Anyone who’s known me for a while knows that I absolutely loved being pregnant and having my babies. I loved all the stuff that came with them–the swings, the clothes, the cups and bottles, the strollers…oh, the strollers! For a while there, I could–and would–tell my husband the make, model, retail price and pros and cons of every stroller we passed on the street. I refuse to divulge how many I owned at one point–let’s just say I had one for every occasion. To be fair, most came from resale shops or garage sales, but nonetheless it was probably excessive.
And now, with my oldest on the verge of starting middle school and my youngest heading off to kindergarten, it’s time to part with the load of baby gear that has been acquired over the past twelve years. Now, anyone who has been through this process knows that you have to be in the right mood to do it effectively. As I’ve gone through this process somewhat like a madwoman over the past few weeks, allow me to share a few tips that I’ve learned:
- Picture your goal. Start here, because it will keep you going when you feel like returning all your items to their previous homes once you feel overwhelmed. Write it down, stick it on your fridge, make it your wallpaper on your phone–whatever you need to do to keep it in mind. Are you making room for new treasures, or a freeing up a space of your own? Selling things to finance a trip or other splurge? Or is the idea of decreasing the “stuff” enough motivation for you? For me, it’s a combination of all of the above, with an emphasis on just having less stuff.
- Decide how/where you want to get rid of things–this is the part that held me back for the longest time. Are you good with donating, or are you looking for a little cash? Are you willing to sell to strangers, or would you prefer to find someone you know will love those tiny little Winnie the Pooh tennis shoes just as much as you did? Donating is by far the easiest–and some tax professionals would say the best–way to part with your little ones’ leftovers. There are tons of great charities out there to take gently used items, or with the huge reach of social media, asking your network if anyone is looking for items is a sure way to find someone to take your hand me downs. Selling is another story. With so many options available, you have to make decisions about how much time you want to spend versus how much money you expect to make. Go back to your goals. If just clearing space is key, with a little cash being a bonus, you could do well to garage sale it. A word of caution–you have to be prepared to Let. It. Go. You have to be okay with people asking for a lower price on that cute little Pottery Barn chair that you had your daughter’s birthday pictures taken in for the first five years. You have to be okay with them offering what you consider an appalling price for a whole table of clothing that you know they will be attempting to resell on their own. If you can picture yourself dragging items back into the house because you just can’t imagine them going to a stranger’s home or store, then make a different plan. Mom to mom sales are still hugely popular, and the big benefit is that you get your items in front of a lot of people at once. However, that also means that there’s a LOT of things for people to choose from, so to do well, you’ll need to price competitively and have nicer things to sell than your neighbors. There is more work involved compared to a sale at home, as you spend time packing and transporting items, and there will be a fee to rent a space as well. Online mom swap groups are also very popular–search Facebook and you can join a local group, post your items (either individually or by a “lot” of a certain size and gender), and swap for cash or other items that you need. This is a low cost, low effort way to do it, and once you’ve met a few families with kids in the sizes above or below yours, you can get into a groove of where to send/get your things. Be aware of safety when swapping however–if meeting someone, I recommend always meeting at a police station, or another very public location, and always taking someone with you. One last option, that is also very popular, is a consignment event (check out Just Between Friends), where you turn in your clean, organized, tagged items, and they are put into a huge public sale. After the event, you get a percentage of which items of your have sold–typically a higher percentage if you volunteer to work part of the event. This type of event involved a lot of prep ahead of time, but once you turn in our items, you’re done–for the cost of sharing your profits.
- Set a deadline, make a plan, and go! Keep a trash bag handy and ditch anything that is ruined as you go along. If you are donating, drop off a load each time you have one ready, rather than making a huge pile that fills half a room and then waiting for one monumental day to make a half dozen trips. Taking a bag or two as you go will you save space, give you a feeling of accomplishment and decrease that overwhelmed feeling. This is like eating that elephant: one bite at a time! If you are selling, there are obviously more steps. Set aside time to wash, sort, and tag your items. Check for stains and do your best to fix what you can. If you are having a sale, take the time to make signs and advertise. Baby items are very eye catching–make sure if you have swings, strollers, or other large items, that they can be seen as people drive by.
- Have a plan for what is left over. If you donate, there shouldn’t be anything, easy enough. If you sell at a mom to mom or consignment, there is usually an option to donate what doesn’t sell. And if you are having your own sale, it could be as simple as what I’ve told myself–“Nothing is coming back into the house!” Load up the car (or call for a donation pickup) and consider it gone.
“But what about my/her/his favorite _________?” My advice is if you’re not ready, don’t do it. If you debate for more than a few minutes, or if you find yourself picking out and returning the same book to and from the donation box, then set it aside to keep for a bit. Search Pinterest for some great craft and keepsake ideas for your little ones’ favorite things. Some of those baby outfits will work for her baby dolls, or I’ve seen quilts made from favorite onesies and t-shirts. Don’t assume, however, that your grandchildren will wear and enjoy the same styles–although it can be cute to try! (Yes, my mom brought over this little polyester number that I wore when I was little–I claim that my daughter wore it better!)
However and whenever you choose to part with the things that remind you of the beginning of your parenting adventure, know that you removing these from your home does not remove their meaning from your heart (or their memories from your scrapbooks!). You are just making space–both literally and figuratively–for more treasures and adventures that come with their own new memories to embrace!