Less is more: Clearing out the apartment before our trip

“What are you doing with all of your stuff?” is often the first thing we are asked, when we tell someone about our travel plans. Because our current appartment has 180 m2 and the rent is correspondingly high, we knew that we would have to move out. In the long run, we already considered to live in a smaller apartment. Even if we would both need a home office in the future, our current appartment was just way to big (but yes, it is so beautiful). Well, and as it goes if you have the space, you tend to hang on to your stuff.

But that thing here is still good and working!

Everyone who has ever moved house may recognize this: You put an item into a moving box and realize that you actually didn’t use it for ages. Maybe you didn’t even use it since you moved into the current appartment – or you even forgot that you have this item. Just recently I went into our basement (Yes! Our huge appartment also has a basement!) and wondered: What kind of flower pot is that? Of course, you don’t need that many things, but there they are and you don’t know if you might want to use them again sometime. It’s kind of a classic that you want to wear the one pair of trousers or the one top shortly after you threw it or gave it away. In addition: Many things are still okay and too good to be thrown away.

When Marcel and I moved into our first apartment together in October 2013, we both had a complete household. Everyone had (incomplete and much too colorful) dishes, pots, pans, glasses, etc. When we moved into our current apartment in June 2015, we already stored some of our things at Marcel’s parents’ house and also got rid of stuff. However, we are also interested in topics like sustainability and the zero waste movement. So why, for example, throw away plates that are still perfectly adequate for our needs just because they don’t have a uniform design? Or throw away DVDs or CDs just because you barely listen to them or watch them anymore? And the bed linen is still ok – and sometimes we have guests over. And yes, ok, the sandwich maker and the waffle iron are things we may use every two to three years – but that doesn’t mean that you have to throw it away, does it?

As long as we don’t have to move house, these things don’t really bother us. The books are getting dusty on the shelves, but they are still looking nice up there. However, now that we are looking forward to our journey, we actually don’t want to pack all that stuff and move around with it. The German band Silbermond sang quite to the point that one day you realize that you don’t need 99% and that it’s better to travel with leightweight luggage.

So what are we doing with all the stuff we actually don’t need?

Second hand shop: Karins Lädchen

Nearby there is the second-hand shop called Karin’s Lädchen, which accepts not only clothes, but also household goods. At the beginning of the year I already went through my wardrobe and called them to ask what exactly they could use and would want to receive. They told me that household goods were also popular and assured me that it didn’t have to be “modern”. The donated things are sold for little money and half of the income is donated for charitable purposes. We really liked the idea that maybe someone else could use our stuff and enjoy having it. For some reason, there are some items you still hang on, maybe because they have some sentimental value. Saying goodbye to these things was a lot easier knowing that they may still be used and even serve a good purpose. Last time we went there, we saw a woman driving off who had “our” candle holder in the back of her car. It made us really happy knowing that this one got a new home 🙂

The women in the shop were really super kind and last time they greeted us almost like old acquaintances: “Oh, I guess you are the ones who travel to New Zealand?” Well – almost. Actually, we start with Australia, but it’s close 😉 Because we gave away a lot of stuff (it is unbelievable how much stuff you have and even after getting rid of three carloads, the apartment is still packed), it had already become known among the ladies that we were more or less breaking up our household for our trip. They wished us all the best for our journey and added that they would like to see us again – and that they would be happy to receive a postcard. Actually, we hope that we do not pile up so much stuff again to be a permanent guest there. But sending a postcard from Australia is a deal!

reBuy

I have to admit that I always had a close relationship to my books. I especially loved my hardcover books and could never imagine to get rid of them. You don’t get rid of your kids either, do you? 🙂 One day my boss told me that he was about to throw away his textbooks ?. So I vetoed and he gave some of them to me. A few years ago, a good friend of mine wanted to downsize her private library and gave away most of her books. She also had enough of moving with all of them and after her last move, most of the books were never taken out of the moving boxes. Okay, then I actually felt sorry for the books. Books, too, want to be “loved” and read, right?

After I moved a number of times in my life, I also realized at one point that even if my books look nice in my BILLY bookcase, they are also kind of a burden. And either I’ve read them already (so I most like don’t read them again) or I have them for so long and they are still unread, there must be a reason for that. But maybe someone else would like to read them?

And this is how reBuy comes into play. You can read the story of their company on their website; I just like to quote their mission here:

Our goal is to leverage hidden capabilities and give products a second life in pursuing the responsible use of existing resources. reBuy has developed a special refurbishment process that upgrades second-hand goods to high quality standards. Our mission is that used goods are seen as a conscious alternative to new goods.

