Thursday, January 27, 2011

Five Helpful Tips for Purging Crap

We think the winter purge has replaced spring cleaning. Mostly because right after the holidays, our houses are so crapped up with the junk that a big clean-out simply can’t wait until spring. I am truly terrible about things like laundry, cleaning and organizing. But guess what? I overcame my lack of ambition and my incredibly low standards! I recently cleaned, purged, organized and moved stuff around. And my house looks so much better. The first time Kate walked in after the transformation, her eyes got wide and in an awed voice she whispered: “It finally looks like grown-ups live here…

So I thought in the spirit of being helpful, I would share some of my newfound knowledge.

Tip #1: Ask a military mom
I have a bunch of good friends who are military mommies. Here’s something I’ve noticed about them. Every year (whether they receive orders or not) they start getting twitchy. Like they know a big move is coming and it might be someplace like Okinawa, where you can’t bring anything that weighs more than 60 pounds unless you have its birth certificate. So they start paring down. And they’re really smart about it. Some stuff gets sold, some donated, some tossed. So when I needed help on what to get rid of and how to get rid of it – those were the first calls I made.

Tip #2: Assess your level of desperation to get rid of stuff on the time/money spectrum
The whole cleaning out process – whether it’s one room or your whole house – represents a big chunk of your probably non-existent free time. So you have to figure out up front how much of that time you’re willing to invest and what you really hope to accomplish. Some examples might help.

I had a friend named Charlotte who had a closet full of fancy shoes in size 7 that she could no longer wear because no one told her that if you get pregnant twice in two years bizarre things happens to your body. Like your feet swelling to a size 8 and then staying that way. She also had an enormous collection of hideous ceramic people that she hated and were under constant threat from the grubby fingers of her two small children. So she took her time and carefully sold all her old Jimmy Choos and large eyed ceramic collectibles on eBay and a month later got a check for almost $3,500.

I had another friend named Kate who had one day off of work and had to get her house cleaned out or else her head would explode. So she filled up twelve hundred garbage bags and hauled them out to the curb and then had three glasses of wine and two Advil. The end. [Editor's Note: It was awesome. -Kate]
Can I get WOOT WOOT for Mommyshorts? She took this chart from whack to mack with her mad skillz.
She wrote all about "The Gift of Awkwardness" & the Bugaboo stroller.  So you already know she's bad ass.
Tip #3: “Just get it all out of my house today or I will lose my Schmidt”.
If your priority is getting rid of unwanted stuff as fast as possible, I have a couple of suggestions.
  • Put it on the curb for Big, Enormous Crap Pick-Up Day.
  • Call your friend with the pick-up and offer him (or in my case her) a case a beer (or in my case keg of beer) to haul it to the dump for you.
  • Call or click on a charity (like GoodDonor.org) that will come pick up your stuff ASAP. Sometimes they can get there sooner than the garbage man which is an epic WIN as you get rid of it all super fast and you get to feel all warm and fuzzy and tax deduction-y.
  • Or failing all of that you could just start a fire. To be clear, that was a joke.
Tip #4: “I want this stuff gone but I hate to just throw it all away.”
If you’ve managed to glean some things that you think someone else might want from your piles of recently purged crap, but you’re short on time and you’re torn about wanting to toss them - you have a couple of choices.
  • Donate it to a group that will come pick it up. Kind of a no-brainer.
  • Throw it all in your mini-van and drive to the closest thrift store. The big win here is that you can get all out of your house the same day and then you’re DONE. In the good way, for once.
  • www.freecycle.com . It’s free to join and pretty straightforward to use. You list everything you want to get rid of and people come and take it. Just put it on the corner so they can’t be sure which is your house – because of the creepy unknown factor (yes, I am paranoid – we’ll get to that later).
Tip #5: “If I can make some money from this stuff, it is ON like Donkey Kong.”
  • Yard Sales are tricky. The pro’s: you don’t have to move anything, you don’t have to pay a commission to sell anything and you don’t have to photograph each piece like you would if you tried to sell it on-line. BUT yard sales can be a multi-day process, getting permission, setting them up, promoting them, the actual sale, and then getting rid of all the crap that didn’t sell. And there are yard sale people (I’m related to some of them) who troll around for sales on Saturdays and they will not to pay more than $5 for your kid’s old bike, even if it’s worth $50.
  • Local kids consignment stores will buy stuff directly from you for about half of what it’s worth. But it’s easy – pack it up, drive it there, they look it over and buy what they want. And you leave with a check and less crap.
  • Consignment sales are great but more work for you because you have to go through each item you want to sell and tag it. You have to make careful lists of what you’re sending to the sale and fill out paperwork, and half the time I end up buying more stuff than I’ve sold. But if you have a high end item like a Bugaboo stroller, you can sell it for what it’s worth and not have to worry about shipping (eBay) or creepy strangers coming to your house (Craig’s List).
  • Craig’s List or eBay. If you have something that’s valuable– you can earn the most money by doing it this way. Craig’s List is good because it’s local, but then you have to deal with strangers from the internet. Please meet them in the Starbucks parking lot or something, or I’ll worry. eBay is good because its impersonal and there’s a much bigger market for what you’re selling. Just don’t forget to factor in shipping costs. Shipping a Thomas the Tank Engine Play Table is about as much fun as getting oral surgery. And maybe more expensive.
Hopefully these tips have been helpful. As far as my house is concerned, I don’t shoot for keeping up with the Joneses or having it look like the Pottery Barn catalog. I shoot for not embarrassing. And having met that goal, it feels pretty good.

xo Lydia

P.S. Both Kate and I saved something for the other one to burn. We're planning an evening for the Hideous Item Ritual Sacrifice. We'll tap a t-box and then get out the matches and the video camera. There's a good chance it'll be an Oscar-worthy film. There's also an equally good chance we'll end up in a burn unit.
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A little note from Kate & Lydia:
This post is being simulcast on parenting column "Maternal Ammunition" @ the Washington Times communities. If rotten weather doesn't keep us trapped in our houses with our children rapidly devolving towards becoming howler monkeys, we'll also be chatting about this on Let's Talk Live (11am on Channel 8 if you live around Washington, DC).  We tend to be pretty idiotic on live television, so please tune in?


(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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