here. (Hi!)

    1. Yes, I'm glad you commented, Rebecca, because you were the one who introduced me to Listia! I remembered seeing the invite from you, and I tucked it away for another day, when I had the chance and need to check it out. So thank you! And thank you for the additional information. I just realized that I probably should have asked you before writing this, then I would have had more information in the body of the post. Learning....

      When I sign up, I'll use your referral, for sure! Thank you again!

  2. I can't recommend Freecycle enough -- it gets your stuff straight to someone who can actually use it, without the whole thrift store markup thing. I've posted bags of my kids' outgrown clothes and they go fast. And, unlike the thrift stores, SOMEONE out there will want your ratty old furniture that you can't bear to sit on yourself anymore.

    I felt SO guilty foisting off our old couches (that came with the house because the previous owners were too lazy to move them and they were just slightly better than what we had at the time) on someone else until she told me she wanted them for her kids and their friends to use while watching tv in their basement playroom. They were perfect for that.

    1. Very good to know, thank you! You make a good point about someone will always find a use for your stuff. I'm definitely going to check it out now. I'm going to have a yard sale soon and whatever doesn't go, I'll put on there!


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