The Year of Purchasing and Purging

For greater than 13 years, the molds that Roland Mesnier used to style frozen desserts for heads of state, celebrities and the primary household of the United States sat in his basement.

After Mr. Mesnier retired because the White House pastry chef in 2004, he started taking his roughly 300 dessert molds to his dwelling in Fairfax, Va., the place he stacked them neatly away and put them out of his thoughts.

Then the pandemic struck. With no finish in sight to the lockdown, Mr. Mesnier started to ponder the longer term of the molds he had lovingly collected by 5 administrations, beginning with President Jimmy Carter’s.

“I am kind of a sentimental man, don’t get me wrong,” he stated in a latest interview. “They were my babies.”

But preserving them, Mr. Mesnier stated, felt a bit pointless.

“I’m not that happy to let them go, but what am I going to do with them?” he stated.

In September, the molds shall be auctioned off, together with a fragile one formed like a dove that Mr. Mesnier stated he had used to make an ice cream dessert for the 1993 lunch President Bill Clinton hosted to barter the Oslo Accord between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Mr. Mesnier is one of many consumers who had been spurred by the pandemic to rethink belongings that when felt inconceivable to promote, stated Elizabeth Haynie Wainstein, proprietor and chief government of the Potomack Company in Alexandria, Va. The quantity of purchasers who wish to public sale gadgets elevated 25 p.c in 2020 and 2021, in contrast with 2019 ranges.

“The pandemic just put the normal purge cycle on steroids for people,” Ms. Wainstein stated.

The months spent in lockdown compelled folks to rethink their careers, the place they dwell, and whether or not they need to stay married. The time at dwelling additionally brought on them to scrutinize what was of their properties, particularly after months of stocking up too eagerly on electronics, rest room paper and even fits.

In May and June of final yr, 1-800-Got-Junk reported a 10 p.c improve within the quantity of clients who the corporate stated had been utilizing the service to declutter in contrast with the identical time interval in 2019.

Recently, an individual referred to as to get rid of half of a Porsche that had been transformed right into a grill, in accordance with the corporate.

PictureItems left at a Goodwill location in Westbrook, Maine.Credit…Heather Steeves/Goodwill Northern New England, through Associated Press

In May, Goodwill requested folks to cease utilizing its donation facilities for waste disposal after the group was overwhelmed by cartons and luggage of damaged toasters, outdated batteries and dolls with lacking limbs.

According to Robert J. Foster, a professor of anthropology and visible and cultural research on the University of Rochester, many piles of litter will be immediately attributed to the human want for inventive expression. People wish to create artwork that displays how they see the world and themselves, however in our trendy society, most individuals do not need jobs that enable for self-expression, Professor Foster stated.

“We’re not all artists or artisans of some kind, so that work in a consumer society gets done by buying,” he stated.

The pandemic elevated our want for self-expression and, in flip, our spending habits, Professor Foster stated.

Later, it pressured folks to re-examine how their belongings mirrored their identities, stated Andrew R. Jones, a professor of sociology at California State University, Fresno.

“If they can’t show off their possessions, do those possessions have any other value than to be shown off?” he stated. “The pandemic may represent an opportunity for some people to reinvent themselves — to form a new identity.”

Jess Tran, a advertising marketing consultant and classic clothes supplier in Brooklyn, stated she had gotten carried away buying new tchotchkes whereas she was in isolation.

She discovered a shrink-wrapped VHS copy of “Dirty Dancing” on the road and determined it needed to be hers. She purchased an outside lounge chair and spent the weeks main as much as the presidential election redoing her complete front room to suit the brand new piece.

PictureJess Tran, a advertising marketing consultant who received carried away buying new tchotchkes whereas she was in isolation, is now purging her Brooklyn condominium.Credit…Sabrina Santiago for The New York Times

“It was a direct stress response,” Ms. Tran, 28, stated. Then she grew to become decided to personal an vintage mirror she had discovered on an public sale web site.

She had deliberate to spend not more than $300, however she received swept away when one other bidder started competing along with her. She bid $900 and received. After charges and delivery, the acquisition got here out to $1,400.

“This mirror became a manifestation of this person I wanted to be,” Ms. Tran stated.

She saved the mirror and the lounge chair, however she gave the VHS tape away, in addition to many items of clothes that she stated now not mirrored whom she had turn out to be.

“I don’t want to continue to be the same person I was prepandemic,” she stated. “I was, like, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, seeking validation from people I didn’t care about, going to places I didn’t care about.”

Scott Roewer, an expert organizer who based the Organizing Agency in Washington, stated enterprise was “extremely dead” final yr.

But his group started getting extra calls in May and June from folks wanting him to return into their properties and reassess every part they’d purchased in the course of the pandemic: high-heeled sneakers, designer purses, cocktail clothes that had by no means been worn.

One shopper “was kind of living this fantasy,” Mr. Roewer stated. She had purchased $1,000 outfits that also had the tags on them a yr later. Another shopper — an “impeccably dressed” lawyer in a high-end legislation agency who determined to begin his personal, extra informal legislation agency — traded in tailor-made fits for baseball hats and sweats.

Mr. Roewer makes use of neighborhood electronic mail lists in addition to platforms like Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace to assist purchasers declutter. He additionally encourages purchasers to pay a $25 appraisal charge to public sale homes and websites that is likely to be interested by promoting their belongings.

Mr. Roewer stated the huge portions of stuff he has seen folks accumulate “tears me up a little.”

“The amount of waste is obscene,” he stated. “If we could all just buy a little less and repair something when it’s broken instead of replacing it, we would have a lot less trash.”