Worldly Possessions: What to do with your stuff

I would be lying if I told you LOCAVORista and I were minimalists with few worldly possessions. Here are some highlights of things we owned prior to our life liquidation:

  • 2 cars
  • 2 motorcycles
  • 2 road bikes
  • 2 commuting bicycles
  • Full office set-up with 4 Computers (2 MacBooks, 2 Desktops with 4 monitors), printer, network storage, wires connecting it all
  • Tennis stuff (6 racquets and 30 cans of balls, all the fixings)
  • 2 sets of skis and boots
  • 2 sets of snowboarding equipment
  • 16 place settings normal dinner ware (plates, salad plates, bowls, condiment dishes)
  • 12 place settings of formal china
  • Full sets of stemware and drinking glasses of all sort (for example, LOCAVORista likes drinking from jars with handles, therefore we have a set of 12)
  • Serving dishes for a small army (that has good taste)
  • A chef’s kitchen of tools, pots and pans, appliances, spices and sauces
  • 4 couches, 2 desks, large dinner table, 2 dressers
  • A large, wood, toboggan
  • Loads of clothes

I want to be honest; we owned a lot of stuff. The funny part about all of it was that we used all the things we had (except the toboggan), due to having limited space, we didn’t keep things we weren’t using. To take a trip around the world we had to decide what to do with each and every item. Here are some pointers on what to do with your worldly possessions if you are considering taking off for an extended period.

SELL, SELL, SELL:

Do you know Craig Newmark? If not, you should thank him for helping you take a trip around the world because he brought us Craigslist, which will help you liquidate your life. Other than cars, expect to get 30-50% of the price of an item when new. Look around Craigslist to find out what something similar is selling for, then understand that overpriced items don’t sell. Selling items will be trip preparation; you practice your bargaining as buyers see prices as negotiable. Use these tips to put large photos up, this will make your items sell faster than items with little, grainy, photos.

  • CARS/MOTORCYCLES: If you will be gone longer than 6 months, sell them. Cars require insurance, even if you aren’t driving them because they could be stolen or damaged and you don’t want to pay for that. More importantly, cars are depreciating assets, the older they are, the less they are worth. While your car sits waiting for your return, it is losing value. Depending on tax, title and license in your state, you could come back, buy the exact same car for less than you sold yours for.
  • FURNITURE: Craigslist anything that isn’t one of a kind. There were a few pieces that we kept such as a custom-made eight-foot buffet table that is made from an Argentine barn wood. The normal stuff, bed, tables, couches, should be sold unless you have a good, free place to store them and know you will be returning to the same city you are leaving.
  • SPORTING GOODS, ELECTRONICS, and THINGS YOU DON’T USE. This is a great opportunity to evaluate your possessions. Are there things you don’t use often? Get rid of them. You would be amazed that some of it has real value that could be cash in your savings account.

SOME PEOPLE NEED YOUR STUFF MORE THAN YOU

This is a great opportunity to donate your belongings. Odds are, you have too many clothes. If you haven’t worn it in one year, ditch it. If you didn’t wear it when it was in season, get rid of it. If you look at something and start a sentence with “I would…” but in actuality you haven’t, get over it; donate it and someone will put it to use.

A key thing to remember is that after leaving your worldly possessions behind for an extended period there is a risk that they will get destroyed (mice, moths, mold) or you won’t want them.  Why waste your time and energy packing, storing and saving anything that you are not 100% certain you want upon your return?  The less you have when you return, the easier your life transition can be.  While you are away, if you donate things, your excess will be put to good use.

We donated car after car full of things.  It was pretty amazing considering we constantly are removing clutter and unused things from our life.

SOME THINGS YOU KEEP

Honestly, we saved enough things to fill a small U-Haul truck. There were things that we couldn’t get rid of, mostly kitchen things. We will use the kitchen things in the future and the replacement versus sale price didn’t justify it. We each kept three large Tupperware bins of clothes. We kept our bikes because we will use them when we come back.

HOW TO DECIDE WHAT TO KEEP: Deciding what to keep is obviously personal, but probably difficult for everyone. Due to this you should start packing and shedding things as soon as possible, maybe as soon as you are done reading this. It took LOCAVORista and I three months of concerted effort to close down a household and we didn’t have enough time to take care of everything. The last week in our apartment was hell as we donated, gave or threw away many things we would have done differently if we had more time.

Only keep things that:

  1. You use often (for us: kitchen utensils, appliances and dishware)
  2. Are irreplaceable (for us: custom made furniture, art, minor keepsakes)
  3. The replacement cost is substantially less than the cost to repurchase it (for us: road bikes, exercise stuff, camping gear)

CONCLUSION

Leaving your life for an extended period is a rare opportunity to evaluate your relationship with material possessions.  I am not a minimalist, I have way more stuff than I should, but there was much we found as we packed that we didn’t need.  Like the famous quote from Fight Club, “the things you own begin to own you,” the more you have, the more resources and energy you spend taking care of things instead of living life.

There is probably an enormous volume of things you could get rid of and not notice.  Each item you get rid of, the less there is in your way when you are looking for your favorite shirt, the less space you need to rent/own to live in, and the less you need to pack each time you move.  Take this opportunity to take ownership over the things you love most and leave behind the things that just occupy space in your life.

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NEXT: Cost and Budgeting: How much will do you need to save? ->

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The Living IF round-the-world travel Planning and Preparation section:

  1. Planning and Preparation Overview
  2. Saving Money: How we did it and how you can too!
  3. Worldly Possessions: What to sell and keep while you travel
  4. Cost and Budgeting: How much will do you need to save?
  5. Logistics: Health, insurance and the nitty gritty
  6. Packing Tips: What and why to pack it

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