Letting It Go

Yes, it’s come to that. There’s a skip at my place ready to be filled with the things I no longer need or want in my home.

Before you judge me too harshly…. This skip is the end of a long process of re-distributing unwanted furniture and homewares that has involved many other more environmentally-friendly options as well. If you’ve got furniture and homewares that need to be re-homed, let me tell you how I go about it.

It can sneak up on you or it can come in one almighty rush. One day you wake up and you’ve simply got more than you need. Perhaps you’ve moved to a smaller home, your children have moved out or you’ve recently cleared out your parents’ home. You feel overwhelmed and have a shed full of stuff you don’t know what to do with.

After you’ve given away pieces to family and friends…. what next?

One of the tricky things you learn at this point is what the things you own are really worth in the marketplace. It doesn’t matter how much you, your parents or grandparents paid for it new – now it’s only worth what somebody is prepared to pay for it – and that may not be very much.

But first, how to separate out what may be worth selling?

Ask the experts. Take lots of photos and send them to someone who knows.

For pre-WWII furniture and homewares I use Scammell Auctions. They hold Estate Auctions weekly and more specialised auctions throughout the year. They will give you an auction estimate – don’t forget to include the cost of transport and their auction commission in your calculations. If you have many items of value, they will send someone out to your home to identify particular pieces they know are likely to sell at auction. Having a look at their past auction results will also give you an idea of what certain pieces are currently being sold for.

For mid-century furniture and homewares I talk to Ben at My Modern Nest. He is very knowledgeable and will pay a fair price. Retailers like Ben often buy stock at the auctions, so you’ll get a better price going to him directly.

Then there’s the odds and ends like cut-glass, wicker, pottery, tea cups, mirrors and pictures. This is when I talk to Sam at The Fabulous Scavenger. For most of the items of this ilk from my parents’ home I simply donated them to Sam. For instance, I had many, many preserving jars. They didn’t have enough financial value for Scammells to take them. But they were so wrapped up emotionally in my childhood that I found it difficult to just donate them to a charity. I wanted someone to understand their emotional value and make sure they went to a good home. Sounds a bit mad, but that’s how I felt. Sam took these pieces from me with respect and genuine enthusiasm and then someone else came into her shop and was delighted to take them to a new home.

Then there are the things I donate to Savers. Contemporary items in good condition like cutlery, crockery, clothing, sheets and small appliances. I go to the one on Churchill Road Kilburn. It’s drive-through and there are always staff on hand to take your donations directly out of your car.

And then finally the skip bin for the broken-beyond-repair and just plain rubbish.

It can be a long process. The end goal is always, as designer William Morris so clearly said to “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

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