Don’t Let “Value” Fool You

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


My mother, as I have mentioned before, is VERY decluttered. She was a minimalist before I had any idea that there even was such a decorating style. (I thought is was called “bare.”)

Very recently, my parents moved back into their house after having it extensively remodeled. Before moving to Austin, Texas, my parents had lived in a very stylish, although not very large, custom-built house. The plain ranch that they purchased in order to live next door t me and my family never fit my mother’s idea of stylish.

Every remodel produces its share of furniture and accessories that no long work, no longer have a home, are no longer wanted, and my Mom’s remodel is certainly no exception. As a result, I have taught her how to use Craigslist, and she has had quite good luck selling her items. Her first round of selling were items that she sold during the remodel, knowing that they would not work with her new scheme. (My mother, interestingly, found a decorator who shops widely at thrift and consignment stores. Almost all my mother’s accessories were already second hand when they came to her.) Those items that hadn’t sold in a couple of months were painlessly donated to the garage sale at my daughters’ school.

Now that she and my father have been back in the house for a couple of months, more things are not making the cut – items that she’s thought might work, but didn’t. One of those was a sofa and loveseat set. These are the couches my parents have owned almost as long as I can remember. I know from photos that we had one sofa when I was quite little. I remember another when we lived in Houston for almost 10 years. Then my parents bought this set. It has been reupholstered twice, and it is a classic, well built piece of furniture. My own sofas were really worn out and tatty, so Mother’s sofas came over to my house for a trial. We didn’t really like the way they worked in our house, so I told my mother I would sell them on Craigslist for her. (Better than dragging them back to her house.) She kind of poo-pooed me and said that she didn’t think they were worth more than about $50, which I thought was completely absurd. We moved the loveseat into my husband’s office (he decluttered a whole desk to have room), and I listed the sofa for $200.

Two weeks passed, and the sofa hadn’t sold. I was having a party and having an extra sofa to maneuver around was starting to set my teeth on edge, so I contacted my favorite furniture consignment store, sent them a photo, and arranged to take the sofa to them to sell. They told me that they would like it from $100 to $300; my mother would receive 60% of the sale. Mom found out that I was taking it away, and insisted that I return the sofa to her. She would list it on Craigslist. When I asked her why in the world she would do that, she said that I had said that the value was $200 and “that figure was stuck in her mind.”

For my mother, this is just a quirky moment. For some people, this perhaps false idea about value could be a true stumbling block toward decluttering.

Things like Lego kits, Madame Alexander Dolls, books, James Avery jewelry, and automobiles have a fairly fixed, easily discernible resale value. There are plenty of identical items on the market and enough buyers to have established a fairly uniform price. Things like accessories, furniture, clothing (unless, perhaps it is a popular name brand), jewelry, and antiques have a more variable value – and often much, much less than their original purchase price. Don’t let the idea – possibly a false idea – of something’s value prevent you from decluttering it in a timely manner. 

Today’s Mini Mission

Round up all your stationery items ~ Keep a pen in each room of the house if that makes your life easy but the bulk of your stationary items will be more easily found if they are all stored together. If you don’t have a desk or set of drawers for this task why not use that spare shelf you have cleared in the linen closet during your last towel and sheet declutter.

Today’s Declutter Item

Some more bits and pieces decluttered out of my craft area. Aside from some items I have recently or am about to list on ebay I think  I may have finally come to the end of the craft items decluttered during the big craft area minimisation. That’s not to say that these will be the last craft items ever decluttered, there are still plenty of supplies left, but they are certainly greatly reduced from the quantity I used to own.

Craft Odds and Ends

Something to be grateful for today

The variation of the waves that break on the beach. I love it that every time I go down to the ocean where I live that it is different in some way from the time before. Different tides, different weather, different waves for the surfers to enjoy. Today was a surfers delight even though it was overcast the waves very ridable and so constant that the surfers had no sooner paddled out from the last ride and then were riding their way back in again.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  • Dithering? ~ By Peggy W I have dithered many times in my decluttering journey, unable to make a decision about my stuff.  Two of the “ditherees” left my house this morning because I needed soft fillers to […]


  1. Ah Cindy, this is where I have problems with Mom. She thinks we should be able to get “good money” out of everything we have. She has no concept of value at all. I wish she was more like your mom as far as being more minimalistic. But I have to say she has come a long way so I am very thankful for that.

