Archive for the ‘Clearing Clutter’ Category

21c Flea Market Sept 09 MatchesDeciding to tackle clutter is a major endeavour, but it is one that can actually pay for itself. As savvy secondhand shoppers we know the social, environmental and economical value of not buying new. We live in an era where we can be proud of our frugal buys but we must also be just as conscious when deciding to get rid of it.

The challenge is to figure out the best possible way to dispose of our accumulated possessions, often referred to as clutter. Unfortunately not everything will be sellable but again not everything needs to go into the trash. Some careful sorting ahead of time will help you to figure out the difference.

Keep in mind that selling your stuff won’t necessarily be easy nor will it be quick. There is a misperception out there that all stuff is valuable and that people will pay top dollar for it. This is not so, secondhand shoppers are quite savvy and will shop around until they find what they are looking for and at the price they are willing to pay.

Your job is to make sure that you choose the right venue to sell your clutter and to be prepared to also donate some of it to charity. Some of it will need to be tossed out, but make sure that before you do throw it in the garbage that you check to see if it is recyclable.

Once you have sorted through your clutter and organized the stuff that needs to go, it is time to decide where it goes. Arriving at this step in the process is a huge accomplishment, so take a moment and congratulate yourself on getting this far.

Step One – Take Stock

Make an inventory of all the stuff that you wish to get rid of. Take a few minutes to physically go around your home and write down all the things that need to go. Sometimes it is easier to focus on one room at a time.

Step Two – Categorize

On another sheet, write the following headings on the top of the page: Trash, Recycle, Give Away, Donate, Storage, and Sell. Now go back to your previous list and start to place items in the appropriate columns. For all categories except the sell column, collect the items and place in bags or boxes, making them ready to give away or for storage. For the items you wish to donate, contact your favourite charity and make arrangements to get it to them. If you need some ideas, check the Charity section in the Online Directory. With all these items taken care of, now you can tackle those you wish to sell.

Step Three – Preparing to Sell

Look at all the items in the sell category.

For each item:

1.Make sure you want to sell it.
2.Make sure it is sellable.
3.Make sure you have the time and energy to sell it.
4.Make any necessary changes to the list.

Step Four – Figure Out Where to Sell It

There about nine main ways to sell your clutter. Each is a bit different and requires some thought and careful planning. Good to do your homework ahead of time to see which way would work best for you and your stuff. The GVRD has published a wonderful little resource online that acts as a directory to many of the services listed below. It is called 101 Things to do with all your old stuff.

1. Classifieds

This is a standard method, used by many for specific items. Traditionally people have used their local papers to sell furniture, electronics, and higher priced items. Today there are many different publications available in print and on the Internet. Make sure you choose the right publication. You can often do a lot of the screening ahead of time on the phone or through Email, quickly finding serious buyers. Tip: Posting on local sites like Craigslist or Used Vancouver is free and can generate results quickly.

2. Garage Sales

Another common approach, but seasonal. Can be time consuming, but this is a great way to get rid of a lot of clutter all at once. Keep prices low and be willing to negotiate. The whole point of a garage sale is to get rid of stuff. You can make money, but usually through volume not high ticket items. TIP: Good signage is key, always have arrows on your sign pointing people in the right direction…this works especially well for the “drive-bys.”

3. Flea Markets/Swap Meets

If you have a lot of stuff, but would prefer to not have people come to your home, you can always purchase a table at a local community flea market or swap meet. Often you can get a table anywhere from $10 to $55 and you can usually make that money back because of the sheer volume of people coming to the event. Key here again is to have attractive displays, know your prices, and be willing to negotiate. TIP: Check out listings in Market Market to find out about upcoming flea markets and swap meets in and around Vancouver.

4. Auctions

An often underused resource, auction houses will not only purchase estate items but everyday housewares as well. Make sure when you contact them that you find out about their various fees, consignment process, and how they calculate the final price. Most auction houses have auctions on a weekly basis and can get fair prices for your items and many list items on their Web sites. TIP: Best to visit some of the auctions during preview times to see if they would be a good fit.

5. Consignment Stores

Traditionally these stores have focused on selling clothing and sports equipment on consignment. That is, the selling price is split between the seller and the store owner. Now, you can use this same process for everyday housewares including furniture, kitchen items, books, small appliances, antiques, collectibles, and so much more. Keep in mind that each store has their own consignment process and will only keep items in stock for a few months at a time. Many consignment stores have their own Web sites that outline their basic expectations. TIP: Good to do your homework ahead of time, often you can email them a photo of what you are looking to sell and they will let you know if they can sell it for you.

6. Antique Stores

Every antique store seems to have its own specific area of expertise. Important to call around first to see which store might be the right one for you to approach with your antiques and collectibles. Some stores will buy outright whereas others will consign your items. If you are unsure of the exact value of something, it may be useful to have it appraised before you take it to an antique store. Generally most store owners are quite knowledgeable and will give you an honest assessment of what your items might be worth. TIP: Good to have photos of your antiques to either Email the stores or to show them in person.

7. Dealers

There are also a special group of people who buy and sell items without having a store front. They are called dealers and will often sell items through flea markets, swap meets, and antique shows. They usually collect very specific types of items and are also quite knowledgeable and will pay a fair price. TIP: The best way to find them is through word of mouth and by going to various events and shows and talking to them in person. Often, with smaller items, you can take them with you and see what they say. Or, you can also take pictures.

