The William Morris Project: 2014 | Still Not Having a Garage Sale

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The William Morris Project

This may sound crazy, but you should probably clear your cache if you see a picture of Seth Rogan looking coquettishly over his shoulder while pursing his lips.

I cleaned house this weekend; this house. With the help of Liquid Web, the source of all my technical problems the last 18 months has been eliminated. Seth is helping with all this drama, but only time will tell if it works. Fingers crossed!

Goodwill Collage

Aside from boring internet stuff, I focused on boring donation stuff. I’m doing things differently this year. Now that I know we will never have a garage sale, I’m not letting items pile up in unused corners of the house and garage.

I’m regularly taking items we have decided we don’t need to Goodwill, school, or wherever else they are appreciated. There are two reasons for my “quick and final” purge and declutter style.

One, piling everything into a closet or unused room isn’t purging; it’s moving. You can’t even call it decluttering because you are expanding your circle of clutter. Take clothing, for example. Purging a closet of my clothing isn’t purging if I then move those clothes to our guest closet. All I’ve done is create two full closets. Ask me how I know this.

Two, holding onto items I don’t need until an event–like my mythical garage sale–is a safety mechanism. It’s putting an unspecified expiration date on useless items and a way of saying “just in case” without saying “just in case.” By not putting a firm expiration date I avoid making a decision, a commitment, and a step forward. Months down the road I’ll find a use for the widget I put in the donation pile. I’ll grab it, dust it off and use it, sure. I’ll even congratulate myself for holding onto the pile until I was sure I didn’t need all those widgets. Except now all the widgets in the pile have potential! I can’t get rid of anything! It’s too risky. Never underestimate the power your mind has to manipulate your actions. Ask me how I know this.

I was once asked if I ever donated something I later needed. No, I haven’t. But let’s assume I did. Let’s assume in one of my many kitchen declutter sessions I inadvertently donated my favorite pancake spatula. Now I’m missing my favorite pancake spatula, I can’t make pancakes, and life is generally not worth living.

One solution is to never get rid of anything because I never know when I might need it. But that means I need to keep 7 bags worth of kitchens items I never, ever use to make sure I never lose one pancake spatula.

The second solution is fairly straightforward. Buy another pancake spatula. It will be harder to lose in my decluttered and organized kitchen.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. Kirstin says

    I LOVE this! I am still just beginning to grasp the power of decluttering my house. My strategy lately is to take the donation stuff straight out to the car so I can drop it off the next time I run errands. I really appreciate your discussion about just buying another widget down the road it you really discover a need or have a regret. That scenario is so much better than storing/moving/sorting/tripping over/shifting extra stuff over the course of years in the hopes that you will one day use it. I can’t thank you enough for the encouragement your WM work has provided to me.

  2. says

    I am anti-garage sale. I like to shop at them occasionally, but I cannot bear to gather and store enough stuff to make holding my own sale worthwhile. Instead, I think I average a donation (or frenzy of Freecycling–a Freecyclone?) every other month. You’re absolutely right–I have never missed a single thing I’ve gotten rid of.

  3. says

    In my experience garage sales are SO not worth the hard work that goes into them. However, itemizing your donations on your taxes…that is another story! Get a receipt!

  4. Sarah says

    I am so relieved that there is someone out there who thinks the way I do. We have family members who have made money on their garage sales, and that is great for them. But, having to interact with all of the strangers over my old stuff, that is too stressful. It makes me want to hide in a corner.

    • Susan G says

      OMG – absolutely! And when I had my last one some years ago – at which I did well by garage sale standards – I figured out the per hour income (including set up) and it was SO not worth it!

  5. HeatherL says

    I am a frequent donator–I do not have a yard or garage in which to have a sale and have no desire to spend my days off from selling other people’s things selling my own things. However, I am stuck on a few items that are semi-valuable. I was all set to donate a coin pearl necklace that won’t fit around my fat neck to Goodwill until my husband remembered that his parents gave it to me, so it probably wasn’t worthless and then I felt bad about donating it. I have held onto it, and now that same doubt is preventing me from donating Thomas Kinkaid snowman who ate a Christmas village thing. I don’t know if it is worth it to sell it on Craigslist (which I’ve never used.) I am a little frightened of people coming to my home and then wondering what else of value I might have & coming back to break in. ( Is that crazy?) I can estimate the second-hand value of these things, but I can’t decide what worth it really means. If I let myself donate those things, is it ok to donate my funny looking Waterford crystal ship’s decanter. I don’t know why I have such an issue with this. Maybe because they were all gifts?

    What do you do in those types of situations?