    • That can be very frustrating. My husband once suggested that I sell some used camping chairs for more than they cost new at the store. I just tried not to laugh rudely.

  2. Hi Cindy,
    what about the reasoning that the owner of the consignment shop sure will try to make as much money as he can so his 40 % would be as much $$ as possible?
    With furniture I almost always had to settle with less than I thought it is worth but needing the space soon and needing people to pick it up at my place just puts you in a different price range than dealers who maybe polish it up, shoot some fancy photos, wait for the customer who is willing to pay the top price and do worlwide shipping. Sometimes it hurt to let go of good, solid family pieces for less than what the cheapest Ikea particle board piece would cost – but in the end I was always happy. Those pieces did not make my life better. They were only dead weight. I haven’t regretted anything so far and actually enjoy that there are fewer pieces that I feel very attached to now. This will make moving (not planned soon but hopefully some time …) much easier if we don’t have take into account that a ton of special furniture needs to fit the space but can rather go for a space that we like.

    • You’re right that the consignment store will sell for as much as they can. As I said, it’s not a problem with my Mom, and it’s back at her house now, so she’s on her own with it. My guess it that if doesn’t sell, she’ll end up donating it to Salvation Army because they pick up furniture. Now that would be an ironic ending to the story, would it?

  3. Yeah, even antiques can sell at really low prices. Solid wood, fine craftmanship.. if it’s not “on trend” or highly sought after by collectors, you will get less than what you would pay for an Ikea piece. Coming together of the right buyer and seller usually dictates “value”.

    • You’re absolutely right that antiques fluctuate in value depending on what’s popular. Who would have thought that stuff from the 50s would be the rage again, but it sure it.

  4. I try to remember 2 things when I am decluttering. Price & value no longer much matter.

    The first is that whatever price I originally paid for said item is meaningless now. I don’t allow myself to say things like “…but I paid xx dollars for that widget!” or “… but I paid good money for that!”. I learned early on in my decluttering to get over the original cost (sunk costs) stumbling block & press on through.

    The second is value or the lack there of. Something can be valuable in the raw materials (gold, platinum, etc) & sometimes the value is in the craftsmanship (custom made pre-war Martin Guitars). But sometimes the value is ambigous. For example, dear-departed Aunt LuLu loved that 6 foot tall stuffed gorilla she won at the state fair during the Great Depression & would be crushed if we got rid of it & wanted that to stay in the family. Umm, yeah no.
    When it comes to raw materials that have true value – sell the gold & platinum to a reputable jeweler for ounce value. For items with high profile craftsmanship sell to appropriate collectors/buyers.
    However, for the wackadoo sentimental stuff that someone tries to guilt me into keeping…to them I say thank you but no thank you.
    For the items I already got suckered/guilted into taking – well I simply make the big girl decision on my own & that more often than not results in donating/trashing/selling said items. Dump it off the guilt cliff if you will.
    Just because Aunt LuLu loved that stuffed gorilla – doesn’t mean I gotta!

    • Love the “Dump it off the guilt cliff” – and dear Aunt Lulu.

      Jane – thanks for the ongoing advice about RipIt. It has really good reviews but one mention was that it has been known to slow down CPUs on the computer. Have you found that?

      • Havn’t really noticed it slowing things down – but when it’s ripping a DVD – I just leave it be & mill about doing other stuff not computer realated. When watching a movie – same thing. I just watch the movie & not multi-task on the computer (because then I wouldn’t really be watching the movie).

  5. Calico ginger

    “Dump it off the guilt cliff ” – LOVE IT!!!

  6. This reminds me of a saying: “Sometimes it is better to have smaller piece of a bigger pie”.
    At the outset she thought she would get $50 for it. By sending it to the consignment store she could get as little as $60 or as much as $180. It would be out of the house pronto. It isn’t the $200 she now has in mind, but I imagine a consignment store will sell it quicker, so to me cash in the hand trumps all.

