When it comes to downsizing, you can easily get bogged down in not only what to get rid of, but how to get rid of it. You know that I’m a big fan of Craigslist, and we’ve made thousands of dollars by downsizing this way.
But what about the good stuff? You know, the things that are beautiful, distinctive, and loved but no longer serve a purpose in your life.
My birthday was this week and I decided to get a little creative and host a reverse birthday party for myself. What is a reverse birthday party? Well, instead of guests bringing you gifts, they take your stuff home with them. You can price your items, accept donations, or give them away, whichever suits your needs.
I called the party My Favorite Things for my Favorite People and showcased 39 of my treasured items in honor of my 39th birthday. If I had a bigger house I would have invited 39 friends, but it was a tight fit with half that number.
Each item had a tag telling the story of how I had acquired the item and the memory associated with it. Guests were then allowed to “shop” through the boutique in my livingroom and write their names on the back of the tags if they wanted the item. If no one else wanted the item, it was theirs for a donation. If more than one name was on the tag, we had a “style off” where each person had to model the items in a distinctive way that would earn them the most votes from the crowd. The winner of the vote got to keep the item.
Highlights from the event:
- My friend Katy secretly commandeering the music and blasting out Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” for the style-offs. The music (and probably the wine) gave my friends the motivation to get really creative…and in one case strip!
- Sharing events from my past with my friends and letting them get to know the earlier versions of me.
- Watching everyone wear their new items home in layers with the tags still on them – a Minnie Pearl convention!
- Reading – and crying – over the card they got for me and the surprise group gift of a heart rate monitor for my new running program. As my friend Nancy said, I can think of all my friends hugging my heart as I run around the world. Isn’t that a great thought?
- Eating the delicious white cake with coconut icing made by my friend Pat, aka The Mayor. It was a girls-only event, but he stopped by to drop off the cake and I so appreciate his effort in continuing the birthday tradition my mom started years ago.
I wrote earlier in the week that I was having a hard time letting go of some of these things. But as the evening went on, my perspective changed completely.
As I watched my favorite things go out the door, I realized what I’ll miss most of all when we leave are my friends.
You may not need to get rid of everything you own like I do, but there are probably things you love that no longer serve a purpose in your life. Why not share them with your good friends?
10 Tips for Hosting Your Own Reverse Birthday Party
- If you haven’t used it in a while or can’t picture yourself using it soon, you may want to get rid of it. Remember that the item is just a visual reminder of memory, not the actual memory. Read more on sentimental value here.
- Take the time to write out tags for each item detailing the history. When you sell/donate things to your friends, they want to know those stories. It will also help you process the memory and realize that it doesn’t go away just because the item does.
- Set up a shopping area in your home. I used a sturdy shelving unit that allowed me to display items as well as hang them on the sides.
- Invite your friends and explain the idea in the invitation. Then make a list of a few of the items you have for sale to generate interest.
- Plan to have finger food and drinks that won’t be too messy. You don’t want to serve buffalo wings when people are going to be touching your valued items.
- Set up a start and stop time to the party. I had a cocktail part from 4-7 because I knew a full out evening party might be too much for me to take. Consider that it might be emotionally hard for you and give yourself some breathing room. I also set up the first half for open shopping and the second half of the party for the style-offs and distribution of items.
- If you are selling your items, you can price them on the description tags or go the donation route. I set up a small box that looked like a piece of luggage and just asked people to drop their donations there and it worked just fine. In the end, I made as much or more money as I would have selling them on eBay or through consignment shops and had a whole lot more fun.
- Take a picture of you, your friend, and the item. You’ll likely find that the picture is a great replacement for the item because it gives you the old memory plus a new one.
- Leftover items should be donated/sold immediately. Do not put them back in your closets. I’m planning to take my final items to a consignment shop.
- Don’t forget the thank-you notes/emails. If you have a picture of you and your friend with the item, share it with them. After all, this was a special night for them, too.
Since many of my friends are bloggers and all had a great time, they’ve decided to each write about their take on the party. My friend Nancy Juetten is a DIY publicity expert, and she wrote this post yesterday. As others write I’ll add their links below. Please check them out to see what my friends thought of this crazy idea.
Debb Whitlock’s take
Betsy Moore’s coverage