Basement Reclamation

Stuff has conquered society. So, in January, as part of my resolutions, I made a commitment to clean out my basement. Yeah, nothing big and bold here on the surface, but you didn’t see my basement. When I moved into my current residence years ago, I remember carefully labeling and taping the boxes shut. The movers carried most of the boxes down to the basement, and I never opened them up again. I always thought I’d get to it one day, but I might as well put the stuff into a coffin and buried it.

As the years passed, the basement became the resting place for things I wasn’t ready to throw away yet. Grilling tools (I might reuse these). Books (there were so many). Old toys (yeah, lots of these too). Baseball cards (I ended up keeping these). My shelves were filled. Boxes were piled high.

So, I decided to go to work. I had three simple rules in deciding what stayed and what went: (1) If it hadn’t been touched in a while, it went no matter what (with some exceptions), (2) Anything personal had to stay (I wasn’t doing the 100 Thing Challenge), and (3) I made a quick decision on giving something to the GoodWill or charity of choice verse trying to sell in a garage sale or put on Craig’s List. This was more of a gut check. No science involved. I also decided I wasn’t going to do this all at once. So, each week I had to throw at least one bag of trash away. I didn’t want to kill myself over a weekend. Incremental improvements were good enough for me.

I ended up finishing the project back in March. Here were the highlights:

The BowFlex: I purchased this little beauty ten years ago. It was one of the originals. And I used it for several years as the town I lived in didn’t have a true gym. When Gold’s Gym set up shop, I ended up putting this in the basement and paying the monthly. I figured I would use it again one day. Alas, I rarely did. Once actually. Surprise. Surprise. This ended up becoming a Craig’s List success for me (I was hit or miss here on this project). I picked up $150 on the deal, which isn’t too bad considering depreciation, use, etc., I tried to up-sell the Tony Little Gazelle trainer as part of a package but that didn’t go so well.

Tony Little Gazelle Trainer: Yes, I bought this. Unlike the rest of the world, I’m actually admitting it. Can you believe he’s grossed $6 Billion in sales selling stuff like this? He might be the best sales representative of all-time. I put up an ad in Craig’s List-no response. I tried packaging it with the BowFlex, but the couple who purchased it laughed and said they already had one. I put it on my street corner. It sat there for two weeks. I tried to sell it as scrap, but it didn’t qualify. I ended up giving up and paid the junkyard to take it. Yes, this cost me money, but the Tony Little Ski Machine is no longer staring back at me or taking up space.

Old Pictures: It was fun to look through the pictures from high school plays, baseball games, and college snapshots. Memory lane is good to take a stroll down now and then. I kept all of these pictures. Everyone, thanks for the memories.

Taped-up Boxes: My original thought was to throw these away without taking a look at the contents. The box labeled kitchen stuff I threw into the trash. I figured I had everything I needed in the kitchen already. Yet, after I did it I had this feeling and went back out to the garage to open the box. I found my original wedding license inside. No, it’s not a copy of the original Declaration of Independence, but my wife might have killed me if it turned up missing. It’s always good to do a detailed inspection. You get what you inspect.

The Creepy Craig’s list guy: I had a seldom-used Lightning McQueen television. Looked cool, but my kid has moved on from Cars. Sorry, Disney, you will no longer be taking hundreds of dollars from me. $4.99+ die-cast cars really add up. Some were more than this. I mean how many cameo characters in a movie can you sell to a guy? Give them credit; it is true marketing genius. The television was up on Craig’s List for a week, and someone started asking for a lower bid. I’m all for negotiation, but I’m not going to waste my time either. Then, strange offer after strange offer came. I didn’t need an old shop vac, tarnished silverware, or beach toys. And then it became meet at this undisclosed location. In the spirit of CNBC’s Shark Tank, “Sorry, but I’m out.” I’ll keep my television, thank you very much.

Donations: I ended up donating clothes, school supplies, and kids’ toys to GoodWill or charity. I hope some folks got some good use out of it.

Trash bags: I probably trucked more than a few bags of trash out of my basement. It sounds like I had piles of junk in the basement. I really didn’t, but stuff adds up.

In the end, I think I made about 300 bucks, give or take, on selling stuff out of my basement (that includes the operating loss from Tony Little’s amazing sales pitch). But I’ve noticed something else too. I’ve also cut back on purchasing the latest techno gadget or fall lineup of clothes. Before I buy anything now, I really think through the life cycle of whatever it is. Will it eventually end up in my basement? And will I eventually have to throw it into a bag and haul it off? That’s a lot of work. Most of the time, the stuff isn’t worth having at all.

Notes and Nods:

  • As everyone’s house is their castle, I thought the picture was fitting. Swifty fans should recognize it from music video glory days.
  • The Hundred Things Challenge: I read this book after my project. Thought I’d give it a nod in this post. Note, I didn’t do anything similar, but I thought the ending result was the same.
  • The history of Craigslist by Wikipedia.