    • Yep, it’s sitting in her sunroom now. At least they can still use it. There wasn’t much furniture in there.

  7. Hi Cindy,
    this value issue goes even deeper than you describe here. I have had a part written post in the pipeline for a which I might complete today and post tomorrow just to round off this subject for the week. I agree with you though, clinging on to things in the hope of them realising some sort of preconceived value can be a very futile exercise. With the way ebay is structured here in Australia these days ~ where there are no insertion fees ~ I use the three strikes and your out rule. If they don’t sell after three attempts they go in the donation box. Luckily lately I have been scoring a base hit on my third strike.

    • HI Colleen – I look forward to reading the post tomorrow on this subject as trademe here has a 3 re-list deal which I also use as my 3 strikes you’re out yard-stick. I have recently started to be a little more creative with who/how I donate such items as the value to the recipient can vary hugely.
      Looking forward to the post, I will drag myself out of bed extra early tomorrow!

      • Wow, 3 attempts. I’m not sure I would have the wear-with-all to do it that many times. Once and that’s it… but then I’ll also settle for next to peanuts over nothing (on ebay!)

        • If I think something’s worth listing on Ebay or Craigslist, I’ll try several times before I give up. There’s a lot of merchandise out there, and the right buyer has to see it for the deal to occur.

  8. I’m not sure why the ‘value’ idea doesn’t worry me. I think I realise anything (once out of the store) has lost a HUGE chunk of ‘value’. And I don’t have the space or time to ‘store’ waiting for the right buyer (like the furniture vendors in my street). I suppose I just figure if I don’t like it anymore, no one else will as much as I once did, and I can empathise with that!

    And I think, something is better than nothing (ie if I ebay/trademe over giving away). So whilst I listed a wardrobe at $700, it was cause I knew I’d be bargained down… and I was, but still, it’s better than nothing (esp given the buyer COULD have gone to IKEA and got something new). Best bit – it was DARN hard, and I didn’t have a lift a finger – I made ‘delivery’ a cost to the buyer, and it was a breeze (well a 10,000 text message breeze!)

    • You’re absolutely right that once it’s out of the store, the value starts to decrease, sometimes rapidly!

  9. Cindy, Awesome post. Just yesterday I donated a bunch of stuff that COULD HAVE HAD some monetary value; however, I was NOT going to wait around to receive that value. I just wanted it GONE, OUT OF THE HOUSE. OVER THE CLIFF (love that, btw!). 🙂

    Jane, Your reply is priceless, I love it!!!! “2 things, price and value NO LONGER MATTER!” AMEN to that! So true. Which is why I QUICKLY got over my guilt feelings for having given stuff away yesterday that did have monetary value. MONETARY VALUE? To whom, ME? Now that my check book balance is less than it was before I bought the stuff??? Ha. Good bye and don’t come back in the form of something else! 😉

  10. When guilt strikes about not trying to recoup my money I remind myself with the mantra “I am not a dealer – and I don’t want to be one”. I have a job that I go to five days a week and I am not looking for a second job for evenings/weekends. So why am I expecting myself to sit at the computer and sell things to make some money? Thus said, there are things I want to sell but that is more a matter of not being ready to let go yet without money. Trying to sell can be a bit therapeutical (and yes, it sometimes brings cash that I really don’t mind. But I think these days I do it as much for the money as for moving something inside me)
    Also, when I want to sell something I always try to remind myself – going with “I am not a dealer” – that this thing didn’t come into my life as an investment but as something I wanted to use and that not having made good use of something doesn’t turn it into an investment by hindsight.

    • Excellent thinking Ideealistin, not everyone needs or wants to resell their goods, and I think that’s perfectly reasonable too.

    • Amen to that. I don’t have the time to process things for sale and I don’t have the money to give to charity – so I give things to charity instead and let them have the headache and the profit. If we ever get rid of anything really big I give it to my parents to process. They seem to enjoy listing things and they have the time for it.