Best of Craigslist

One of the best tools of most minimalists is craigslist, a free online classifieds page where you can sell anything. Quite literally, anything. I’ve used it to sell countless things in order to declutter my life, and it continues to be a powerful tool for me personally. I occasionally even buy things from it! But usually it’s just surfboards, and only when I find a really great deal.

But to some people, craigslist can be daunting. It’s all up to the two parties to agree on a price and a meeting location, and sometimes it can get… weird. But I’m here to alleviate some of that anxiety by sharing my best (and worst) craigslist stories! I firmly believe that most people are pretty normal, and the odds of you entering into a dangerous situation via craigslist are less likely than meeting some crazy on the street.

First, let me quantify “anything”. You can put anything up for sale on craigslist. Provided the price is right, it’s almost guaranteed to sell. For example, when I bought my first house there was some leftover junk that the previous owners left behind. Namely some cheap plastic planters on the front porch and a bunch of cheap wire shelving in the garage. But rather than cart it to the curb, I listed both things on craigslist. The shelving sold for $10 and the pots sold for another $10, and I didn’t even have to take the time and energy to carry this junk to the curb. I also sold a bird bath from the front yard, which I promised the previous owner that I’d keep. However, bird baths are little more than mosquito breeding grounds here in South Florida, so I sold it for $15 to some middle-aged folks who were looking for an Easter present for their grandparents, rather than keep it and shell out money for bug spray.

Not everything is as simple as selling junk from your house, though. When I started my senior year of college I didn’t have a bed (long story) but 6’3″ me decided on a whim to see if there was a such thing as an “extra long” mattress. Turns out, there is! I was in a little bit of a time crunch, but the seller of this “extra long” full-sized mattress agreed to meet me that night… at 10:30. In Easley, South Carolina. (If you’re not familiar with that area then I would describe it as a place where Southern stereotypes are born.) Anyway, a buddy of mine and I piled into his truck and headed out, only to pick up this mattress and box spring out of some farmer’s shed in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. But it didn’t have bedbugs (luckily) or smell weird or have any weird stains, and I used it incident-free (sort of, but that’s not related to craigslist) until I sold it four years later for exactly the same price I bought it for. All made possible by craigslist!

I’ve bought two motorcycles, a truck, and my classic Volkswagen Beetle on craigslist too, so it’s not limited to used junk or low-priced items either. I’ve sold just as many vehicles on the site as well. But I recently had a small debacle over a very nice American Fender guitar, which was resolved once I realized the guy was just jerking me around. Just remember: the ball is in your court if you’re buying or selling. You are under no obligations, and you can back out anytime if you feel that something’s amiss.

And sadly, the one downside of craigslist is that most people tend to be flaky. I’m helping a buddy sell an old Kia right now, and maybe one out of ten people who ask about it actually show up.

I’ve had some weirdos buy things from me and then ask me for their money back, but never for a legitimate reason. I’m always very honest with the things I sell, so I’m extremely hesitant to meet anyone once I’ve made a sale. After all, I’m not running a business, I’m just clearing out clutter. Anyway, one guy bought a stereo amplifier from me, and even tested it in my house before buying it, only to text me about an hour later in a rage because it didn’t have a radio antenna. I told him he could buy one for $2 from RadioShack, but when he got more belligerent I just blocked his number.

Probably the worst craigslist interaction, however, had to do with a small motorized bicycle I built as a fun side project in my garage a few years ago. It was basically a beach cruiser with a weed wacker motor on it, and that’s also exactly what it sounded like when it drove past. Unfortunately in Florida these vehicles are not street legal without a moped tag, so I was restricted to off-highway use only. But I’m an engineer and I like to tinker. (That’s my excuse for a lot of things!) Anyway, I got tired of it and put it on craigslist just to see if there was any interest, and someone wanted to buy it within a week of me posting it. Unfortunately, despite asking me multiple times for a manual, they refused to read the manual, especially the part that detailed the oil to fuel ratio for the two-stroke engine. After one day, the engine seized on them and they demanded their money back. Since it was their fault they turned a great motorized bike into a piece of scrap metal, I did not oblige. I did make $40 though, after buying the bike, repainting it, and fitting the motor to it, so it wasn’t a total loss. At least, not for me! Read the manual, kids.

