Decluttering Update: Hello eBay, My Old Friend

Hello eBay, my old friend
I’ve come to list with you again…

Sometimes you reach a point in life when you have things all figured out—you’ve accomplished that elusive goal, you’ve designed that perfect lifestyle, you’ve tweaked and fine-tuned your way into the ideal routine.

And then what happens? Well, things change, of course. One of the tenets of Zen Buddhism is that life is never static—and that the desire for it to be so is cause for great suffering. Better to accept that change is the rule, and embrace the twists and turns that occur along the way.

I had once decluttered my way to minimalist nirvana. I’d whittled down my belongings to the essential. I had fewer than one hundred possessions. I had no permanent address and I lived out of a suitcase. My eBay account, once a hotbed of activity, stood dormant for years.

And then I had a baby.

Now, don’t get me wrong; having a child has been the most amazing experience of my life. However, it’s thrown me into the midst of a whole new level of stuff-management.

When I was pregnant, I didn’t shop or nest like many moms-to-be. In fact, I hardly bought anything, confidant that my little one could get by with a handful of outfits and toys. I didn’t even acquire a crib or car seat until I was nearly full term. I haven’t become much of a shopper since her arrival, either, and generally scramble to fill needs as they arise (oh, there’s six inches of snow–my daughter needs boots and mittens!).

But, this being the first grandchild on both sides of the family, my relatives have more than made up for my lack. So the last two years have found me back in decluttering mode, as Plumblossom rapidly outgrows her clothes and baby paraphernalia.

While the bulk of her castoffs go to charity, I’ve listed some of her nicer dress clothes on eBay. It’s actually been less time-consuming than expected, primarily because of eBay’s shipping label service. After the auction, all I have to do is put the article of clothing in a small padded envelope, weigh it on our kitchen scale, print off the label (paid via Paypal), and drop it into the drive-through mailbox at the post office. It’s a far cry from my eBay heyday a decade ago, when I’d wait for checks in the mail, take them to the bank, make my own labels, and wait in line at the post office (!).

So I’m back in the trenches with y’all, and have integrated a new decluttering routine into my minimalist life. I have three bags in the guest room closet: one for clothes donations, one for books and toys donations, and one for eBay sales (unfortunately, none of our friends or family have had baby girls recently, leaving a lack of hand-me-down recipients). I like to keep Plumblossom’s closet and play area as clutter-free as possible, so anything that’s outgrown or no longer useful goes straight into the bags. Then every few months, I make my donations and list on eBay. And Plumblossom grows, and the cycle goes on…

(For those wondering why I’m not saving stuff for a future sibling, see my Huffington Post article.)

The point of this post? That when it comes to decluttering, sometimes there isn’t an end point—and that’s okay. Sometimes, no matter how perfectly you’ve pared down your possessions, life circumstances might throw some extra stuff your way. But as long as you keep your minimalist mindset, and deal with clutter as soon as it becomes clutter, you’ll continue on your merry minimalist path.

In fact, it’s good to hone those decluttering muscles once in a while. When it comes to my own stuff, having a child has made me even more minimalist (perhaps to compensate, both mentally and physically, for her things?). I’ve acquired practically nothing for myself since her birth, and finally let go of the box of “nice” office clothes I’d stored while overseas (and lamented in Storage is Not a Solution). I have a renewed enthusiasm for becoming as paperless as possible–more on that in a future post. Perhaps (to paraphrase Nietzsche) the clutter that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. ;-)

So has life ever thrown you a clutter curveball? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the Comments!

[Note: Am I blogging again? Sort of. I’ll try to post about once a month for now, and slowly ease my way back…]

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

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48 comments to Decluttering Update: Hello eBay, My Old Friend

  • olá!
    Ter filhos é uma experiencia maravilhosa…tenho 2 rapazes já adultos e, acredite,com 59 anos de vida, estou aprendendo a viver de modo minimalista! Isto é um tanto dificil para quem sempre guardou coisas…
    Agradeço seus posts pois tem me ajudado e incentivado a colocar ordem nas coisas materiais e tambem na vida em geral…
    abraços de uma brasileira que lhe admira!
    Seja feliz com sua bebê!
    Att.
    Ligia Senger

  • Zoe

    Love you’re writing again. Hope there will follow more. Can’t wait to read the paperless blog.

