In 2005, Kyle MacDonald decided to play Bigger, Better for real. He started with one red paperclip, traded up for about a year until he achieved his goal of owning a house. This story made headlines in 2006 and has stayed with me since. The value we ascribe to things is fascinating.
The Furniture Lives Here
About two years ago, my mother and I merged our households. We ended up with two tables and ten chairs, three couches, two armchairs, two coffee tables, three side tables, two TVs, multiple rugs, three microwaves, you get the idea. Luckily, I own a big condo and Mom is a good decorator. Unfortunately, it felt like the furniture lived here instead of us.
At the end of last year, Mom decided she no longer wanted her furniture and was giving it to me. How, huh, generous? While it was tasteful, it was not my style. Since most of it was in its 20s and 30s, I was ready to chuck it all. Instead, I put us through the torture of online classified ads. If a man can trade a paperclip for a house, Mom’s trash could be someone’s treasure.
I sold the wardrobe once to a couple who couldn’t find a vehicle big enough to transport it. I sold it a second time to a woman who wanted me to hold it for almost two weeks but couldn’t figure out how to send me a $10 deposit through PayPal or etransfer. (I asked for the deposit because the wardrobe was the most popular item posted.) Finally, I sold it to a mother-to-be who was doing a little nesting. (She was really cute as most first timers are at that stage.)
One potential buyer not only offered me less than what I was asking for an item, but she also expected delivery. (Sarcastic laugh.)
About an eight person dinning table with six chairs for $60, another potential buyer asked: “Is the table scratched?” “Hmm, no,” I wanted to answer, “it was delivered yesterday from Thomasville Furniture but it clashes with my outfit.”
After three weeks of
odd stupid questions and flaky people-such as the man who wanted to buy a scratched glass coffee table with matching side table for $30 as a gift for his girlfriend (Gentlemen, if all you have is $30 to spend on your girlfriend, buy her some Godiva chocolate! If she really has her heart set on a coffee table, then go to Wal-Mart. At least, it will be new.), I had had enough. I contact a few local charities to donate the stuff but they were at capacity. So today, two helpful friends came over to move the remaining furniture to the trash. With every piece that went out the door, my hardwood floor revealed itself, my condo became spacious, and my mind uncluttered. Do you hear the angels too?
There’s a reason I started this post with the red paperclip and it wasn’t to detail my trials. As we moved the furniture out, we bumped in to my new neighbors who loved, wanted and took all of it. Since we established from the beginning that it was all going to the trash (half of it was already there), I couldn’t sell it but gave it to them. They even bought a couple of items that I didn’t want to keep but refused to junk because I felt they were worth more than a trip to the curb.
Let me get to my point. A few months ago, my friend bid on an item on Ebay. When I asked if he thought he would need to revise his bid, he answered, “I won’t. I offered what I felt was a fair price.” I thought that was a great answer. Each of us ascribes value to things differently. While Mom and I didn’t want her furniture, some people thought it was worth the time to email me, pick it up, and pay for it. My new neighbor beamed like a lighthouse at her newly found treasures. Her joy spread to all of us.
I am relieved to put an end to this experience. I am thrilled to have decluttered. Most of all, I’m glad to have made my neighbors so happy. That is priceless.
If you decided to play Bigger, Better for real, what would you trade for what? What do you think of Kyle MacDonald’s trades? Do you have any interesting classified ads stories to share as a seller or a buyer?