March 12, 2012

The Trouble with Stuff

Books to go

Since meeting SB, I’ve moved six times, twice across the country and five of those times after we combined our household stuff. Through every move I’ve thought about the volume and weight of all this stuff. Every time we set up house in a new place, I’m faced once more with organizing, sorting and storing.

At every move we’ve left stuff on the curb, thrown things away and donated select items, but there continue to be those things that while no longer needed, seem to have some value. As I try to become more frugal, thrifty and organized, I decided that I needed to start selling some of this “valuable” stuff. After sitting on this idea for a year and researching the many options for liquidation, I started to sell late last fall.

My stuff to sell fell into two categories, books and objects. For the books I first sorted all my books into piles based on the average used book price on Amazon. The books that sold for $1 or less, I boxed up and took to a local used bookstore. There I made around $6 for most of the books. Those that the bookstore wouldn’t take I dropped off at a local library branch. Public libraries re-sell used books and also sell bulk paper for recycling, so even if the books are not worth anything, the library can still make a little money on the paper.

For the books that sold for more than $1, I created a sellers account on Amazon. So far I’ve only listed a few, see my storefront, and sold one for a profit of $10. The books in the photo above still need to be listed on Amazon. My plan is to let them sit on Amazon for a while and then downgrade them to the used bookstore and then the library.

The objects came in three categories, large tools, kitchen gadgets and light fixtures. The light fixtures came from our house in Atlanta and our house here in Madison, where we replaced these lights with ceiling-fans or more modern fixtures. Rather than try to sell the fixtures, I decided to donate them to our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I was able to claim the donation on my taxes and also give back to group that has helped us out with some great home deals.

The kitchen gadgets came out of the final stages of combining households. We still had some multiples of certain things and they simply did not fit in our small kitchen. These things I donated to Goodwill for a small tax write-off.

Finally, for the large, more valuable items, tools and appliances, I created a re-seller blog, for photographs and longer descriptions. Then I created a sellers account on craigslist and posted the items there. This has generated the most income and also helped me set-up and organize my wood shop.

Selling the books has been the most difficult part of the liquidation. The books I want to get rid of still hold more personal value than monetary value, so off-loading them for little money is hard. However, having them sit around in boxes or on shelves, just taking up space doesn’t make sense either. I guess it is time to add more books to my Amazon store.


  1. I don’t have nearly as many books as you do, but I also want to try to slim down my collection before moving. Thanks for sharing your approach!

    Comment by Arielle — March 12, 2012 @ 11:42 am

  2. I’ll give you $10 offline (in cash or beer) for the Erich Fromm book. :)

    Comment by nichole — March 12, 2012 @ 11:56 am

  3. Nichole – Awesome. I’ll trade it for a beer on Wednesday.

    Arielle – I think our book collections may be closer in size than you think :-)

    Comment by Marijka — March 12, 2012 @ 11:59 am

  4. My way of dealing with a disproportionate amount of books has been to impose a moratorium on buying books in 2012. So far I am making good progress reading the books that I have acquired but hadn’t taken the time to read before. What is encouraging is that I am enjoying them – no duds yet. In a more advanced stage, I plan on reducing the danger of avalanches and selling enough books so that there are no books lying sideways on top of other books. Afterwards, for each book I buy, I must get rid of a book. The time frame is open-ended…

    Comment by M. — March 13, 2012 @ 4:32 am

  5. Simpatico! I’ve been doing the same! I’ve been refusing to buy books in the new year as well. I trade mine that won’t sell on as well as sell on Amazon. Some days, I just can’t stand to see a box sitting there with stuff in it, take all the listings down and take to the thrift store or friends of the library. Of course, the book I really want to read, I don’t have:

    Comment by Steph — March 13, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

  6. I stopped buying “free reading” books when we moved to Madison, the land of wonderful public libraries. Now I only buy “reference” books, like cooking, knitting or wood working. Usually I check these books out at the library first, to decide whether I will really refer to them or not, before buying. This has greatly reduced my book consumption, which has been replaced by board games (that’s a different blog post all together).

    Steph – Can’t you inter-library loan that book? Or request they buy it? Seems like the perfect book for a library to have. I’ll have to check out

    Comment by Marijka — March 13, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  7. Is that a Mac SE I see buried in there?

    Comment by Jeff — March 22, 2012 @ 8:18 am

  8. Yes! I bought it for $1 at the UW Swap with big plans to turn it into a fish tank. That was a couple years ago, but it could still happen.

    Comment by Marijka — March 22, 2012 @ 8:31 am

  9. I can so relate, Marijka! And it is so much worse now with all the baby stuff we’ve acquired. But, on a different note, I am still using your old blender which you passed along before your first move with SB!

    Comment by Robin — April 1, 2012 @ 9:16 am

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  • Eating salted avocados with a spoon in Madison.
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