Oh, and I should mention that I use pseudonyms, a fake email address, and a Google Voice number on craigslist to protect myself, and I generally try to meet at a location that isn’t my place of residence unless it’s inconvenient (selling furniture, vehicles, or other large house-bound items). Just remember, ALWAYS meet in person, ALWAYS deal in cash only (no matter what), and TRY to take a friend with you, or at least tell someone where you’re going (but that rule is true of pretty much all parts of life). That last one I definitely made sure to follow when, a few weeks ago, I sold a motorcycle windshield to a bus driver… IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS ROUTE. But anyway, If you follow these rules, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a pleasant, safe experience on craigslist, all while being well on your way to a more minimal lifestyle!

Photo: My motorized bike, on its first official test drive. By “official” I mean that it was the first test drive after I remembered to put the lock nuts on the engine mount (the first test drive the motor almost fell off) and also after the other test drive where the carburetor fell off while I was going down a hill. It takes a few tests to work out the kinks, but the rewards are worthwhile!

A Minimalist’s Social Networking

I’ve had an off-and-on relationship with Facebook since it was just for college students from select schools. The first time I got it, I was a wide-eyed high school graduate about to start life in a new state. I didn’t want to lose touch with all of my friends from high school, so when one of my friends showed me this new thing called “the facebook”, I signed up.

When I was a junior in college I stopped seeing the appeal. I wasn’t really friends with any of my “friends” on Facebook (they dropped the “the” in front of their name by then) except for about three people, who I talked to and saw in real life. All of my friends from college I talked to and saw in real life as well, and I decided to cut my ties with Facebook at the time because it felt a little redundant.

I signed up for it again after graduating college. I moved to Tennessee, another place where I knew absolutely no people. Since I didn’t want to lose touch with my college friends, the same cycle repeated. I only keep in touch with about five people from college, and (like before) I see and talk to them in real life, making Facebook redundant again. I cut Facebook out of my life for the second (possibly final?) time about a year ago and haven’t felt the loss.

That’s the feeling I get from a lot of my minimalistic endeavors though: I realize once I get rid of something that I feel lighter, and I find out that I didn’t really “need” that thing in the first place. Not only that, but getting rid of Facebook freed up some time for me as well since I don’t compulsively check it to see if anyone’s posted a funny article or something for me to waste time on.

Losing touch with Facebook also makes my social life feel a little more natural. There’s a theory that humans can only maintain relationships with about 200 people. If true, that means that a friends list of anything over that amount is mental clutter that is impossible to maintain. For me, that clutter is just as bad as an overflowing closet of things I’ll never use. The people who add value to my lives add value with or without Facebook, which is a good indicator that Facebook isn’t really relevant to me anymore. If we value a relationship with someone, we shouldn’t need Facebook to maintain that relationship.

Facebook can be used for good, but in my experience the “good” is harder and harder to find. For me, it was mostly a vehicle for drama between my friends and between my family. (Relevant XKCD.) I think that social networking of a general nature should happen face-to-face. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the internet and what it does for making connections between people with specific interests (like minimalism!). But “friendships” of the vague and nonspecific kind that I’ve always had and seen on Facebook seem to be counterproductive.

What I am curious about, though, is whether or not Facebook can still be a useful tool for minimalists to connect with each other. It seems like most people use Twitter or something else, but Facebook does still have a place for the time being. While it probably won’t see any light in my personal life anytime soon, there could be hope for its use in my professional, online life!

Wallets and Desks

When I moved into my house I found a really cool purple desk in the back room. I only need one desk, so I decided to sell my old desk and keep this quirky purple desk. A big part of the reason I favored the purple desk is because I can sit at the center of it. My previous desk had drawers on one side, so you had to sit to the left of center. This was sometimes frustrating when using large monitors or test equpiment, since I could only put things on one side of whatever thing I was working on. At lest I’m not left-handed!

Anyway, I finally sold the old desk yesterday. The picture above is all of the junk that came out of the desk’s four drawers. Granted, some of that mess consists of tools that I use all the time, tax documents, and writing implements, but a lot of it is just needless junk. For some reason there was a VHS tape in there! This definitely reinforces my view that the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is not a very good maxim to live by. Just because we put something in a place where it isn’t seen doesn’t help us live any simpler. In fact, it exacerbates the problem because the mess and junk is lurking, ready to strike and frustrate us at any moment!

Putting the desk situation aside for a minute, the other thing that I’ve been considering lately is whether or not it’s possible to live without carrying a wallet. I recently stopped carrying keys (special wiring on my motorcycle and a keypad deadbolt on the front door) which was great because I don’t get a hole worn in my pants from a keychain anymore. The wallet problem seems to be a little tougher to tackle, but I had to throw out a pair of pants the other day because my wallet wore a hole through them. I also hate having to carry a wallet when I go surfing or out for a bike ride. This madness must stop! I’m just at a loss for ways to accomplish this, but I’ll keep brainstorming!