“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.
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.
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!