What to Do with Your Stuff When You are Leaving Forever

June 18, 2012

Travel Tips

“I don’t even know where to start,” I thought to myself as I stared at piles of stuff I had accumulated over the last several years of my life. I scrutinized that microwave that I had only used for 6 months, that food processor that lay untouched in its original packaging, and stacks of college books that hadn’t been cracked open since 2009. I had made the decision to get rid of it all in order to follow my dream of traveling the world indefinitely. However, the actual reality of how and where all that stuff would go had set in. It weighed heavily on my shoulders like an iron chain.

Whether you are like me and dream of traveling the world with naught but a backpack to your name or perhaps simply want to reduce some of the clutter in your life, getting rid of acquired possessions can be an overwhelming task. After sitting for hours staring at my pile of things, I came to a revelation. I would take the tried and true method of anyone making a big lifestyle change. I would start small, and I would start gradually.

 

BREAK IT DOWN

Breaking a big task into smaller parts works wonders towards accomplishing said task. Separate your stuff into categories (i.e., clothes, books, dishes, furniture, etc.) and then pick one category to tackle first. To make it easier, choose the category of stuff that you use the least and will miss the least. Surprisingly for me, it was furniture.

I’ve found that the best way to sell furniture and other large items is to make an ad on Craigslist. Start off posting your item at a price way over what you think it’s worth. Provided you have enough time, you won’t lose anything by trying. If no one wants to buy, then post the item again at a slightly reduced price until someone buys. Through Craigslist, I was able to sell my TV and bike for exactly the same price I had paid for them a year before.

books

Photo by: brody4

 

GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME

If you are leaving to travel like me, DO NOT start getting rid of your stuff several weeks before your flight. Start ideally 3-6 months before you leave. You will get the best return on reselling different items, and you will avoid the panic that ensues with a lack of preparation.

The process of reselling books is a great example. Not until recently did I discover that books are probably one of the worst investments you can make. However, if you aren’t in a rush, you can maximize your profit on selling your old books. Probably the most profitable (and consequently slowest) way of getting money for your books is to post them online at Amazon or Ebay. If it seems too painstaking to post each book individually and then wait for them to sell, then try instantly selling your books back at Bookbyte or Powells. The last resort would be to find a used bookstore in your town, such as Half Price Books where you can get cash immediately for your books. Instant gratification comes with its downsides, however, as these type of stores will only pay you cents on the dollar for each book.

The bottom line? Time = money.

 

DESIGNATE A BOX FOR SENTIMENTAL ITEMS

There are certain things that, no matter how minimalistic I would like to be, I can not picture myself getting rid of (including photo albums, souvenirs from previous travels, and my great-grandfather’s old violin). And I wouldn’t expect myself to. Nor should you! If you are leaving home for an extended period of time, find a friend or relative who would be willing to store a box or two into which you can put all those items you might want to have when you grow old.

too much stuff to move

Photo by: artnoose

 

DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT GIVING STUFF AWAY

You could spend hours stressing over the fact that you bought a shirt for $100 that you never even wore because it doesn’t fit right, and now you will only be able to get $3 for it. Or, you could turn it into a completely positive experience by giving that same shirt away for free to someone who needs it.

The reality is that you are not going to be able to sell everything. Sorry to break the bad news, but nobody’s going to want to buy that Mexican sombrero you used one time for a Halloween costume or your collection of 1980′s VHS tapes. There are many charities out there that accept donations; it just requires a bit of research. Goodwill and Salvation Army are always a good last option for that stuff you just don’t know what to do with.

 

THE NITTY GRITTY

By breaking things down, taking your time, and being creative about finding new homes for your things, the daunting process of minimizing and reducing material possessions becomes easier. With each new thing you give away or sell, your will feel that much lighter and that much freer. Free to explore the life you have always wanted to follow!

About Hannah

As a self-professed travel junkie, I have found that the only remedy to my addiction is travel itself. I am in the stages of launching an indefinite journey around the world with no goal other than to explore this small planet called Earth.

View all posts by Hannah

12 Responses to “What to Do with Your Stuff When You are Leaving Forever”

  1. Brenda Says:

    I look around at all my things and realize I could not even contemplate what you are doing. I am too old, maybe, the keeper of too much that is precious. I tell myself it would be easier for a younger person, but our modern-day culture teaches us to buy-buy-buy things, no matter whether you are young or old. We need our things; they make us smart and attractive.

    How did you find the courage to let go of it all?

    Reply

    • admin Says:

      That’s a good point – it’s probably less daunting to get rid of most material possessions the younger a person is. This is due to the obvious reason that for every year that goes by, people accumulate more stuff. Not only are we constantly fed the message “buy-buy-buy” but also “hoard-hoard-hoard.” Despite this fact, anyone can live in a more minimalistic way, no matter what age or how much stuff they have (it will just require more time and effort).

      I don’t know if I am very courageous, but I just came to the realization that all this stuff is weighing me down and holding me back. If you’ve ever traveled somewhere and packed way too much stuff and had to lug it around everywhere, you can probably relate.

      Reply

  2. Ruby Says:

    I could hire you to go through my whole house full of stuff. The thought of Craigs List or Ebay exhausts me. There might be a career for you in this!

    Reply

  3. Hannah Says:

    I have been slowly selling and donating my stuff over the past 18 months in preparation for my travels. Starting early is definitely the best advice, and allows you time to emotionally digest things. I found the process incredibly cathartic, and have learnt so much about what is truly important in life – and major shocker – it wasn’t hanging in my wardrobe! Good luck with clearing the rest of your things, I’m excited to follow your progress :)

    Reply

    • Hannah Says:

      I agree that the process is entirely cathartic. I feel like I am so much lighter, and can do anything or go anywhere I want. Thank you for your good wishes, and I’m excited to follow your progress as well as we both embark on this great adventure :)

      Reply

      • Hazael Says:

        Eres una mujer valiente y cada dia te admiro mas, se que no esfacil desprenderse de las Pertenencias que han formado parte de nuestra vida pero tu eres una mujer con claros objetivos y con sueños y proyectos muy singulares tu vida impacta en los que te conocemos y nos haces creer que todo es facil para ti por eso a mi me gustaria ser un poco mas como tu.

        Reply

        • Hannah Says:

          No pretendo ser una persona valiente; solo estoy seguiendo mi sueño de viajar el mundo. Yo creo que cada persona tiene su propia manera de ser valiente, y se puede manifestar en muchas formas. Yo no soy mas valiente que tu, que has dejado tu familia atras para ir a vivir al otro lado del oceano.

          Agradezco tus palabras tan bonitas y gracias por seguir mis locuras :)

          Reply

          • Judith Says:

            If you knew how much I have in storage…….! I too am in the process of divesting myself of “stuff” in preparation for my return to England & future location thereafter. Nothing is worth what we think it should be! It sounds like you do not overemotionalise things, making it easier to let go – ah, to be young again! So much of what I have is tied to an event or timeperiod in my life, lending weight & value that really are fictions constructed to make something worth holding on to – when really they’re just “things”. I do sell on ebay & Craigslist – sometimes successful, sometimes not.

          • Hannah Says:

            It’s nice to hear someone who is going through the same thing as I did…and to know that I’m not alone! I don’t know how, but somehow I was able to get past the emotional attachment to my belongings and see it as something positive. It made me realize how much stuff people hoard and don’t even use.

            Craigslist was my #1 option for getting rid of things, but eventually you will just have to donate or throw out the stuff that doesn’t sell. I see it as a very cathartic experience.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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