Getting Rid of Our Stuff
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Sell It, Donate It, Discard It.
Our first step in getting ready to leave for our European travel adventure is to get rid of our stuff. We'll sell, donate or discard almost everything we have. We plan to keep somewhere in the ballpark of 6-12 boxes that we’ll store at a parent’s house.
There are two options.
- Keep everything and put it in storage.
- Get rid of as much as possible and have little to no possessions.
Depending on how much stuff you have, the first option can be dramatically expensive. The more stuff you have, the larger the storage unit. If you opt to keep your apartment or house, you then have the cost of securing your belongings and the intangible cost of worry and lack of ‘freedom’ by always being attached to your stuff in some way or another.
On the other hand, if you get rid of as much as possible you can reduce your storage footprint, therefore cost. We plan to keep only a few boxes that we can store with a parent and pay a small monthly amount out of gratitude. We know our stuff will be safe and we’ll be free of it; not worrying about it while we're gone.
Him Versus Her
Sergio has been looking forward to this step for months, probably years. Shannon has been kind of looking forward to it, but is also terrified of it.
Let us explain our difference in feelings with this step...
We're both minimalists, but let’s be clear, Sergio is extreme (Sergio here - for the record, I don’t think I am). Ninety percent of Americans would walk into our 500-square-foot apartment, look around and think “where’s all of their stuff?” And yet, Sergio would still get rid of another approximately 30% of what we have. So, that explains why Sergio has been looking forward to this. On the other hand, Shannon worries that if she gets rid of it, she’ll never get it again, since Sergio is so averse to accumulating stuff. On top of her fear, she frankly falls into the female stereotype and is emotionally attached to many of her things.
Excited or Fearful, the Show Must Go On
We discussed this step frequently over the past few months. With analysis of how and why, we came up with a mission and strategy to pare down our life into a few boxes. This became an extremely important step, as we both needed to remind each other of this as we hit roadblocks in the process. It was something we kept at the forefront and it ended up keeping us on track. In the end, having a clear goal with a 'how' and a 'why' attached was a big reason for us being successful. As Dr. Stephen Covey wrote, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, "Begin with the end in mind".
Mission and Strategy
Everything goes into one of four categories:
- Keep (although this is always a ‘maybe keep’ and not final until packed and stored)
- Sell (if it doesn’t sell, it moves to category three)
- Donate/give away
- Pack it and travel with it
Keep: If something is easily replaceable, even if we love it, we'll sell it and replace it when we settle back into a permanent place. To keep an item, it must be irreplaceable because it’s rare, expensive or hard to find, or it’s memorabilia. Anything labeled as keep is still only a “maybe keep”. Nothing is final until packed and stored away.
Sell: We'll try to sell what we can through avenues such as craigslist, eBay, Etsy and yard sales. However, we'll keep in mind the value of the time and energy that goes into selling the item versus the return cash we'll get for it. If it isn’t worth our time we'll donate or give it away.
Donate/give away: Somethings just aren’t worth selling or probably won’t sell. Sadly, we don’t think anyone will buy a used (and thoroughly disinfected) bidet.
Pack it and travel with it: While we may want many of the conveniences of home with us, we’re limiting our travel backpack weight to about 20 pounds. Not only do the items we take with us need to be a necessity, but ideally they need to be light weight, small, durable and multi-purpose.
Where to Start?
We decided to keep it simple and start with one corner of our apartment and move through it systematically, one room at a time. For us, this meant starting in the kitchen. This ended up being a great place to start so that we could ease into it. It’s pretty obvious that most items in the kitchen won’t be going with us across the world, therefore, they were easy to put in the sell or donate categories. For example, we won’t be lugging around the pressure cooker or blender, and the knife set won’t make it through security. After all, we don’t want our Henckels being sold off at government auction.
Key Things We Kept For Storage
Computers: We decided to keep our desktop computers. One will be kept powered on, with an Uninterruptible Power Supply, and connected to the internet for emergency remote access. The other, since it’s pretty powerful (Xeon CPU, 16GB’s of RAM and SSD) would be plenty sufficient for Shannon’s use, even after a year of aging, so parting it out and selling it was not something we wanted to do. It would be easiest to just keep it and have it ready to go when we return.
A few pieces of select clothing: We’re still not completely convinced on this, but we decided to keep a few select pieces of clothing. Things that were dressy and/or professional that we won’t travel with but will use when we get back. We were very selective in what we kept.
Family heirlooms and childhood memorabilia: These items are already pretty limited to the most important key items. Probably about a half dozen for each of us.
Shelving: This may be the most controversial item we keep. Sergio purchased heavy duty Metro metal wire shelving over 15 years ago. It looks nearly new, is flexible to our needs and super heavy duty. We can disassemble it for easier storage. It would be very expensive to re-purchase and we'll likely keep this shelving for a lifetime.
The hardest things to get rid of
Shannon: Clothing. But she grinned and took it like a champion. Getting rid of over three Glad Bags of clothing on the first run through. For perspective, that was about 50-60% of all her clothing.
Sergio: Nothing, really. (Our conversation: Shannon said "Seriously? Nothing?" and Sergio answered "No, nothing, serious.")
We’ll keep you updated as we finalize our keep, travel, donate, and sell categories. There’s bound to be more struggles as we continue with our iterative pare down process. However, the excitement that surrounds this process is derived from the anticipation of our huge dream finally materializing. It’s not hard to keep reminding ourselves of why we’re doing this.