Downsizing Matters


A little over a year ago something changed.  Looking around our big house filled with stuff I felt the need to shed some of the excess.  A beautiful German sports sedan I drove lost its allure and became a liability.  Waking up every weekday to go to work, while never exciting, now seemed like a dead end from which I needed to escape.  My wife was pregnant with our first child and a sense of urgency that did not exist before was introduced into our lives.

It’s often said that when women become pregnant they put a lot of their time and energy into “building a nest”.  I witnessed this firsthand with my wife picking paint colors for the nursery, ordering decals for the walls, buying handmade mobile to hang over the crib, selecting items for the registry, testing strollers and car seats among a million other things that “needed to get done” before baby arrived.  While trying to be as helpful as I could, I also had other thoughts running through my mind.  Are we ready financially?  How are we going to handle reduced income while my wife stays home with the baby and her potential part-time work after?  How will we pay for daycare?  I run the books in our household so it was natural for me to try to figure out what’s in store for us, but I was surprised by the feeling of urgency.

While worrying about finances is something to be expected when a major life changing event is unfolding, I did not anticipate some other feelings to materialize out of nowhere. Walking from room to room “baby proofing” the house I looked at the amount of stuff we’ve accumulated in over a decade of living together.  There were a lot of things stored that we haven’t used in a long time, sometimes in years, sitting there just occupying space and collecting dust. Don’t get me wrong, we are not hoarders by any stretch of imagination. Our house would even look positively empty to some.  However, it’s a big house with walk-in closets, walk-up attic storage and an oversized two car garage which makes it all look deceivingly “comfortably spartan”.  Reading over the baby shower gift registry I had visions of hundreds of new items coming into the house competing for space.

Talking it over with my wife we decided it was time to downsize our belongings.  First, we scrutinized our closets and dressers to see what clothes, shoes, belts and other items we have not worn in over a year.  You’d think it would be easy to let go but sometimes it took us mutual encouragement to get there.

“Do you think I will ever wear this suit that I bought in the 90s to interview for my first job after college?  Pleated pants and big padded shoulders will surely come back in style someday, right?”

“How about this t-shirt that I got at that club during a bachelor party?  I know I have not worn it once because it has a stripper pole with a nude cartoon lady on it, but it has sentimental value, no?”*

We ended up donating most of the clothes with some going to my sister who’s kids are old enough to fit into them.  Some of the stuff that my wife decided to retire was actually pretty nice to the point where even a teenager thought it was cool enough to wear.

Then we turned our attention to all the other household things that we all tend to accumulate over the years.  To make it easier we designated one room as the storage area for everything that we wanted to sell and began filling it up with stuff from around the house.

Around the same time our neighborhood organized a yard sale where you set up a table and let people browse whatever you had to sell.  We decided to try it and put up a small makeshift plywood table out in the driveway.  There were a couple of random things that I was able to sell, like some photo paper and a couple of tools but overall it was a waste of time.  Funny story…  I had a basketball for sale for $1.  A 10 year old (?) girl came up and offered me 25 cents for it asking for 75 cents back from her one dollar bill.  It was the end of the day, I did not have any change and I said “No thanks, I’m firm on $1”.  She could not believe I didn’t want to sell that basketball to her for 25 cents and left disappointed.  My wife called me an a-hole when I told her the story.  Whatever, I don’t care… Kids need to learn how capitalism works early.  You can’t always have what you want.

Lesson learned – if you want to sell your stuff with less time commitment and for a higher price, don’t do yard sales.

Over the years I’ve had great success with Craigslist.  If you list your item with a comprehensive description, multiple pictures and at a good price point it will sell.  Might take a day or a year but chances are there is someone out there that wants even the most obscure thing that you have.  Yes, you will get a ton of spam emails like “Is this item still available?” and “I can send you a check if you ship with $100 additional for your troubles”, but you know to just ignore those right?

I decided it would be interesting to look back and see how much money we made from selling stuff on Craigslist since I started the house cleansing project in 2012.  Here is a list of the items we sold:

Mountain bike with a damaged frame


Seinfeld DVD set




Spice rack


Baby formula


Motorcycle luggage rack


27” tube TV


Bicycle shocks


Motorcycle seat pad


BMW service repair manual


Diaper Genie


Wicker hamper


Old smartphone


Practical walking shoes


BMW fuel filter


BMW oil filters


Wine decanter


Wipe warmer


Cocktail bar set


Ipod wireless sound docking system


Dart board




2 sets of BMW lights from 2 previous cars


BMW headers


Hand vacuum


Huge wooden nutcracker


Futon mattress


Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pads


Motorcycle boots


17” computer monitor


Computer case with power supply and dvd drive


Broken laptop for parts


Photo printer




Sixteen hundred bucks and a lot less crap in the house?  Sign me up!  Everything else that could not be sold was donated, given away or trashed and there were a lot of items that fit into that category!

We discovered something interesting too…  Once you start selling off the stuff that you no longer want or need it becomes a game of “what else can we sell?”  We are now continually scanning our house to see if maybe something “sell-able” was missed and we get a little bit excited if we can exile an item to the Craigslist room.  I consider that room a Halfway House for the stuff to be placed with other families.  I just checked my Craigslist account and there are currently 12 things waiting for a new home.

How about you?  Do you have anything to get rid of to de-clutter your home and potentially make some good money for your troubles?

* The answer to this question is “yes” so I still have that shirt.  I can always wear it while I’m doing house projects, no?


10 thoughts on “Downsizing Matters

  1. “Pleated pants and big padded shoulders will surely come back in style someday, right?”

    Mr PoP thinks they’ve never gone out of style. He loves the suit he got in the late 90’s for high school. *sigh*

    We don’t have insane amounts of stuff, but like you guys if we had a kid on the way it’d be time to clear out the closet in the guest room that’s filled with sports equipment that gets used every couple of years and an entire bookshelf full of college and grad school textbooks and notes that I haven’t been able to part with quite yet.

    • My wife has a huge box filled with college textbooks and notes. I’ve been trying to get her to “downsize” it but it’s not working and I am out of ideas how to get it out of the house. I could maybe understand the attachment if she was working in the field that she majored in or was planning to work in that field but she has no desire to ever do that!

  2. We need to clean out a bit too. We don’t buy a lot of stuff, but the junk still accumulate. Craigslist is great. I usually have pretty good luck with it.

    • I don’t know what I would do without Craigslist… I’ve sold several cars and motorcycles along with the usual household stuff we all tend to accumulate as the years go by.

    • Money is great but a house with less clutter is priceless! While I was painting the garage this weekend I found a couple of other things that need to be sold ASAP. More money and more room for the tools that matter!

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