This post is part of the #Purge365 series about a midlife journey through a year of purging a house – and a life – of unnecessary things. Click here to see all previous posts.
One thing I have learned from almost six months of Project #Purge365: We hold on to old stuff way too long. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the area of technology.
We buy a new computer, a new phone, a new printer, and yet we don’t immediately discard the old one. “It still works, it might come in handy,” we think. Or, “I just have to get it wiped clean, and I’ll sell it.”
The problem with this approach is that these days technology becomes obsolete at an insane clip. You’ll almost never want to go back to using an old iPhone when a newer one is available. And if you don’t sell it right away, the moment will pass.
I am not the fastest adopter of new technology by a long shot. We own our devices way longer than other people. Nevertheless, in a household of six people, this is what I found after purging the kids’ closets:
3 iPhones 4s and 2 iPhones 5c, the latter with original Apple cases that I remember cost a fortune back then.
Furthermore, we also had one ancient Kindle, one marginally newer Kindle, 2 Blackberry’s, 2 different models of iPods, both from the days when iPods were all the rage, and lastly, my personal favorite, an itty bitty Samsung phone I had no recollection of ever owning.
Project #Purge365 was the perfect incentive to try and sell these babies.
The Kindles felt like the low-hanging fruit so I started there. Amazon, it turns out, buys back any old Kindle. That’s what I did with the ancient one. $5 earned.
I thought I could do better with the newer one. So I posted it on Facebook Marketplace. But before that, I had to take it off our Amazon devices list. That proved to be quite the tricky undertaking. I had about 21 devices on our list, all fo them with names like “Thieme’s iPhone 7”. I had no idea which one was which. There were Kindle apps for iPhone, Audible apps for Mac and iPhone, Amazon shopping apps for iPhone, and then several Kindles. The only way to figure out who was who was to make everybody go into their settings, tell me what it said, and then rename them on the Amazon device list. It felt really good to clean that up – and yes, I counted it as one of my daily goals.
I was able to sell that second Kindle to a woman who had lost hers at an airport and was ecstatic to replace it for such a good price. When she messaged me back a few days later saying it wouldn’t connect to WiFi, I was determined to fix her up with Amazon support to get her the software update she needed, which after several attempts worked out. I take pride in my Facebook Marketplace customer support:-)
I have no idea if there is anyone on this planet still interested in a Blackberry, even though it wasn’t that long ago that they were all the rage. I remember when there was debate whether Candidate Obama would be allowed to keep his Blackberry once he became president. Quaint.
I can’t bring myself to part with the cute Samsung phone, or the skinny pink iPod. That one will be a novelty item for grandchildren one day (mental note: load it up with a Playlist while iTunes still exists).
Next up for sale: the iPhones. The problem when you wait 4 years to sell a smartphone is that no one has any recollection what their security code might have been. And you can’t sell an old iPhone if it hasn’t been wiped clean.
I got lucky on a few of them. Some of my kids will have their personal data stolen eventually, they have such poor password security. But one proved impossible to hack. Many birth dates and pet names later, I had to turn to Google for a solution. It turns out you can restore an iPhone without the security code by connecting it to iTunes (yes, I know, ancient!) and letting the Apple ID do its work (let me know if you ever run into this problem, I’m glad to help). Even then, it’s a laborious process that needs repeating about 3 times. About 5 hours later, I got what I wanted: 5 iPhones that all said “HELLO” on a blank screen when turned on.
I was able to sell them all, for an average of $45 each.
The interesting part was who was doing the buying. The two 5cs went to a mother who wanted them for her children, an easy sale. The other three all required extensive conversations in Spanish. My favorite of those buyers was Juan (not his real name, as it turns out). He would message exclusively in Spanish, and at the beginning I would reply in English, having understood the gist of what he was asking. But as we went on conversing, I found that I enjoyed typing up my responses in Spanish, with the occasional lookup of a word.
On a purely financial level, selling stuff on Facebook doesn’t pay off*. In Juan’s case, it involved me having to drive to a gas station to meet him and his lovely 10-year old daughter (who, it turns out, was both the translator and the beneficiary of the phone), a previous attempt by him to enter our neighborhood thwarted by his inability to get through the gate, not because he was stopped but, I suspect, because the mere presence of security scared him off. It also involved, days later, spending a good amount of time as an intermediary between him and AT&T to unlock the phone, its being locked to a provider having escaped his notice on my original post. I didn’t want to leave him hanging, so I placed a series of phone calls on his behalf.
Even if the money earned from these transactions doesn’t warrant the time spent on them, there is a payoff nonetheless. I like to know that I’m not simply throwing away items of value, that they will find a second life in a new home where they are treasured. And I have learned that I enjoy these interactions with people I otherwise would never have met. I enjoyed meeting the teacher who was so very grateful to improve – on her own dime – her elementary school kids’ experience with a well-placed shelf to store toys and books. I also enjoyed meeting Amir (not his real name either), who was delighted to find a cricket helmet here in the heart of Nashville, not an easy feat. It turns out there are hundreds of cricket lovers who meet every weekend for local tournaments, and next thing I knew, Amir had invited me to join his team. “You look very sporty,” he announced. It must have been my tennis skirt. Or perhaps he was so ecstatic that this American woman even knew what cricket was that he went a little bit overboard in his enthusiasm.
“Me gusto te conocer,” Juan told me when we shook hands at that gas station to complete the sale. That warmed my heart more than I can tell you. “Yo tambien,” I said. I would have asked to take a selfie for this blog if it hadn’t sounded so utterly creepy. When I got home, I went straight to for the Spanish language CDs I had neatly stowed away on a previous purging day. I have since listened to a steady trickle of Spanish when running errands, with phrases like “Señor, tengo un telegrama para Usted” betraying their origin sometime in the 1990s. Who still talks of sending telegrams? Nevertheless, I’ve realized how much Spanish I still know. I’m grateful to Juan for the introductory lesson to get me started. I can’t wait to practice my rekindled Spanish skills on my trip to Barcelona and Seville in a few week’s time.
And with this, I’m signing off. I’ve got some packing to do!
* Just out of curiosity, I looked at my selling history and did a quick tally. Just over $850 over the last few years. I’m taking back what I said about it not paying off.