The process is quite simple: Download the app on your smartphone and scan the barcode of the book, CD, DVD or whatever you want to sell. Some items are not purchased by them; but with all the others they show you how much you get for them. If the amount is okay for you, you accept their offer and put the item in your box. When you filled your box, you close the sale, print out the franking and send it on its way. reBuy then checks your package and if everything is ok, you get the money transferred to your account. It couldn’t be easier. And if you still have books or CDs that reBuy does not buy, you can give it to Oxfam for example.

eBay Kleinanzeigen (classified advertising)

Until recently, I was not using eBay Kleinanzeigen, eBay’s German platform for classified advertising. Good friends of ours told us that they were quite successful selling stuff and that they were sometimes surprised, how far some people drive for certain things. My first experiences on this platform was as a buyer. To wrap a gift of money nicely, I needed a Playmobil Hammock and bought it there. This worked like a charm, so why not try it with our stuff as well?

Most of our ads were on “negotiation basis”, although haggling is not really our thing.

We also had to get used to the “eBay etiquette”. I’m more used to people greeting the other on first contact. That doesn’t seem to be necessary on eBay. The majority of the messages were limited to the question “Still on offer?” in addition to their phone number. We also found it odd that interested parties who already agreed on everything quite clearly (i.e., when and where they can pick it up at what price), then ask for further details or start haggling. Or stop responding altogether.

Just an example here: Most of our ads stated that the seller was supposed to collect it from us. When someone asked about shipping, we looked up the shipping costs and told him that this would be an additional 6.99€. We had set the negotiated price for 80€ (for self collectors mind you), so he asked where our limit is and that he would offer 60€ including shipping. As I learned so nicely from Mounty Python, I offered to meet him at 70€. He replied that it would be worth 60€ to him. All right, all right; I gave in and agreed to 60€ excluding shipping (i.e., 66,99€ in total). Nope, he wanted 60€ including shipping. Maybe he should have a look at Mounty Python? It can’t be right that I go further down with our offer and he is not moving an inch.

Something that really works like a charm is offering stuff for free (yeah I know – shocking ?). For example, we had this old heavy garden table and Marcel was considering to give it to the bulk waste collection. But I was thinking: giving it away for free might work. It took just a few minutes and the table was gone. Also the wooden racks we had in our basement and which were not really worth anything was collected by someone. As long as it makes someone happy and they can still use it, why not? I think this is great. But here we noticed as well that some people write so short and concise, as if they have to pay per letter on eBay.

Still on offer?
Hello [Name of the person]. Yes, it is still there.
Where in Gummersbach is it
[Our address]. Do you want to collect it?
Could pick it up tomorrow around 6.45 pm.
Ok that’s fine. Entrance is on the left.
Ok.

Maybe eBay is just a different kind of medium and you just have to learn how to communicate there (i.e., short, concise, objective?). But I have to admit, the communication style also rubs off on me. You also start responding quite concise. The face-to-face meetings with these people were really nice though. Most of them were just happy that they could have the things for free.

Recycling: Backup copies

We gave away lots of CDs, but it is really UNBELIEVABLE how many private copies and burned CDs and DVDs we had at home! For all those who don’t remember a time without streaming services like Netflix, Apple Music, Spotify and Co.: in the past we listened to CDs. Ok, way back in the past we recorded radio music onto cassette tapes and also created mix tapes. Oh and yes, I got super angry when the radio hosts didn’t play the full version of November Rain (it’s NINE minutes; not seven! You just killed the best part of that song, dammit!). Well, after tapes, CDs came onto the market and you were able to burn your own CDs as well. For several years, I worked as a bartender in a discotheque and burned mix CDs for some DJs, for example. This was not altruistic, really, because that way I could influence the music that they played and to which I had to listen to while working. In return I got the latest mixes from them.

In addition, the copyright laws in Germany also allow you to produce a private copy of the CD you bought, for example, for your car or for close friends and family. And of those I had amassed quite a few over the years. Most often, I listened to burned CDs in my car and they dicrease in quality over time. Usually when moving, it was just easier to pack the CDs in a box, and put them in the shelf again in the new apartment. But come to think of it: you actually have all of your music already on your computer and most often we listen to music with our smartphone or using a streaming service. So we decided to get rid of them too, and because CDs and DVDs are made of highly valuable recyclable materials like polycarbonate plastic and aluminum, you are not allowed to just throw them away and should give them to recycling. Sounds good… Count me in! What I didn’t “count in” was how long that would take. Holy moly! It felt like forever to strip cover, paper inlay, and CD. The covers alone filled two large bin bags.

Liberating, but it also makes you a little sad

Giving stuff away that you actually don’t use anymore but might be useful for others is really liberating. After all, moving house and carrying all those boxes really is no fun. However, sometimes we had to think twice whether we really wanted to give it away. Some things were taken out of the box again. And when we gave away a big bag with stuffed animals, Marcel was a bit sad that evening. That’s how I felt giving away my children’s books (e.g. The Six Bullerby Children or Grimm’s Fairy Tales). The mind says that it is much nicer when children still play with it or read them. But the heart is still be attached to it. But we let go and know: It’s easier to travel with leightweight luggage.

Recycling, SecondHand
Taking time off: Crazy, awesome, or both?
Next Milestone: Moving House

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