Doesn’t it sound familiar? You look around your apartment or house and see all these items clogging up your precious living space? Things you have not used in years, some you don’t even know why you ever bought them, and others you wanted to part with a long time ago, but simply never got around to doing so. It can feel like with each additional unused item, your breathing space is lessening and somehow more a burden than joy. As humans we tend to fill the space we have and everyone who has already gone through the process of spring cleanings or declutterings can attest to the liberating feeling one enjoys when ridding yourself of that unnecessary weight.
An unclosed deal
At Captain Finance we are all about enriching our lives in every way possible. A few weeks ago I got increasingly irritated by the number of items stacking up in our apartment. One of the biggest one was an armchair and its footstool. They were occupying a massive corner of our living room; but for months had gone unused. In fact, the only two times they were used in the last 12 months was by friends who were visiting us from the UK. On regular nights, our friends and we sat on chairs and the couch. The armchair was really no more than a nice unused ornament.
Unknown to me, Mrs. CF had, for some time, set her eyes on getting rid of the big armchair set. In fact, she let me know in her lovely but persuasive manner that rather than wait another week to declutter our apartment, it was time to do it now.
Her convincing bore fruit: I took photos and placed a free online ad the same night for only to have the first person interested two days later.
As I was away on business, Mrs. CF welcomed the buyer. One hour after the arranged time, I received a call from my beloved better half. But to my surprise she had not sold the chair. One of the screws had become firmly stuck during our latest move. The two couldn't dismantle the chair to fit it into the buyer’s car. Consequently the buyer understandably withdrew from the purchase. We were bumped.
Fixing up old for cash
On my return some days later, Mrs. CF pointed at the partially dismantled chair and the mischief. The screw was impossible to be moved even an inch, but where there is a problem, there is a solution. A proud man, I told her that I was going to take care of it. Little did I know how much time it'd require to do that.
While Mrs CF was away to spend the weekend at a friend’s, I decided Friday evening to go out and buy a new screw. The old one had obviously been bent and rendered unusable and unfortunately still difficult to remove. How difficult I did not know.
But getting the right screw turned out more difficult than I had anticipated. The staff at the DIY store I visited sent me from one corner to another, until about 1 hour later they discovered that they did not stock them all along.
Three hours after later I finally managed to find the right screws at the store where we had initially bought the armchair. But better still, while in the DIY store where I had gone before even the cheapest screw of that kind was a few euros, while now I was handed five screws for no charge at all.
Back home I realized why Mrs CF and the potential buyer had been struggling so tremendously with the screw. It was severely bent and it took me a good hour to remove it.
Some might think in disbelief: several hours wasted on fixing an armchair just to sell it?
It was more than worth it for a number of reasons:
First, I improved my DIY skills, which will come in very handy in the future. I learned a number of ways to remove bent screws. Secondly, I learned how to glue wood.
In the process of removing the screw, I damaged parts of the armrest. I suppose if it had not been for selling the chair, I might not have bothered. But knowing that we would soon have another buyer, I watched videos and read instruction manuals on DIY. I can now proudly say that I have learned a tremendous amount and it has helped been the first step to better understand DIY. That in fact proved very helpful when building custom furniture for our newly acquired apartment saving us hundreds of Euros in comparison to buying a custom-made piece.
The social, financial, and skill advantages of DIY and turning trash into cash
When Mrs CF returned Sunday afternoon, I proudly presented her my masterpiece. It felt great: I had created something with my own hands; very different from my normal work that is purely intellectual and non-manual.
I again uploaded a photo of the chair and its footrest and waited. When I told a friend of mine about all the work and that we were now again waiting on someone to buy the piece of furniture, he shook his head in disbelief: “Just bin it. No one’s gonna buy an old armchair.”
Yet within only a few days we had a buyer who paid € 40 ($ 50 / £ 31) for the ensemble. It was undoubtedly worth it. If we had given up and not fixed the chair, we would have been € 40 worse off. Same for my friend’s advice on throwing away our old belongings: we would be € 40 worse off. You could argue that I could have earned a lot more money in these hours spent on renovating and selling the chair, but as I improved my skills and enjoyed a very different type of success, it was all more than worth it. Better still, and this comes down to me profoundly believing in reusing and protecting our environment: we saved precious resources and someone else gets to enjoy our armchair. In fact, it was a young family father who bought the chair. A comparable chair would have cost him more than € 100. I am thus thrilled that not only did we do some good for the environment, but that we could also help a cash-strapped young family.
Inspired by our success, I looked around what else we had not used in a long time or no longer had any use for. Upon opening a drawer, I counted a number of old cell phones. But in times of smart phones and tablets who would still be willing to pay good money for an old piece of electronics?
After taking a couple of nice and clean photos of a cell phone and an old webcam, I uploaded everything onto a free market site. While I expected little feedback on these used electronic devices, I was positively surprised. Only hours after putting the photos online, I already had interest in the cell phone. Two days later, I had earned another € 10 ($ 13 / £ 8). In fact the buyer asked whether I would drop the price by € 4, which I was more than happy to do, as the cell phone was merely collecting dust. It needed, however, be put to use.
Two days later I met a young man from a very poor area of Paris. He explained to me that he had spent more than an hour on the Metro just to come and collect the phone. It is often heartbreaking how difficult it is for some people financially. Knowing that the phone had now found a new owner who really appreciated it was worth a lot more than the money.
A total of € 50 ($ 63 / £ 39) earned from items that had been cluttering our apartment for months. Things we no longer had any use for and that are too often simply tossed rather than reused. If we all considered the impact our actions has on a multifacet of levels. Rather than wasting precious resources and feeding the ever increasing number of landfills, we can earn a bit of cash, help those in need, and feel better in our living space for decluttering and turning trash into cash frees up tremendously important space both around us and in our minds.
As the saying goes: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.