Clearing Out Our Stuff

My oh my, we just cleared out TONS and tons of stuff from our Brooklyn home in preparation for our move abroad.  I’m so happy that some of you readers were interested in the process as I wanted to write about it.  I wish I had taken more photos of the mayhem…but I guess photos go out the window for me sometimes when it gets too crazy.

So, the sale happened without a ton of planning.  I just knew that we had to clear out most everything in the next couple of weeks so one night I just bit the bullet and dove in to the process.  Selling so much was one of the BEST things I’ve ever done and I don’t regret ANY of it. I only wish I had done this years ago!!

So this is how it went down…

Within a few hours of pulling bins and items out of every nook and cranny, a disgusting pile began to form in the living room.  I began recording the items in a HUGE list and sent the list to friends, neighbors, and Craigslist.  I also included some set hours for a big indoor sale (since it was too freezing and snowy for a sale outdoors.)  The pile and the list were quite embarrassing to me. It’s just ridiculous how much stuff accumulates – even when you try to avoid it.  But I sent the list anyway.  I figured someone out there may want or need “72 plastic Easter eggs” or a “large amount of cellophane party favor bags.” My friends said they enjoyed reading through the items.  One even said I should keep the list for a historical record of my life in Brooklyn. I guess that’s not a bad idea.  ðŸ™‚

Well, it turned out that lots of people came to the sale!  I was so happy.  I priced things as we went and tried to price things cheap enough that people would just buy them.  I am sure I could have gotten so much more $ on e-bay, but listing items really would have been a full-time job. It was nice to just see the pile get smaller as the day went on.

We sold hundreds of baby clothes (not exaggerating!)  I had been storing tons and tons of items for many years, thinking that we’d one day need them.  (Many of the clothes had been given to me by a very generous family.)  We sold extra sets of dishes; “extra” kitchenware that often goes unused like pizza stones, roasting pans, popover pans; clothes; shoes; hats; bags; holiday decorations; books GALORE; wrapping paper; dumbbells and other exercise accessories; home decor items; office supplies; all my infertility stuff like books, CDs, ovulation sticks galore; items we had saved “in case we had a house or a yard one day” or “in case we had kids one day” and sooooooooo many other things.  It was quite a trip to pull out stuff from both of our past lives: our college years, our former married years and our single years.  Lots of history went through my mind in that 24 hour period.  A few things that stood out: I found some notes I had written about my marriage during a therapy session during the lowest time of my life, about a year before I learned anything about happiness.  Wow.  That was really something to read.  And our friend Tina bought a vest from Danny’s college years and she went straight for the pockets to see what treasures she acquired. 🙂  She pulled out a hand written letter from his mother and some college bookstore receipts from 2002.  She was pretty pleased.  ðŸ™‚

Many people asked if was hard to see it all go.  And actually, it wasn’t one bit.  Most of the stuff never got used anyway as it was tucked away.  I wondered if it might be strange to sell the baby clothes. It felt slightly unfortunate to not have a use for the clothes as I wouldn’t have had to buy a thing for boys or girls up to probably age 5.  But, even the baby/kid clothes are just “stuff”.  I wasn’t emotionally attached to them.  If anything, I felt more annoyed that I had kept them so long (they literally filled my storage room, bedroom closets and under beds, which is precious real estate in New York!)  It was a relief to get rid of them and let them be worn by some cute girls and boys.

If there’s one thing I can convince you / beg you all to do: HAVE A HUGE SALE! As soon as you possibly can!!  🙂

It is truly the best feeling to clear out items that you truly don’t need.  Also, you will meet very many people in the process and you’ll sigh and smile at the sense of community as neighbors and friends and even strangers come in for a look and a chat.  We had some of the best conversations that day and it was also so, so fun to see what people would buy.  ðŸ™‚  If I was more organized I would have turned on some music and made some cookies.

Have any of you cleared out most of your household before and did anything special bring it about?  Was it freeing or traumatizing? And how did you get rid of everything? 

P.S.  FYI, My friend, Melissa Hope, recommended this website called “Twice.”  They help you downsize your clothing by selling it for you.  As Melissa says, “They send you a bag with paid shipping, you send it out and done.”  SO AWESOME!!  Also, it’s an amazing site for buying used clothing as well.  I love their slogan: “Pre-Loved Fashion!”

