What to do with unwanted furnishings #688

#688 in a series of true experiences in real estate

Surprising to me, it can be hard to find a home for unwanted furnishings. A recent client moved to Oregon leaving decent furniture she no longer wanted. The buyers said they already had plenty of their own things and so we set about to empty the house. We called White Elephant, the Oakland Museum annual sale people and described what we had: dining set, Ikea wardrobe, upholstered couch in good shape, antique wooden chest. They would be happy to pick up all of these but the first opportunity would be 2 weeks away, we didn’t have the time.

The buyers and their agent met us at the house to look again at what was still inside and together we cleaned out the refrigerator, kitchen drawers and medicine cabinet, then carried the furniture out to the driveway, adding a Free sign.

We posted on Freecycle and also on Craigslist, and we called Urban Ore. Some items did go away. Maybe neighbors took what they wanted, probably people who learned online about good, clean and free furnishings came, too, but after 3 days, when Urban Ore arrived, the driver looked over everything, chose items he felt were saleable, and these he loaded onto his truck.

By this time someone had picked up the bed but not the TV or couch. The seller had been aware that she was discarding things that no charity would take and so she had arranged an extra pickup with the garbage company and this is where the remainder went, including the TV.

But it was interesting to me that, even when offered for free, no one wanted much of the items. We did get a phone call from someone, a young man, who said he needed it all. He’d just moved here and had nothing. But he had no way to collect anything.

Meanwhile, we were cleaning out our own things at home and at the office. Our stager friend said she would have a garage sale and could sell most of what we were getting rid of. But clothes and books don’t sell well at garage sales. We put boxes of books in front of the office and were terribly pleased that every last book, even old dictionaries and parts of encyclopedia sets, vanished quickly. We didn’t deal with cast-off clothes at all.

The garage sale went quite well with chairs, tables, record albums, pots and pans, framed pictures, standing fans, bedspreads, and toys and oddities all selling. There were exceptions: no one was interested in old 78 records, for instance, and we gave away lots of nice glassware and old blankets. This was at our office, with much drive-by and walk-by traffic.

By this time I was so into a clear-it-all mood that one Sunday I went through my china and glassware at home and we did something we’d never thought of before. We set up 3 card tables in front of our house in Montclair. The street does not have much traffic but neighbors do walk their dogs past our house on the way to a park. We made Free signs and placed on the tables cut glass champagne and other size glasses, miscellaneous vases, pottery and china plates, tea pots, and some copy paper packages that were open.

The paper was the most fascinating. People came by and wanted the paper but only a few sheets. They’d take maybe a dozen sheets plus something else on the table that they wanted and walk on. Some people came and walked around and around the tables looking and lifting many items, trying apparently to decide if they did want anything before choosing one item only. A car with mother and teenage daughter stopped and asked if the yellow teapot was really free? We said yes, indeed. The mother said she had not 10 minutes before been telling her daughter that she needed a teapot, she drove around the corner, and here it was. Absolutely made her day – and ours.

Mostly, we were inside the house, not near the tables, but as tables emptied, Anet would go down to rearrange what was left. She thought passers by would like thinking they were first on the scene, would want to have first pick.

At the end of the afternoon, we were picking up the few items left when 2 boys, about 8 years old, and their fathers came along. They’d been to the park not far away and had passed our tables earlier. One boy, walking ahead of the others, called to his dad with some distress, “The store is closed!” As they got closer, he asked if there was anything left?

Anet showed the group a few of the things at the top of our box and everyone chose something. One dad took a milk pitcher. One wanted a silver pickle dish. One boy selected a tiny pewter pitcher, one a goblet of clear glass with a ruby colored band at the top. Anet asked this boy if he was going to drink milk out of the goblet? Yes, he said.

It was all so very satisfying. We loved it. We had such a good time that we talked about doing it every week although I don’t think we have any more “merchandise” now.

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