  • Ellen

    So nice to read a post from you again, Francine. I really enjoy hearing from your readers and their minimalist journey’s, but its great to read and gain insight into your experience as a newer mother and the excess stuff that comes with Plumblossom’s arrival into your family.

    I do a lot of shopping on eBay (just bought my new-with-tags Mother of the Bride dress there!), but have yet to sell anything. You’ve got me motivated to give it a try! Thanks much for your insights.

  • Nadya

    Your post resonated with me this morning, as I am expecting my first (and only) child in May. We are in our mid 30s so seem to be the recipients of all of our friends and families’ cast-offs and hand-me-downs for our baby girl. While we appreciate the sentiment and assistance, it has been challenging for us as minimalists from both psychological (we both realize that no thing/item/toy is going to make our baby sleep through the night and not cry) and physical perspectives (we live in a small home from the 1940s and simply don’t have room for giant plastic swings). Instead of letting myself get frantic about the changing landscape of our home, I am realizing that there is lots of change on the horizon in our lives and going with the flow (and decluttering along the way as the baby grows) will work for us too. It is reassuring to learn that you are managing to go with the flow too!

  • Good to see you back, and glad to hear Plumblossom is doing well :)

  • April

    I’m so glad you’re back! I’ve missed reading your posts.

  • Jeanne

    I am in a similar situation with a little daughter of 5 months old. We were anticipating a lot of gifts so we diplomatically wrote on the birth announcement cards that we had already everything we needed and we would rather be receiving a congratulation card/letter to keep for her as a souvenir or even just receiving a phone call (the ultimate clutter-fri gift!) but people seem not to have believed us, on the contrary, and we received a LOT of beautiful gifts. Each one has been chosen with care and reminds us of the generosity of the friend or the family who gave it to us so it is a pleasure to use them all. However, the management of all this unnecessary outfits requires a lot of time and energy (including the endless number of trips to the post office to get all these parcels) that I feel would be better put in the care of my daughter or for some well-deserved napping time for me.

    I feel immensely grateful and at the same time guilty because I know that some families do not have enough, especially in other parts of the world. I would like so much for family and friends to understand my way of thinking but trying to explain that is very hard and I can sense a feeling of saddeness at the end of the conversation because people are then at loss with how to manifest their care of us. Living abroad does not help either because we cannot receive the non-material gifts of for instance, baby-sitting.

    I am perfectly aware that just having this kind of worries is such a luxury but I cannot wait to see our society moving towards a less consumption-minded one. I am dreaming of a culture were buying gifts would not be part of the equation, and where kindness and care would show in other ways….

    In the meanwhile, I am extremely happy that our little one is staringt to outgrowth most of her birth gifts so that we just have a handful of outfits to choose from in the morning, to wash, to fold, to put away in drawers and closets… And I am so happy to know that her beautiful, as good as new clothes will serve other babies!

  • So glad to see you back to blogging! Kids definitely generate a lot of stuff. A LOT. Looking forward to reading your posts again.

  • Coco

    Thrilled that you are back! You are my absolute favourite :)

  • Tina Lemna

    I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you blogging again! You are my favorite!

  • Welcome back!! Love your line: “when it comes to decluttering, sometimes there isn’t an end point.” Makes me realize I don’t have to reach some perfect minimalist place, but just keep working at it and certainly life does throw STUFF at us. I’ve inherited bits and I think it’s time to part with some, like the oversized, faux leopard coat of my aunt’s and my mom’s leather coat, both of which I will never wear but are taking up valuable closet space.

  • Felinia

    For me, decluttering is a constant. There’s always something. I think the best most of us can hope for is ‘control’ of clutter, as life has this habit of “getting in the way” of our minimalism! FANTASTIC to see you Blogging again, MM! :)

  • I too feel your pain. Since we have had our daughter the amount of stuff, toys, clothes etc. Is just crazy and I have been trying to get a handle on it. My in laws and my mom have been going crazy. We have decided that whatever toys they buy for her stays with them in the hopes that this stops them from giving her and getting her so much stuff.

