Monday, 4 July 2011

Moving, and lessons on a consumer society

As many are aware, I am preparing to move, and to put my house in Calgary up for sale (which explains the lack of hiking posts). Moving, I think you will agree, is no fun. There are, however, life lessons in moving, and I wanted to share one.

The act of prepping one's house for sale reveals that no matter how disciplined we are, we are all packrats by nature, and over time fill our houses with crap. I free admit to keeping somethings longer than I should (today I dropped off my complete collection of original Ikea catelogs dating back to 1981 to Ikea. Some of the younger staff found them entertaining).

But I am astounded as to what kinds of things have absolutly NO value whatsoever. We all laugh that when you drive a car off the lot, you lose 25% of the value. Well, with these items, the moment you buy them they are worthless and eventually destined for the Goodwill or 1-800-Got Junk. Some examples I have run across in this move prep:

  1. Men's suits. There is no men's consignment store in Calgary. Those in the consignment biz tell me men don't buy used clothes (though a trip to northeast Calgary might suggest otherwise). There is no agency you can donate them to help, say, recovering men move back into the workforce. No, you can give them to the Goodwill, and I have been told that unless they are in 100% perfect on the rack new shape with tags, they are torn up and sold by the pound as rags. Think of that next time you visit Harry Rosen and drop $2,000 on a suit.
  2. Books: There are several used bookstores in town. They want at best 1 in 5 of the books you have. The rest are junk or donation fodder. There are two big book donation drives each year (Benny the Bookworm and the Herald's book drive); both in March. But that's giveaway stuff. No, books are not a good investment, and are being bought to be thrown away or recycled. Think about that when you're spending $70 on a hardback of mass fiction or non-fiction, or dropping yet another $100 at Chapters (yes, Scott, I'm thinking of you).
  3. Fitness & excercise equipment. No one wants it (Women in Need Society takes some, but generally, it's just trash). The two sports consignment stores in town do not have space for fitness equipment, so you can't consign it. The place where we bought our rowing machine told us that fitness equipment has no value at all if it's 4 years old or older. Think about this when you drop $2,000 on that treadmill.
  4. LP records. These have no value even though there has been a resurgence in vinyl lovers. There's a few niche products (Beatles, Michael Jackson), but generally, the more popular an album was, the less it's worth. And ANY wear and tear makes it worthless. So don't wander into Hot Wax and come out thinking your collection's worth thousands.
  5. Vintage Hi Fi: Unless you (a) have all tubes, no solid state, and (b) have more than 200 w per channel, it's basically worthless. The funny part is there is a weak market on e-Bay, but the shipping costs are outrageous, so it costs $60 to ship something worth $50. And remember, kids, we spent thousands on our steros back then.
  6. Winemaking stuff: I have no room in my new place to make wine. It's a good job glass is recyclable, because no one wants the hardware, even Goodwill. There's 40 listings for winemaking hardware on Kijiji in Calgary as I write this. Supply >> demand. Worthless.
  7. Ladies business wear. There are several ladies consignment stores in town, and they are all busting at the rafters -- but only one takes business clothes (and summer stuff is taken in January and winter stuff in July. And if it doesn't sell after 3 months, with the price being reduced each month, you get it back). At least here there's Walk In Closet who will take ladies clothes and give them to women entering the workforce.
Don't talk to me about Kijiji. If you get 10¢ on the dollar for anything you're selling there, you're doing very well, and my experience with buyers on Kijiji is they aren't reliable.

So for me this has meant spending almost $1,000 on 1-800-Got Junk. At least they sort and treat my trash with the deliberation it should, extracting and recycling the metal and electronics, recycling the paper, and the like. Good company. I should buy shares.

The key message in all this for me is that so much of our society is geared to acquiring objects that will in the end just get trashed. Some (like fitness and exercise equipment) is expensive. And it's a waste. Shame, that.


Edwin said...

Leaving Calgary...eventhough I went through a lot of your older post, this is new to me. don't tell me that you've bought a place in Miami...hahaha!

RyderDA said...

Mentioned in this post:

plus elsewhere.

Our new place in Canmore is about 10 minutes from our existing place in Canmore. It's just a lot bigger.