How To Give All Your Stuff Away

Way more fun than a colonic, a giveaway party is a great way to cleanse.
Publish date:
July 19, 2012
moving, sara benincasa, giving stuff away

It's not a sex toy, dammit!

"Is this a sex toy?" my friend shrieked, holding up the squishy, white, phallic-shaped rubbery object. Everyone at the party turned to stare.

"As if!" I said, snatching it away. "And it's not available."

"It's totally a sex toy!" another friend yelled, taking a swig of her margarita.

In Queens, this is how we do garage sales.

Strictly speaking, we weren't in a garage -- we were in my one-bedroom apartment, which despite two air conditioning units was sweltering in the summer heat. And it wasn't a sale -- it was a giveaway party. (And no, it wasn't a sex toy -- it was a glow worm who lights up and makes funny noises. Totally different!)

If you've never had a giveaway party, I strongly encourage you to do it, particularly if (like me) you're moving across the country. A giveaway party may also be in order after the conclusion of a long-term relationship, before one goes off to college, before one births or adopts a baby, or just for the purpose of de-cluttering one's house. So many reasons to choose from!

I can understand selling your stuff if you've got high-quality possessions like Ming vases and unused sex toys in their original packaging. And if you need the tax write-off, you can always donate your junk to a charity. But if, like me, you enjoy knowing exactly where and to whom your stuff is going, a giveaway party is hella fun. For me, the relief of not having to pack up any of this shit and arrange for it to be taken away was totally worth the loss in potential tax breaks.

If you're unfamiliar with the giveaway party concept, here it is:

1.Gather and clearly mark all the random stuff you want to get rid of (learn from my mistake by not marking the glow worm).

2.Buy the usual party supplies (food, drink, smelling salts, etc.).

Invite your friends and tell them they are not allowed to bring anything but an empty shopping bag (and, of course, more booze).

4.Throw open your door and get ready to party!

Note that in step one, you needn't affix little tags to each item. It's enough to group them together in a corner and put up a sign over said corner that reads: "TAKE THIS SHIT! PLEASE!"

You may be asking, "Sara, this sounds fun and all, but why do I need to invest in food and booze? Why can't I just invite pals over and make it a potluck or something? I mean, I'm already giving them my stuff." My answer is twofold:

First, you are not giving them your stuff so much as they are doing you a favor by taking it off your hands. I would call this concept the takeaway party, but I fear it would confuse British people and other foreigners who would imagine there would be boxes of Chinese food or curry or something available, and we do not want to mislead our international friends, now do we? Anyway, you've got to think of this as a bunch of buddies doing you a favor, rather than vice versa.

Why? Because it's the truth. If they were really honest with themselves, your friends would probably admit they don't actually need any more crap. But there's just something so tantalizing about getting to rummage through someone else's trash and reimagine it as your own treasure.

Second, drunk people make impulse buys all the time. Take away the price tag, and they're even more willing to acquire stuff they don't actually need. This is how I got rid of an insane amount of books, candles, candlestick holders, sweatshirts with orange juice stains from 1983, wigs, costumes, art supplies, unused Hallmark cards and other items this weekend.

As far as food goes, put out the usual hummus and veggies, chips and salsa, and whatever else you think a party requires. Set up a bar near the giveaway stuff so that drinking and "shopping" can go hand in hand.

People may feel awkward at first about taking your things, so greet them when they arrive, encourage them to take whatever they want from the special giveaway section, pour them a drink, and then get in the kitchen and cook some food (I chose to do huevos rancheros with black beans from a can, corn tortillas from a bag, salsa from the grocery store, local eggs and local goat cheese -- add "local" to any ingredient and you sound like a fancy cook.) And remember, hosting a party is always more fun if you dress up.

This is me in Suzy Homemaker drag.

I had about 23 folks at my party -- I knew most of them, but some were friends of friends. And it's funny, but the folks I'd just met were the ones who were least bashful about taking my stuff! I guess because they had no prior experience with me, they didn't feel an obligation to tiptoe around the question of whether or not I really wanted to give away that lacy red teddy (and yes, I did). I appreciated their willingness to just dive in.

Some of my friends asked me if I felt sad seeing so many of my things go out the door.

"Hell no," I said honestly. "I feel relieved."

There are plenty of times when I doubt my decision to move to Los Angeles, when I fear the distance from friends and family, when I imagine all sorts of failures and disasters as a result of my choice to shake up my routine. But the chance to get rid of some literal excess baggage has been a wonderful thing. I feel lighter because of it, more relaxed, less weighed down by the burden of too much stuff. It's pretty great, and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a little more room to breathe.