  • Em

    Very good point there. I personally find decluttering to be my ongoing passion and hobby and I would be quite sad if I reached the end point, if there was one :D Might be silly but I do love to reevaluate all of my possesions, contacs, activities and everything all the time, continuously, every day, every time I look at them.

    Since I moved to England from Czech Republic, I went a bit crazy about clothes shopping. My old closet was full of horrible stuff, unfitting clothes, stuff I’ve grown out of or it’s badly worn as I wear clothes litteraly until they fall apart and sometimes even after that, if they’re still comfy :D So I’ve tried to make it better and since I got to England which is so much more providing with nice clothes than CR (it’s SO hard to get anything wearable there), I’ve been shopping and I do painfully realize that I’m once again having too much stuff, especially adding all those bags of to-donate or to-sell stuff I’m storing back home. But to release myself from a guilt pressure, I keep on decluttering elsewhere for a while. I’m going through cupboards and shelves all the time, and through food and cleaning products, through papers and everything and I keep on decluttering that, downsizing as much as possible.

    I think it’s important to do it all the time, bits by bits, and to think generally about what you’re buying. Right now I know I will wear the clothes I bought here for many years so I’ve allowed myself to get them. But still I can’t wait to get home and finally get rid of everything that’s old and ugly :)

  • Renee s

    quick suggestion that you may like better than ebay! If you search for your city/town/area on facebook and follow it up with words like “yardsale”, “buy/sell”..you may find that there are groups dedicated to buying and selling used items (esp baby clothes). That way you can sell to people down the road instead of dealing with shipping, etc. Just a thought!

  • Elizabeth

    Great to have you back! Would love to hear more of your tales of minimalist motherhood. Love your insights!

  • elizabeth

    I was just thinking about how much stuff I want to get rid of and if I was going to use ebay. then If I was going to use eBay would it be easy or just create more headaches. Thanks for the information. I read your book last year at this time and started downsizing from a 3 bedroom, 2 level house and now we are in a 2 bedroom apartment. One child is out on her own and the second one is finishing up school. I am now working on the small storage unit and preparing to downsize again in a couple of years to a one bedroom (when the last kid is out on his own). It has been so freeing! Keep up the good work and all your inspirations.

  • I probably only wear 30 percent of the clothes in my closet regularly. Time to de-clutter.

  • spork

    I have sold a lot on ebay and recently returned now that I’m motivated to complete my decluttering project. I am trying to group things together and bought a postal scale to make it easier. It is a hassle and stressful when you already have a job because like you said its a part time job on top of that. It feels great to get rid of so many things after my changed view point on what items I actually need or will use again. There will always be items you need to donate, recycle, or sell and I think that is ok but it should be easier after a big purge. People just need to remember that storage space like a basement shouldn’t be a “landfill” for useless items. To me its good for storing consumable items like toilet paper, seasonal clothes, etc.

  • Diane

    Plumblossom is lucky to have you as a mother!

  • I can SO relate. Have a baby and suddenly literally BAGS of clutter enter your home from all sides because everyone is giving what they don’t want. Friends, family, grandparents… They bring something over practically every time, even though the baby clearly has enough. I’ve been waging my battle with clutter for several months now as a new mom, but so far it’s been winning.

  • Just curious, are there more women minimalists that men minimalists?

    • Janetta

      Felix
      It certainly seems that way from blog comments, but it may be that men don’t comment as much. I personally don’t know ANYONE in “real life” who is a minimalist! I wish I did…

    • Marilyn Hayes

      It was Henry David Thoreau who first inspired me when I was 12, and heard his essay, “Where I Lived and What I Lived For” and “Economy” read aloud. It felt like being struck with lightning!!

  • momofthree

    Oh Francine it’s so good to hear from you! I know the well-meaning intentions of family and friends who shower our child(ren) with things. I’ve finally learned that to make motherhood simpler is to be flexible and fluid. Receiving items for a child can be used and, in turn, passed onto another to enjoy. Clothing and toys are cleaned, repaired and given with just as much joy from my children to others who welcome them. The added bonus is that kids learn the wonderful act of sharing and giving. Again, wonderful act to read your blog again!

