The Amazing Secret Life of Stuff
Taking a Good Look at Your Stuff and its History
Every Piece of Stuff Has a Story...
For the first ever sale I made on Ebay (a slightly used vacuum cleaner) my buyer was a veteran power seller and she spent several hours increasing my education on "how to" sell items on Ebay. One particular point she made was that to sell effectively you should tell a story about the item and thus make the advertisement and the item more appealing. This is the central theme of a new initiative by Tamara DiMattina, the person behind "Buy Nothing New" month that has been running now for several years and is being increasingly adopted around the world. She has recently partnered with the Brotherhood of St Laurence charity organisation to launch a new initiative called "Every Item Tells a Story" for their second hand clothing and household goods stores.
So What's the Idea?
The idea is that when people donate clothes and household goods to the charitable organisation, they attach a tag with the story of the item. For example clothes might be tagged with the story of the special occasions they were worn on or the (reluctant) reason for sale, such as losing or gaining weight. Furniture might be tagged with the history of the homes it had been in and the people who had used it. Even negative information can be of interest and use to a potential buyer, for examples of some truly outrageous advertisements posted on Craigslist, see this article. It's a great idea for a charitable organisation to improve its sales and it could also be used to help you sell your surplus "stuff" and you are recyling as well.
A famous example of using an item's history as a selling tool is that of Wedding Dress Guy, where a humorous advertisement on the history of the item resulted in not only a great sale price for the second hand wedding dress on offer but also almost a whole new career for the seller. Basically, knowing some of the history of the item can change a buyer's perception from looking on an item as simply "used" or "second hand" to seeing it more as literally "pre-loved". Think of how hard it often is when you are trying to declutter your house or garage and have difficulty getting rid of things because of the emotional associations you have with them - their story.
When you consider that antique items are "second hand" or more probably, third, fourth, fifth or more and few people regard that fact as a disadvantage. In fact in the case of celebrities, their used "stuff" can often be sold for more than it could be bought for brand new, just because of its owner and background story. The entire reason for the existence of museums is so we can go and view other peoples' "stuff" and marvel at its history. How much more interesting is a piece of clothing or furniture if it was owned by someone such as Tutankamen or Napoleon? Not that your average second hand item will have quite such a history, but a history it will have nonetheless.
A Different Way of Advertising
So the next time you're donating goods to charity, or looking to sell some items on Ebay, Craigslist or similar, think about telling the story of the item to potential purchasers. After all, most of us are delighted when an advertisement is actually interesting and engaging, whether that is because it is humorous, moving or just plain different to the mainstream. This is almost like guerrilla marketing in the sense that you are using time and effort instead of money to get the desired result. Ultimately, whether you are buying, selling or donating, making use of second hand items is a thrifty use of resources as well as cutting down the amount of stuff sent to landfill. Telling the secret life of "stuff" to potential new owners helps to make this happen.