8. Used/Secondhand Stores

These are stores that will usually buy items outright, like books, records/CDs, instruments, electronics, computers, furniture, housewares, sports equipment, and more. Again, it is always good to call each store to see what they might pay for your item. Prices and the buying criteria will vary from store to store. TIP: Best to call them in advance to find out if they will purchase your items and at what price.

9. Vintage/Retro Stores

These are specific stores that will purchase vintage/retro items such as clothing, jewellery, accessories, and housewares. Although some may sell a few items on consignment, generally vintage/retro store owners will purchase items outright and often they collect stock through a variety of sources. TIP: Every store is a bit different, so best to call in advance to let them know what you have.

Step Five – Start making all the calls and start turning your clutter into cash!

Step 6 – Still feeling overwhelmed?

Maybe time to revisit the list or consider hiring a professional or getting some support to move through the process. Vancouver has some well respected consultants in this are; Out of Chaos and Paul Talbot.


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clothing exchangeA few years back I had the opportunity to participate in a unique gathering that brought together all the elements for a terrific night out: good friends, fine wine, great food, and a massive pile of clothes. The evening was part of a seasonal gathering called the “clothing exchange,” where women swap their unwanted clothes and have a bit of a social at the same time.

In order to find out how to organize one, I consulted with my friend Suzanne who is one of the more seasoned veterans of this process. She has been involved with clothing exchanges, sometimes called “the games,” for over 15 years and continues to love this process. “It is the best thing,” she says. “You take a bag of stuff you no longer want and/or have outgrown and come home with a bag of amazing new finds – all without spending a dime.”

The social aspect is above all central, but the added benefits are many. Not only do you get to clean out your closets, you also get to see some of your stuff go to a good home and the rest to charity. There is no waste and the process is fun with just the right amount of sport to keep it interesting. And, you get to go home with some great new clothes.

Hosting a “clothing exchange” party is easy and fun. Suzanne jokingly says that there are no rules – but there are a few to keep in mind. Below are Suzanne’s tips for having the best “Great Canadian Clothing Exchange Party.”

The Basics:

  1. Need between 9 – 15 women for it to really work.
  2. Good to invite a variety of women (different sizes) with a mixture of tastes and styles. It also helps to mix social circles.
  3. Everyone should come with at least one large bag of clothes and accessories (shoes, hats, belts, etc.).
  4. Provide refreshments and snacks or make it a potluck. (Trying on all those clothes can make a person hungry)
  5. If you plan on doing this more than once, create a core group of four to five women who will always be invited…keeping “the games alive.”
  6. Need to alternate the other people you invite so as not to keep getting the same stuff each time.
  7. Good to offer these parties seasonally.
  8. Whatever is left over at the end of the evening gets donated to charity by the party host.

Planning Process:

  1. Make sure your home can accommodate 9-15 women trying on clothes. If not, consider using a friend’s home that may have more space.
  2. Set the date a few weeks in advance. It is generally better to offer it during the week, but if you want more of a social…the weekend is best.
  3. Invite people over at around 7:30. This allows some time for socializing before “the games” begin, which should promptly start at 8:00 and go to about 10.00.
  4. Invite your core group and the rest. You need at least 9 women to make it work, but up to 15 is ideal. Always a good idea to invite a few more as some people may cancel.
  5. Good to call a few days in advance to confirm, making sure you have enough time to invite others if you need to.
  6. When choosing the group, make sure you are inviting people who enjoy secondhand clothes and this type of event.

The Night Of:

  1. Clear a space in your home that will comfortably fit up to 15 women and one massive pile of clothes.
  2. Make sure that you have enough mirrors handy so that people can check to see that things fit properly. You might even ask a few people to bring over some stand up mirrors. Spread the mirrors in different rooms, allowing privacy for those who need it.
  3. Because of how everyone will be trying on clothes, possibly stripping to their knickers in the open, best to not have husbands/boyfriends and children around. This could make some people feel a bit uncomfortable.
  4. As people arrive have them dump their clothes in the pile and quickly cover it so no one gets the “advantage.” You need to make sure that you have a few large blankets handy to cover the pile adequately.

Let “the games” Begin:

Once everyone has arrived, go over the “rules” before you start.

  • There are really no rules, BUT…
  • Have fun, first and foremost
  • Everyone is to create a circle around the pile
  • The host counts to three and then everyone helps to remove the blankets together
  • Each person grabs the clothes and accessories that she is interested in and creates a personal pile. No one can take from that pile, but they can call “dibs” just in case you decide you that don’t want it. If no one has called dibs, it goes back into the pile as “incoming” or “seconds” so that people know to go and check it out.
  • There should be several stations set up where people can try things on.

Some Tips:

  • Good to go in with both a playful and assertive attitude
  • Know what you like, especially in terms of colours and textures
  • Make quick assessments
  • Move quickly, don’t dawdle
  • Grab everything that is of interest to you and place it in your pile–you can always throw it back in if you don’t want it
  • Don’t take it personally when people aren’t going after the clothes you brought

At The End:

Once everyone is done creating her own pile, all the clothes that are left over are sent to charity. The host usually deals with this aspect, but can ask if people have some favourite charities that they like to donate clothes to. Always a good idea to call the charities ahead of time to make sure they are in need of the clothes. Many have outlined what they need and how they accept clothes. Some will even pick them up like the Canadian Diabetes Association, Big Brothers, and Developmental Disabilities Association. Many of these charities also have deposit bins conveniently located throughout the city.

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