  • Laurie J

    I am SO happy to see you posting again! Look forward to reading more. :)

  • So glad that you are back! I have been coming and going a lot this month for some inspiration and surprised to see a brand new post from you! Your power of declutter is amazing, I started cleaning my desk that has been a huge mountain halfway through reading! I have been slipping a lot, like accepting an instructional snowboarding DVD set! What was I thinking??

    But glad to know that it is an ongoing process. Hubs and I want to have a baby in the near future, so any tips to not pile up is great :)

  • In the time you’ve been “away”, I had a baby, and so I really could relate to your post.
    I haven’t had much luck selling on eBay here in Australia – i think a lot of people are still into the whole Buy It New thing still.
    But i did give away the clothes to a friend expecting twins, which felt good. Now i have to find a way to pare down toys!
    I also hardly bought the baby anything, mostly because friends and relatives have bought him so much. The crib and bassinet, change table, swing, playpen and scooter were all hand me downs from friends, and i intend to pass them along one he outgrows them.
    So glad to see you’re back! I enjoyed reading the posts from other minimalists, but did miss your writing.

  • Having kids definitely makes being minimalist a challenge. It ups your game if you know what I mean. Things always sneak their way into the house whether it’s family, or your kids book bag, or birthdays and Holidays, purging becomes a definite way of life!

  • Heather

    Good to hear from you again?

    I have a question for you. Are you saving items for little Plumblossom? I have a bin of toys and clothes my son wore when he was a baby and I add a thing here and there and now, it’s almost 2 bins. :) I won’t force anything onto when he is older but this is the only thing I struggle with. Any suggestions? Perhaps a post on it. :)

    • Allison

      Yes, I too would love to see a post from Miss Minimalist on this. My parents saved a bunch of stuff from my childhood that I recently have sorted through. While it was fun to see much of it, and it did help bring back lots of good memories and stories and sharing with each other that may not have been ‘sparked’ without the act of going through the stuff, it was also a lot of work. Will you save things for your daughter just in case they are special to her later in her life? Or will you declutter now to fit your current lifestyle, and not worry about the future?

      My mother’s mom didn’t save anything (she was a big declutterer) and it makes my mom slightly sad to not have anything from her younger years. Where is the balance?

      Also, what do you do with all her “art projects” and things she creates or brings home?

      • Dylan

        You can take pictures of things as an alternative to hanging onto the actual material possession.

      • Dylan

        ETA: From what my friends with kids tell me, they have to trash a lot of the “art” brought home by the kids. There’s just too much of it and there’s probably only so much you can foist on your friends and relatives. One alternative is to store it and cycle through it, displaying different things for a while, before tossing it.

  • Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca

    Decluttering is ongoing. We pared down a lot when we moved into our apartment, but Santa found a lot of thrift store toys this Christmas! We plan to move onto a boat SOON, so another round of purging looms on the horizon. It’s exhausting, but rewarding.

  • Suzi

    Welcome back! I’ve missed your words.

  • Sara

    Great to hear from you again! I’m happy that the only constant in life – change – has brought you back here. Not that your past writings have lost any of their appeal, and the Real Life Minimalists has made for continuity, but it’s nice to hear what’s going on for you right now. :)

  • This post really resonated! I had decluttered down to my perfect minimalist lifestyle – small apartment, just what I needed in the way of furniture and possessions. Had even managed to get my books down to 25/30, wore everything I had in my small wardrobe etc. etc. But life moved on – I got married – for the first time – at the ripe old age of 62! Had to move from my apartment, too small, we had to buy more furniture. My husband is a bookaholic and has more clothes than I do. But he is good at keeping it pared down and we compromise. Would I like to go back to my minimalist, organised life pre-husband? Mmmm, well, occasionally, but not really, and I am happy at the way shedding all the unnecessary stuff in my life has opened out vistas that I would not have dreamt of a few years ago. And I am sure Francine would not like to go back to a life pre-Plumblossom.

