Like grass growing, paint drying slow.
Getting rid of things takes time if you don't just dump it all at the nearest charity shop, something I don't recommend. It's far better to get your items back into circulation with other people who need them, rather than move them through the thrift store stream. Thrift stores are not hurting for junk, so don't be concerned about that. They have more clothes and shoes and books and coffee mugs than they know what to do with. Going this route took time and made my apartment refresh slower than I would have liked. But what I lacked in speed, I made up for in money and peace of mind about where most of my stuff ended up. Here's why it took 6 months.
I held out for money
To make money and pass things I didn't want off to those who did, I turned to Krrb, AptDeco, and Craigslist. I sold this green chair on AptDeco and a bunch of random home decor like frames on Krrb. I also bought a stool and mirrors on Craigslist for cheaper than they would have been new.
Unique items like some Star Wars drinking glasses did well on eBay. I sold clothing on Tradesy. ThredUp, and Threadflip offer the same services — you can take your pick. I took books to Strand Bookstore to sell or to book swaps among friends. DVDs were sold at Westsider.
I waited for quality items
I struggle with this more with regards to free stuff than to things I buy. Just because something is free, doesn't mean I should take it. However, if something is quality and needed, like this cast iron skillet that was my great-grandmother's, snap it up. It takes me forever to decide what to buy when I need something though. I read reviews and deliberated several weeks before I picked out this Hario kettle. The bamboo shower mat below remains one of my top purchases because it reduces water and energy use required by fabric mats that end of dirty frustratingly quickly. I've had it for several years and all it needs is a quick rinse off in the shower every once in a while.
The home office I desperately wanted needed to fit in an awkward alcove in the living room. Being a custom job, I bartered Nathan's IT skills with a friend who does master woodwork. It definitely took longer than getting an elfa system from Container Store, but was entirely worth the wait.
I made do
This set up of console table + storage bins has gone through several transformations over the years. Decorative table to desk to vanity and storage, it has moved from the living room to the bedroom. The storage bins are bamboo and have always done double duty as laundry storage and extra seating, something that's key in a tiny apartment.
My duvet cover is off-white and black and after painting everything white, the off-white looked rather dingy. Luckily, the inside was white, so I just turned it inside out. The linen curtains I bought made the living room feel claustrophobic, but work perfectly in the bedroom with all three layered together. I decided not to do anything about the mismatched blinds in the living room for now. I simply put the off-white one all the way up during the day.
Thrift stores were a last resort
I put small and useful items like picture mats in the lobby of my building. We have a little anonymous exchange via the mantle there. Other unwanted things were offered up to friends or taken to swaps, like the one the Ethical Writers are having this weekend. Yerdle gave me the chance to give away items to people all over the country. A retired luggage set will be re-gifted to my young cousin at Christmas; Nathan's old Nintendo DS will go to our nephew. Unwanted electronics went to a recycling center. Even the drop cloth I used while painting is going to my friend Christina to live on as a photo backdrop.
Whatever didn't sell after a generous amount of time went to the thrift store as a last resort. I like to take home decor items to a neighborhood church basement shop that doesn't seem to be overloaded with stuff. Or Housing Works, whose mission can't be argued with.
Large media cabinets have had their day. I tried to sell this one without luck. It was given to me by my parents several years ago and had served us well, but was taking up space I wanted for a home office. I tried to give it away without success. Thrift stores didn't want it. No one in my building wanted it despite my informative fliers. I contemplated turning it into shelves and a desk, but the wood wasn't right for that. After much hand-wringing and time, it eventually went to the curb and I still feel some guilt about that.
I've learned to be more resourceful and patient. I used to run down to HomeGoods every time I needed a glass container, but now I keep a list on my phone for thrift store shopping and wait for serendipity to hit. Just the other day I stopped in to Housing Works and found a marble slab for the kitchen, something I'd been on the lookout for over all these months. It functions as a cutting board, pastry board, photo backdrop, and a cover up for my ugly countertop. Quadruple win.
Putting so much work into getting rid of things has also made me more discerning about bringing new items in. I have to ask, Does it add value to my life? Will it last? Do I need it? Slow can be annoying, but it can also be better.
Photos of the entire apartment up next.