    • Susan says

      Hi HeatherL – I have an unhealthy antiquing habit and could now open a prop stylists’ closet in my dining room. Some of it is valuable; I’ve been slowing selling some of it on Craigslist and haven’t had any problems. People have mostly been lovely and all have been normal. You may have to list things 2-3 times before finding a buyer, but its easy and I think worth it. For things like the Waterford, try a consignment shop. That way they house it until it sells and then they send you a check. Easy.

      The emotional ability to let go of things is a different issue entirely! I’ve recently begun letting go of things that were my grandmother’s. It was hard, but I reminded myself that 1) I was keeping the things that I most associated with her and 2) she was not an accumulator and would not want me to burdened by her belongings. But then most of my problem is not gifts but things I’ve bought myself. I’ve had to let go of both a vision I have for my life that isn’t accurate (Garden Parties! Ladies Tea Parties!) for which I bought serving pieces and given myself permission to re-buy things if I actually need it one day. I’ve also learned to enjoy the hunt without actually buying anything. I take a picture and tell myself I’ll come back tomorrow. Of course I never come back tomorrow :-)

      Sorry for the novel! But this is something I’ve struggled with a great deal over the last two years.

        • Susan says

          Oh yeah Susan G, that’s the million dollar problem, isn’t it? I so want to be the person that has nice dinner parties, that has cute backyard BBQs, and people over for movie nights to eat popcorn out of those cute movie theater bags you buy at Target.

          But the truth is, as much as I love all the accessories, I never use them. My friends come over for dinner and we either have a something delicious out of the crockpot or we eat cheese and drink five bottles of wine. I am some one that hosts casual get togethers. And when I have the occasional cocktail party, I have so many people over that we have to use plastic and paper. Nice plastic and paper, but nevertheless.

          And as I stare 40 in the eye, I realize that this acceptance of who I really am is something that comes with age, so there is no point in beating myself up over it. And its okay to have pretty things that you never use, as long as they make you happy. So I picked the best of the lot and let the rest go. Ahh, it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? :-)

    • Fairfax Avenue says

      If you are not comfortable with complete strangers coming to your home, well I’m in total agreement with you! Just arrange to meet at a local public place, like the library or [insert name of coffee shop of choice]. I have done this when Freecycling and it’s worked out well.

  6. Susan G says

    I grew up in a house that always had a “Goodwill” bag going – way before thrifting was a “thing” (not to mention a word) and I continue that practice. Still call it a Goodwill bag even though it goes to a different nonprofit. Also, my daughter’s high school has a “clothes closet that is actually a small storage unit of clothing and household goods for families in need. I have found it is easier to get rid of some things knowing they are going directly into the hands of someone who needs them. For some reason the perfectly-good but definitely excess blanket doesn’t go to the thrift store, but give it to someone who doesn’t have a blanket? Absolutely!

  7. says

    Donating things has become so easy now that Big Brothers and Big Sisters call every week/fortnight ahead asking if I ‘have any clothing or small household items’ to donate. Sometimes, I feel guilty that I don’t have anything to donate, and that I might be hoarding, so feel the push to clean out the cupboards one more time. Soon the house will be empty.*
    I agree on the piling and re-piling. One look in our back room will serve as evidence. Over December and January, we’ve been whittling-away at the piles. The house is suddenly getting easier to keep tidy. We can walk into the back room, do the laundry, and if it wasn’t so freaking cold in there, maybe even fold the laundry in the room. The dresser in our room is no longer overflowing. The kids’ wardrobes are filled with clothing that actually fits. The bookshelves are packed, but not busting at the seams. No more unused small appliances. However, there are still too many toys, oh the toys, the boxes overfloweth…it is a process, right?

    This comment isn’t fooling anyone, let alone me.

  8. says

    Two years ago I had a basement full of stuff, an attic full of stuff, and a garage full of stuff (and a house full of stuff). Then you started your William Morris project, I joined in, and now I have only a wee bit of stuff in the garage, a few things in the attic, and no basement. I have gotten rid of nearly half a house worth of suffocating stuff because of your blog. And I’m much the happier for it.

    Thank you :-)

  9. says

    I will never have a garage sale, either. I make far more from donating and writing it off on my taxes–which is way less work. When Cane and I first combined households, it seemed like the trips to Goodwill (and Salvation Army and Volunteers of America) would never end. Then, we wondered how it was possible that they were still continuing. How could we keep having stuff? Where was it coming from? (We just dropped off another carload this weekend.) I’ve come to realize that stuff just accumulates. Needs and tastes change. And, yeah: Half the time when we drop stuff off, we go in and look around. Came home with only one piece of thrift store art this weekend, though!

  10. says

    Recently we moved and had a garage sale. I could not believe how much clutter we had accumulated. The garage sale was absolute mayhem. When I finish unpacking, any stuff we don’t need or want will go right to charity. It’s much easier.

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