  • I believe that the choice of having kids is between you, your husband and God. One thing you may not have thought about is that if something happened to your child, you would be left with no children if you only had one child. I have seen a family suffer so deeply because their child got sick and died and then had no other children. I used to think that having more kids took away from our ability to love each one, but having a bigger family only added to the joy of each person. Even though they didn’t get as much time from mom and dad personally, their friendships, love and time with siblings more than made up for it. They just had more people around to love them. There are a lot of considerations, but ultimately you choose the way you live your life and you reap the blessings of the choices you make. As long as you are happy with what you decide, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It is a difficult decision, but you will feel a sense of peace when you you have reached the right decision for your family.

  • Aahhh, I was wondering how your life has changed since the birth of your daughter. I wasn’t a minimalist per se when my boys were young (they are now 17 and 14) but the amount of STUFF that we had — most of which was given to us by well-meaning relatives with considerably larger houses than we had — was maddening. We managed to convince a few relatives that we just didn’t need anything else and didn’t have room for it, but we still had SO MUCH. It was a constant struggle until my youngest was about 11, when we could finally get rid of toys and such without having to replace it with more stuff. All this to say that do you very best to convince relatives that experience is more important than stuff, and Plumblossom will value spending time with them much more than anything they can buy her. Another option: now that my oldest is headed off to college in the fall, I sure wish that relatives had just put that money they spent into a bank account so we can afford to put him through school without loans. It may not seem like it now, but 17 years goes by really, really fast, and when you are faced with the cost of college, you realize how useless all of that stuff really is.

    Good luck keeping the consumerism at bay. I look forward to hearing more from you!

  • Susan

    I’m so glad that I will be able to hear from Miss Minimalist sometimes from now on! This post brought back memories of the mountains of stuff that we had with our two boys who were just under 3 years apart in age. When the youngest was about 5 I finally got around to getting rid of the baby clothes during some time off from my full-time job. I opened up the plastic bin and soon discovered that, despite my normally tidy ways, I had put away a little one-piece with spit up still on it! I guess I was pretty overwhelmed when the boys were young! Now I don’t have small children to be overwhelmed by, but I do get overwhelmed when I reach a discomfort level with stuff. Discomfort is motivation to declutter.

  • Felinia

    My friend has recently had her first baby – unplanned, but totally ADORED! – at the age of 50! She has gone from a relatively clutter-free apartment to one almost BULGING with ‘stuff’ in a matter of months! It seems that babies “attract” stuff – everyone wants to do their best to help, and the clothes, toys, etc. just keep coming and coming!

  • angela

    I have the same thing going on with my children. There is a constant cycle of receiving gifts from my generous MIL, sorting and saving what I expect will be grown into, and sharing the rest with the multiple families we know at church with smaller girls. A self-imposed problem I have is wanting to save some special things for my hopeful-future granddaughters. High-quality well-loved toys I know will last, favorite dresses, adorable artwork… it’s so hard to let it go, although I know I may never have that granddaughter in the future. My daughters are 10 years apart, and I so enjoyed seeing my 2nd wear and play with things her sister loved. And the artwork that has “I love mama” written in crayon is a killer to recycle. I have greatly reduced all this stuff but still have a few boxes stored.
    A clutter problem that snuck up on me is that of saving things for my teen’s adult life elsewhere. The same MIL gifts me lots of quality kitchen wear, dishes, etc.– more than I can use, and I won’t have things stacked high and cluttered in my kitchen, so I have extras stored in the garage. I’d give them away, but then I think about how my daughter will finish high school next year and could soon need them. I hate to store them, but I also hate to think of us shopping for lesser stuff at a thrift store soon because I didn’t keep them. Also, she is sentimental about a tea set I have that I’d gladly give away otherwise.
    My house is very simple and uncluttered (which I love!) except for these child-related items. I know it is a season and that one day I’ll miss seeing baby dolls left on the couch. But if anyone has any helpful advice on dealing with these issues I’d love to hear it. We may move soon and I dread the thought of taking all this stuff with us!

