Kenyans find ways of disposing of unwanted household items

BD Personal Items

A simple Google search reveals many platforms where one can sell unwanted stuff. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

For years, Kenyans hoarded loads and loads of clothes and furniture items, especially if they were valuable. If they decluttered, they gave out to the less fortunate. But a simple Google search shows many platforms where one can sell unwanted stuff. There are tens of thrift markets held in Nairobi’s upmarket areas every month where people sell valuable but not needed items such as handbags, shoes and accessories.

Among those who have found a way to dispose of a precious item but at a fee is Joan Wachira.

No amount of wardrobe reorganising created enough space for Joan to accommodate her new clothes. Having gone through a significant body transformation, she barely could fit in the clothes she wore two years back. Yet, she held on to them, not with the hope that she would one day wear them again but because of the overzealous sentimentality she attaches to things she buys.

“I had a size 18 ball gown that I imported from the UK for my wedding and a rack of many other clothes that I no longer needed. I had shoes I had barely worn since I bought them.”

She admits that she enjoys retail therapy a little bit too much and this ends up filling up her closet every few months.

“My closet was always full. At times with clothes whose tags were still intact—very new clothes,” she says.

For most people, personal purchases such as wearable items, furniture, books, and electronic gadgets arrive in their lives with an eternal address with no intention of disposing of them unless they are rendered unusable. It is common to hear people say that they have owned a piece of jewellery for decades or equate the age of a piece of furniture to that of family members. And when they pass those things down, they overbear them with instructions detailing how those items have been part of their lives, and as such, extra care should be employed in their new address. Even then, it is impossible to dictate how best the new owners will take care of one’s cherished item once they are out of their hold.

Thanks to the fairly new concept—decluttering—this emotional burden that comes with letting go of personal items has a solution. Decluttering as a concept is letting go of your prized possession for various reasons at a fee. You could call it selling, but the people letting go of the item do not consider the money they get from the sales an equivalent of the value they attach to the items.

For Joan, the wedding gown was not an easy pick for a first item to declutter. “I cherished the gown because of the memories it evoked. But its storage was becoming a challenge. Besides, I don’t see myself ever wearing it again. I found a page on Instagram that does decluttering and upon inquiry, I advertised on it and within a week, I received a call from a buyer who bought it upon inspection at my office. I did not want to give it out for free because one, it cost me a dime, and two, I didn’t want to attend a wedding and say, that gown looks familiar,” she says.

Those in the business of decluttering operate like your conventional e-commerce sites. They provide a platform for buyers and sellers to meet at an agreed fee. Think of Amazon or Alibaba then granulate it to your local convenience store for used items at the tap of a screen.

Joan’s case is not specific to her as explained by Elseba ‘Cebbie’ Kokeyo of Declutter with Cebbie, a platform on Facebook and Instagram that facilitates decluttering services to its clients.

“I get to attend many events week on week. If I am taking stock, I could do over 30 gowns every year. Tally that with the years I have put into my career. Those are way too many gowns and accessories and maybe shoes and bags. These are items I will never use again.

“Especially in the world of themed events that demand innovation and reinvention in style and fashion every time. At the start of the year, I set up Declutter with Cebbie to let go of my items.

“As inquiries and purchases happened, other people started asking if I could advertise for them and that’s how we started. We went beyond clothes and wearable items to furniture and electronic gadgets, vehicles, to tools. We get hundreds of inquiries every week from people looking to sell or buy items,” she says.

BDL Cebbie Kokeyo e

Declutter with Cebbie Founder Cebbie Kokeyo during the interview in Milimani, Nairobi on February 26, 2024. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

For sellers and buyers and even platform owners such as Cebbie, the abundance of caution is key as the business involves such risks as handling stolen goods and false advertisements.

“To protect our clients, we always emphasise conducting due diligence once they see an item they are interested in. Additionally, we demand proof of ownership and the most recent high-resolution photos of the item clients intend to sell. We also ask them the motive behind selling. Once we are satisfied with our background check, we proceed to share the items on our socials,” she says.

Both declutter-preneurs agree that it is a high-wire act to sell personal items on social media.

“There is silent judgment from people who know you. People will think you have suddenly gone broke or that you are struggling financially,” Joan says.

“The best thing to do when met with such a conundrum is to consider this as any other business, or any other transaction. The basic principles of commerce apply, there is demand for these items and therefore someone has to supply them," Cebbie emphasises.

Are there items that do not make the cut? “Once I turned down a seller that I think was a joker. They wanted to sell a very old pair of shoes. Even from a casual inspection, I could tell that that would be bad publicity for my platform.

“Even though we facilitate the selling and buying of used items, we have to maintain high standards to ensure value for our client and a good name for our brand,” says Cebbie.

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