Introduction: A Personal Story
I actually just moved from an apartment to a house in Fort Worth. Both are rentals. I’m late-30s and mostly bad with money, plus I went to graduate school for no truly apparent reason -- don’t work in that field, really! -- and have debts from that, so home-purchasing felt like something a bit off. That said, I have a 115-pound black dog named Samson. (He’s a Labrador and Great Dane mix, since I know you were curious.) Having a 115-pound black dog in a sixth-floor (of six floors) apartment is a challenge, both in terms of hair and in terms of taking him out, especially when it’s an apartment that brands as luxury but seems to have the elevators broken all the time. One time, actually, on a Sunday night, the power went completely out in the building, so a bunch of people were walking different dogs down a completely-dark stairwell to try and take them out … it was a true joy to be a part of.
That long-winded introduction brings me to this: I am definitely not a clothes horse at all. My preferred style is jeans, a sweater, and a backwards NBA hat. But when I moved this time, I nonetheless purged about 45% of my closet, if not upwards of 55%. My girlfriend has used this joke about six times since we moved, in different social audiences: “Nothing will make you want to travel around the world with just a backpack than moving.”
Indeed. I started the moving process late on a Thursday afternoon and, with the exception of maybe two-three breaks over the weekend (NFL wild card playoffs!) for beer and crappy food, I worked about 68 hours straight, lifting with my legs.
We all have too much stuff. What now?
The Gospel of Marie Kondo
For some reason that no one understands (probably related to their stock price), Netflix doesn’t release viewership numbers on shows, but the Marie Kondo “Does it spark joy?” decluttering show is consistently referred to as a “hit.” Let’s go with that. Her gospel of KonMari has led her to millions of followers; virtually everyone I know aged 25-45, and often outside those ranges, watched that show or has interacted with her essential idea of decluttering/purging in some way. It is big business, too: she’s purportedly worth $10M and growing.
She has acolytes and devotees, too. In this Bloomberg article, you learn about an army of 400 certified consultants, one of whom left a job at Booz Allen Hamilton (well-paying!) to practice KonMari and have a blog called For The Love Of Tidy. She makes about $1400 for 12-15 hours of apartment/home consulting. Not a bad rate.
When I moved, I found a waffle-making griddle that I had not used in about six years. In fact, I was with a wholly-different person in a wholly-different state when I acquired that. Why had I repeatedly moved it despite not really using it? It doesn’t weigh a lot, but it’s wide and long and takes up space. How did I fall for this so repeatedly?
Well, that’s now at Goodwill and hopefully some other family is enjoying it.
So, if you’re moving soon, how do you parse down what you own? Here are some strategies.
The parsing-down approach
The big one of the moment is “Does it spark joy?” as noted above. That’s tricky because sometimes old, ratty t-shirts spark joy because of memories and context -- but you don’t need 12 of them. So it’s one way to approach a move, but it can blindside you too.
Another way: when was the last time I used or wore this? That’s what I did with the griddle above, and that’s what I did with a lot of my clothes. If you are comfortable admitting weight gains and losses across a number of years, you can replace this question with “Does this still fit or could it fit in, say, 10-12 months?”
Still another way: if I moved this item into a secondary economy, would it be more valuable to someone else? Lots of families don’t have waffle griddles or dependable sets of bowls. If you donate that stuff and it gets way marked down at a second-hand store, aren’t you kind of paying the economy forward in some ways? Plus: you typically can write off donations on your own taxes.
And more: how much space do you have in the new place? If you have more space -- I had about 150 more square feet, give or take -- please resist the temptation to buy new things. I think I bought some new jeans, but that was counteracted by all the stuff I got rid of too. But if you have less space, possibly because you are moving to be closer to work or social areas, make sure you know what you can even store. And then go through the steps above, because you’re going to need to get rid of some things regardless of your best intentions.
Less “conscious capitalist” but still a factor: Could you get money for this stuff? Facebook Marketplace, CraigsList, eBay, any number of other sale sites, and lots of walk-in clothes shops in DFW. You won’t get a ton of money, but for example … I had a lot of books, and a chunk happened to be hardcover and semi-new. I am bad at reading books after buying them and usually I just listen to some audio interview with the author and get the idea of the book. So I sold a bunch of them and made $51. Did that cover the initial costs of the books? No. But did I now have $51 to stop moving and go get a beer and some hummus? Yes. My girlfriend sold two Hefty bags of clothes for about $78 total. Now we’re sitting on $129 collectively. Time for a new waffle griddle! I jest.
This stuff is not easy. As human beings, we attach meaning to lots of things over time that don’t really have or need that meaning. For example, I was on a bar trivia team in Queens, NY in 2011. We were bad at first and this one team kept beating us. Over time, we got better in specific categories and started winning every week. We got a trophy for having the most wins of 2011. I hang out with literally zero of the people on that team anymore, but the trophy has moved with me probably 7-8 times since I came into possession of it. Will I ever get rid of this trophy? Probably someday. Am I ready yet? No. And of course I can’t get money on a Queens bar trivia trophy, but the point is … sometimes we attach emotions and meaning to things and don’t want to let them go. So parsing down is hard. We get it. But it’s still a good process to try and follow, both for (1) reducing the cost of movers, (2) lifting less stuff with your own legs, and (3) feeling better about your role in our giant capitalist circle.