    It’s great to read a new post, Francine!

  • Ah…the bug of clutter…or in my case, the cancer of clutter. I live with my husband, 2 dogs and 2 cats in a 2bed 1.5 bathroom “expanded” bungalow house. It’s 1,000 square feet upstairs, with an unfinished (weird dimensions and low ceiling) basement that’s about 400 square feet. Each time we move, I purge, heavily. California to South Dakota was the least amount we’ve done, and that was back in 2007. Fast forward 3 years after living in a 3 bed 2 bath rental property and it’s time to buy our first house. Yippee! Oh crap, it’s tiny! “It’s OK” I thought to myself “We don’t have THAT much stuff”. In reality, we probably don’t have as much as some other 30 year old couples out there, but we had more than we wanted. Purge again, garage sale, move into the new house, second summer there, yet another garage sale. We’re finally making serious headway in decluttering our life, minus the crap that’s stored in the basement (organized neatly onto plastic shelving units). I never go into the basement, it’s a death zone as far as I’m concerned. Except once a week, I’ll go down, change the litterbox, look at the light bulbs, clear some cobwebs off the ceiling, and then go back upstairs to the sanctity of my home.

    A month ago, my mother in law moved in with us. She has more stuff than either of us, even with her paring down to nearly half. So our second bedroom (which was our dogs’ haven and a place to store our coveted books that couldn’t go into the basement) became her room, my basement now has a narrow walkway around the piles of boxes, and there are boxes in the living room.

    I plan to pair down my stuff even more, hopefully that’ll make more room for her stuff to at least make it into the basement, and then this summer, it’s gonna be garage sale time again, I can feel it in the air! I’m just seriously hoping she doesn’t decide to keep all of her stuff, because if we get rid of much more of ours, our house will be more her stuff than ours, then it’s no longer our house, not really :S

  • thank you for this post as well as your huffington post article on one child. December last year, I started reading about minimalism. One of the reasons being all the stuff that is piling up with my one babygirl, espacially all the clothes that became too small. I don’t seem to find the time to sort them out, donate or sell them. I’m still thinking ‘what if we make a second child’ or ‘what if my brother will have children’. Your thoughts on yes or no having a second child are the same as ours and that is really comforting.

    I need to find a way (very fast because I’m frustrated and angry a lot of the time) to accept that decluttering won’t be done very soon…
    and a way to say no to clothes and toys gifts from friends and family :-).
    …Need to be kind to myself about the whole process, I’m only starting in becoming minimalist.

  • KellieC

    OK, I hate to be a negative in this conversation but I am an eBay seller and have been for years so I know of which I speak. As such, I must let all know that while it is admirable that Plumblossom hand-me-downs go to a needy home, the fact is that eBay seller fees have risen to the point that unless you are a full time seller it just isn’t worth the time and trouble to sell a limited amount of items for a few dollars. You will find it most annoying to see what little profit go towards fees and such to eBay not to mention that so many buyers post negative remarks and sellers have no recourse. eBay isn’t like it use to be – it is NOT seller friendly and is geared more towards the buyer these days. There are a few not as well known auction sites but unless you are willing to sell A LOT of items and make eBay your passion, you won’t see much profit. Why go to all the trouble just to make 10 or 20 dollars a month? I say donate! Take all Plumblossom items to a charity or shelter or battered women’s home or some place that could use them locally to help someone in need. A much better solution.

    • Dylan

      Great idea. Especially donating to women shelters. I would imagine they are in need of all sorts of items.

      The refusal to accept sunk costs seems to be common in consumerist/capitalist society. I’ve seen the reselling bit with friends who hold onto things “to sell eventually” instead of just leaving items on the curb, calling Salvation Army for a pick-up, or donating or giving away the item.

  • Adriana Guerrero

    hi! if anyone have some baby girl clothes 9 months and up that want to donate … please contact me im really in need of some clothes for my girl …. my email is adriana.g.olivera@gmail.com

  • Hi Francine!

    How much does it generally cost to sell something on eBay? One person told me it doesn’t cost anything and another person told me eBay will charge you 10% of your sales.

    Best,

    Annie

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