I’ve been on a major de-cluttering kick in preparation for “Superfluity,” my church’s annual rummage sale. The idea is to strip your life of superfluous stuff. You get cleaner digs and the church raises cash for its various social programs.
Although I knew my place was getting crowded, I had no idea just how much superfluity existed around me. As I fill bag after bag I can only say, “Holy crap.”
Books, knickknacks, CDs, boots, a silver picture frame, housewares. Canning jars, three-ring binders, floor puzzles, a yoga mat, greeting cards, a file-card box, cookbooks, a sippy cup. Small art prints and larger framed Alaskana that I can probably never sell down here in the flats. (I’ve tried, repeatedly.)
It came to me in various ways: yard sales, gifts, Freecycle, occasionally even a retail purchase. Some of it is left over from my return to college and was hard to jettison, such as those binders and some scholarly books. But for heaven’s sake, I got my degree two years ago – at what point do I let go?
A losing proposition
It was hard for me to let go of a lot of this stuff. Those floor puzzles – I was going to put them together with my great-nephews if they and their mom came down for another visit. The silver picture frame is left over from my daughter’s wedding preparations. Other items were small gifts that I rarely used and that I know might be perfect for someone else, yet I still feel guilty for giving them away.
And oh, that framed Alaskana. It crowded my bedroom for years, along with a bunch of other kitschy northern and Western art, several portraits of baseball players, and tons of sports ephemera. All of it came to me in the divorce.
I was able to unload some, notably the baseball cards (sold in a single lot to a sports-card store) and the baseball portraits (consigned to a sports auction house). I found two buyers willing to take about 15 older Alaska paintings.
The owner of a now-defunct Fairbanks gallery accepted a dozen or so Fred Machetanz prints. She still owes me a big chunk of change.
In fact, I lost money on most of these things – that is, I didn’t get anywhere near what my ex-husband claimed they were worth in the division-of-property documents.
Of course, he may have been deluding himself. Additionally, it’s damned hard to determine an item’s real value, since it’s generally worth only what people are willing to pay. Allegedly those framed Alaska prints and posters are worth something, but no one here wants to buy them.
How much is my time worth?
Alaskans aren’t that interested either – I took some art with me during a trip to Anchorage and tried marketing them through Craigslist and newspaper ads. I got a couple of calls but the would-be buyers never materialized.
While looking at some of these items recently I blurted out the following sentence: “I am never going to get back the money that he pissed away during our marriage.”
And that’s gospel. How much more time do I want to spend trying to market something no one really wants? Even if it all sold I wouldn’t be able to recoup my losses.
What is my time worth? And more to the point, what is the value of having this junk out of my life?
So into the pile went four framed prints and posters. Maybe a Superfluity shopper will look at them and gasp, “I’ve waited all my life for washed-out posters of mushers and dogs!” I’ll be rid of them, and the church’s social programs will benefit.
I’ll benefit, too. It felt great to get rid of all that other stuff. Each piece that left meant more room in my life.
Clearing a space
I have a plan for the rest of the Alaskan and Western art. I will unwrap and photograph it, then research the current value of the artists’ work. I’ll cut that price in half for Craigslist.
If the art doesn’t sell I’ll re-list it until I get sick of trying. After that I’ll start looking for groups seeking donations for benefit auctions.
No, I won’t make any money that way. I don’t itemize, so I can’t even take the tax write-off. But the works will be out of my life, finally.
Just like the sports ephemera. Three years after the divorce I finally went through the dozens of boxes of media guides and programs and scorecards, mostly from small colleges and non-A-list pro teams. It took many hours and many trips down to the recycle bin, but I finally got rid of it all.
I did hold on to a couple of boxing programs: Evander Holyfield vs. George Foreman and Evander Holyfield vs. Alex Stewart. Six days ago I finally put them up on eBay. They have yet to receive a single bid.