Sunday, January 1, 2006

Getting Stuff Gone

Aside: This is a draft that's been sitting around for a while. I started it in November 2005, but I'm only getting around to publishing it now. I honestly don't recall why I didn't post it when it was written. Anyway...

Inspired in part by Why Do You Have So Much Junk?, and with a nod to GTD, here's my algorithm (well, heuristic) for Getting Stuff Gone, or GSG:

For each item taking up unnecessary space in your life (how you determine "unnecessary space" is up to you), start by asking yourself two questions with respect to the item:
  1. Is it valuable?
  2. Is it shippable?

ValuableNot valuable
ShippableTry to sell it on eBayToss a coin: eBay or Freecycle
Not shippableFreecycle it
Freecycle it

Notes & commentary:
  • Valuable means it's worth the effort to try to sell it (in other words the value exceeds the transaction cost, including cleaning it up, researching the item, writing up an ad, packing materials, all that). It also means that you think a purchaser will be willing to pay whatever it costs to have it delivered to them.
  • Shippable means it's practical to ship - with a big enough box, anything is shippable, but in a practical sense the 40-year old washing machine rusting away in the corner of your basement isn't shippable.
  • Don't overestimate the value of the item. I tend to limit my eBay effort to listing it once for a week, then relist no more than once for another week if it doesn't go in round one (beyond that you're spending more money in fees than you're likely to ever get back). If it doesn't go on eBay, then regardless of my opinion of it, it's apparently "Not valuable". So it's off to Freecycle with it.
  • Don't underestimate what people want, whether for money or for free. I’ve been surprised at what will sell on eBay, so it might be worth the gamble to try and sell stuff first. But even more surprising is that what people want on Freecycle. Basically anything I've offered has found a new home.
  • Consider the transaction cost. There is a transaction cost to consider when Freecycling -- is it worth your effort to arrange for somebody to pick the item up? Much as I'd like to be able to be altruistic about it, sometimes it just isn't.
If it turns out nobody wants it (even for free), then it's time to consider the trash.

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