Moving sucks, part 1: Throwing things out

Posted in Random thoughts at 9:48 pm by ducky

It took us far longer to move out of our house in Palo Alto that my beloved husband thought. He’s an optimist, so that’s not surprising. But it took even longer than I thought it would take.The thing that took the most time was getting rid of stuff. Partly there were the emotional issues associated with getting rid of things. Just about everything that left our house felt like a failure: “Oh yeah, I was going to make that airplane model, but I never got around to it. Oh yeah, I was going to repair that soap dispenser but never got around to it. Gosh, I really liked going to the batting cages, but I don’t think my repetitive strain injury is ever going to be better enough that I’ll feel comfortable taking this bat to the cages again.”

A friend told me that I had the wrong attitude. He said, “You need to look at everything and marvel at how full and rich is that you didn’t need to do whatever that thing represents. You never finished that model because you were busy working on marriage. You never repaired the soap dispenser because you have the financial resources that you could get a new one.”

It’s also hard for me to throw things away because of the guilt of consumption. When my garbage can is only half-full on garbage day, I can feel good that I am living relatively lightly on the earth, but when I have bags and bags of trash, that illusion is shattered.

As a result, I — we — worked very hard to distribute our worldly possessions. We tried very hard not to just take things to the dump.

  • We sold many of our books on Amazon. We put 330 books up for sale and sold 100 of them for a net profit of around $600. On the one hand, that sounds great. On the other hand, it took a lot of work to catalog the books, describe their condition, set a price for them, weigh them, affix labels and postage, and take them down to the post office. I estimate that took about 60 hrs, or about $10 per hour. That’s not awful, but it’s not great, either. Furthermore, if we had just taken them down to Friends Of The Library, we could have written them off as a donation. If we are in the 30% tax bracket and we only sell 30% of our books, it ends up being a wash.
  • We sold a few things on Craigslist. This worked really well for some things, but really poorly for others. We were unable to sell our speakers, microwave, and bread maker, for example. (It is a pretty stunning example of how wealthy our society is at how little money you can get for things that didn’t even exist when I was born.)
  • We gave away a lot of things on Palo Alto Freecycle. For some things, Freecycle was wonderful. For example, we were able to give Jim’s Japanese construction boots — with a split between the big toe and the rest — to someone who really wanted them. On the other hand, there were several times when someone spoke for an item, kept promising to come over tomorrow for sure… but tomorrow never came.
  • I finally decided that in terms of getting rid of stuff easily, I just couldn’t beat taking stuff out to the curb with a “FREE” sign on them. It took a few days for some of the things to get gone, and some never went, but it certainly didn’t take a lot of work.

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