P.P.S.  I should also note that we ARE keeping our furniture (for the renters) and we’ll store a few things that do mean something to us – like Danny’s guitars, some special books/journals/photos, a few select recipe books (of course, Danny’s favorite), our 20×24 Polaroid, our vintage Polish movie posters from Posteritati in Soho, my small children’s book collection, our coat rack made in Brooklyn, some hand made quilts from family and friends, a wall map of New York, our Kitchen Aid, our Dyson Vacuum, some New York magazines from over the years with covers that either looked cool or meant something to me (including the one from Hurricane Sandy), a poster from Harvey Faircloth, heavy winter clothing that we won’t need in Ecuador, and…the Flowbie :).  So I guess we’re still attached to some things. 🙂

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  1. Anonymous January 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    Way to go, Mara and Danny! I bet it feels so wonderful to be in a home with no "stuff" kicking around and taking up physical and mental space. I'm jealous! Maybe I should just pretend that we're moving to another country and see what I could get rid of! Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  2. A.Co January 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Mara–I was feeling down today and said, I need some love and a pick me up and I know just where to get it…and came here.

    What a sale!! And what a success! Great job and it was neat reading a few of the things you listed that were on your list you sent to friends. The flowbie! I remember when you first blogged about it–Id' never heard of it! Awesome.

    Thanks for lifting my spirits, enjoy you day 🙂

  3. rawketstarling January 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    mmm I LOVE "purging"! I routinely try to clean my house of the little things that I somehow accumulate. And as my design style changes, I try to pass along the beautiful things I don't like/want/need/use anymore. As a matter of fact, I have a cleaning spree planned for this week!
    It's funny you had a sale–I can't imagine anything more uncomfortable! I usually just load up my truck and take it down to Goodwill. The idea of standing there telling my friends to give me money for my used stuff…even strangers is awkward! I sold my (enormous!) sectional this weekend and i felt so awful for asking full price, even though I had underpriced it to begin with! Not that it's BAD to sell your stuff–only that I'd rather it just be gone 🙂
    So excited to see these next few months unfold!

  4. Jane January 7, 2014 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    I love this post and totally relate – I am in the process of moving and just sorted out TONS of items as I packed up most of my apartment this weekend. I used to have a really hard time getting rid of things because I felt so sentimental about everything I owned (including old clothes that I never wear anymore but maybe had a special memory attached to them). For the first time in my life, something has just clicked and I'm realizing that it's soooo much more freeing to just let things go and clear out space for my "new" present life, rather than holding on to so many objects from the past. It feels so liberating!

  5. Jocelyn January 7, 2014 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    Oh man, I wish I lived closer so I could have bought Sequence from you, I love that game! Purging is a beautiful things. Cleansing really.

  6. Else January 8, 2014 at 7:36 am - Reply

    My little family moved to Hawaii so my husband could attend graduate school at UH. We kept a few boxes full of memories and some kitchen stuff back home in my parents attic, but other than that we sold EVERYTHING or gave it away. We mailed a few boxes but we have always been grateful that we didn't fill a storage container and ship it to Hawaii. We will have to do the same thing yet again this coming year as he finishes and we probably will move back to the mainland. It does fill so good to get rid of stuff that you didn't realize you were storing!! Good luck with your move!

  7. Anonymous January 8, 2014 at 8:36 am - Reply

    When I moved abroad I gave away almost everything away (not selling – really giving away) and it felt awesome, even burning old love letters and memorabilia was awesome… Giving tons of books to the university library was awesome, and clothes and house stuff for people who needed was wonderful. For me it meant that life was changing and that was just part of the past! I moved away with one suitcase of books and another one of clothes, that's all… And every year I clean out my stuff… my hubbie has a harder time to do it, but I am teaching him…

  8. The New Diplomats Wife January 8, 2014 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    i tried to post a comment yesterday but looks like it didn't stick – getting rid of "stuff" is such a good feeling. We move around a lot and I try to do it every move – getting rid of the extra also allows for your real possessions to still shine through. They say we shouldn't be attached to anything but still – good quality "things" are sometimes what make our home our home, especially when we find ourselves in strange places or unfamiliar territories. And the cleaning process is a good one – a bit like molting I always say – you just get rid of the skin you don't need, to make way for a fresher one that fits you better. good luck!

  9. kh January 9, 2014 at 5:28 am - Reply

    Yes! I just accepted a new job and am moving (and, happily, downsizing) quickly. I've sold and donated all sorts of things this week, including having a "Come and Get It Wednesday." I put all sorts of stuff on the patio, notified church members and neighbors and I went off to work. I came home tonight to a gloriously empty patio. There's something so amazingly refreshing about all this. Best of luck on your amazing adventures!

  10. self storage web site design January 9, 2014 at 10:45 am - Reply

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  11. Chloe Kat January 18, 2014 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    This reminds me of my house, and how much it needs to be cleaned.

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  12. Lilly Spears November 25, 2014 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    I can totally related to this post! We are moving next week and I'm packing at the moment! My house is absolutely mess at the moment!

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