Monday, July 13, 2009

Of yard sales and storage units

While I was in Maine I was planning to help my family members put on a large-scale yard sale, in the hopes of clearing out a barn, a storage unit and a basement all full of stuff. As you may have heard, New England has had a pretty rotten streak of summer weather, and it rained every day, prompting us to scale down our efforts. Instead of a two-day, three-family yard sale, we decided to sell the larger items individually on Craigslist and then put on a smaller yard sale on a weekend when rain wasn’t the predominant forecast.

The long view--about half the unit's contents pulled out.

When faced with a 10 by 20 foot storage unit absolutely packed to the gills with boxes and furniture, it can be easy to get overwhelmed, but three of my family members and I forged ahead and were able to reduce the contents by a quarter, either by throwing away what was deemed as trash four years after putting it in the unit, setting it aside for yard sale and then donation if it didn’t sell, and by selling large items on Craigslist. We also donated a fair amount of furniture and dishes to a cousin who was setting up house in his own apartment for the first time. Of the 10 items we put on Craigslist, we sold six of them for the asking price and they were taken away within a week. (Caution: Craigslist is an invaluable tool, but beware of scams. Only deal in person and in cash—someone tried to scam us!) The other four items were sold at the yard sale. On the whole, it was a success, as divesting oneself of that much stuff all at once is difficult to do physically and emotionally. Since the owner of the storage unit lives out of the country, it will be a multi-step process to whittle it down to only the essential items.

Destined for yard sale or dump.

Though the idea of pulling things out of a storage unit, sorting them, throwing things away, taking pictures of thrown items that want to be remembered, and putting what’s left back in an organized fashion may not seem like an ideal way to pass one’s vacation time, I had a blast. More thoughts and stories from the trip to come in posts later this week. Be sure not to miss them by subscribing to this blog in your RSS reader right now!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email


  1. We were in NH and the weather was awful that week as well, but still nice to be away while renos were being completed at home. I'm glad you were successful regardless.

    We're actually losing a storage room to convert it to a top-floor laundry room, and it was surprising to see of all the stuff that we were holding onto, just because we HAD the space. I sold a lot of our things on Kijiji and Freecycled the rest!


  2. Thanks, Cara. Freecycle is the greatest, and I've been using Kijiji a bit as well, though I'm not sure what kind of presence they have in rural Maine yet. It's kind of astonishing sometimes how much stuff we own that we never use or even look at!