Take a quick look around your home. Take a mental note of how often you use the rice cooker or George Foreman grill you have stuffed in the back of your kitchen. With every promotion or move, if you are like me, you have bought items to fit into the new space or decorate differently. You have worked hard at your job and you are sporting the huge couch and wine tower to prove it.
Now you have decided to leave everything behind in search of adventure. You are willing to exchange your fine china and 50 inch TV for fan-cooled rooms and mosquito nets while you travel around the world. Downsizing is a mentally freeing activity, that if you embrace and start early enough can help you leave on your RTW trip with some extra cash and less stress.
I suggest you consider what you want to get rid of, how much it is worth to you and whether you are willing to put in the time and effort to sell it. Downsizing is a full time job. Getting good photos, pricing and listing them will be most of the up front work.
We started with a master list of everything we wanted to sell. Take a notebook around your home and start in the kitchen. Look in every drawer, cabinet and pantry. For each item you have four choices:
- Keep it
Some things you won’t be able to part with, and that’s OK. Just keep it to a minimum.
- Sell it
Determine whether someone else would be willing to pay for the item. You will probably think it’s worth way more than what someone would be willing to pay. Try to think about how you will have to pay to store it and during your trip it’ll be sitting somewhere collecting dust while you are gone. The goal isn’t to make a bunch of money selling your crap, it’s to get rid of it. Price your items to sell.
- Give it away
If the item isn’t fit to sell, but could be used by someone else, see if any of your family or friends could use it. If not, give it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
- Put it immediately in the trash
Unfortunately, you probably have a lot of stuff that can end up in this category. Try your best to use one of the steps above. Going through this step will make you think twice before the next time you buy something.
The 5 best ways to get rid of your stuff: Craigslist, eBay, Amazon Marketplace, Yard Sale and Goodwill.
Start early on Craigslist. We began 6 months before we left. This allows you to post your items at a fair price and gradually bring it down over time until it sells. This can be a chore because you can only re-post an item if the wording in the post is slightly different. We put pretty much everything on our master list on Craigslist, even if we were trying to sell it elsewhere. Since there are no fees, you can quickly throw an item up and if it sells elsewhere (eBay, Amazon) you can take it down without issue.
Caroline was the most organized Craigslister you’ve ever seen, checking in daily, coordinating sales with buyers, and carefully re-posting items with catchy headlines. It helped that we lived in the huge city of Chicago and had a lot of college students moving in for the semester looking for desks, furniture and kitchen appliances.
We even found someone to take over our apartment lease on Craigslist. One day at a time we watched the items we had acquired walk out the door and each time we took a deep breath of satisfaction. The items that had been unknowingly suffocating us had freed us to follow our wild dream.
For items that aren’t wanted in your local area, or you’ve been unable to sell on Craigslist, use eBay. We used it for name brand clothing and small electronics. eBay is a science that Josh is better at. Knowing the minimum price to start your item at in order for enough people to view and bid on it can be difficult and frustrating.
eBay recently changed their terms and you can list certain items for free, which makes it much more useful as a budget selling tool. There is a fee on the final value of your transaction, and if you use PayPal (which you should) you may be subject to fees there too. The hard part is taking a good photo, writing up a good description and pricing. After that you just cross your fingers that it sells. Sometimes the items went for less money than we had planned (Josh sold a computer power supply for $0.99) but the goal of getting rid of it was complete!
Amazon was reserved for books and CDs we wanted to get rid of. I didn’t have high expectations when we started putting our books up on Amazon, but I was willing to try anything. It’s extremely easy to sell these items on Amazon as you just enter the ISBN number and the condition and Amazon does the rest.
I was shocked when within a few weeks most of our books had been bought. We wrapped them in paper, stuck a label on the front and sent them off to their new owner. Amazon fees are higher than eBay, so you will have a lower margin on your items, but a higher chance of them selling, which is the goal.
A Yard Sale
This was our last resort before we sent our stuff to goodwill. A few weeks before moving out, slash your prices and let people start picking through what is left. At this point you have mentally gotten rid of these items, so stop worrying about getting a good price and focus on downsizing. You are off to bigger and better things, and those tea cups you sold probably wouldn’t have been be used for the year (and probably haven’t been used for the past 3!)
This is where everything else went. We let our close friends and family pick through the pile of remaining items and then said goodbye to our
junk stuff and put them in a truck to Goodwill. There was no sense in keeping them after all this time just because they didn’t sell.
Any combination of these will rid you of your past 10 years of accumulating and send you off in style (stylish backpacks that is). We found that decluttering is therapeutic. You feel lighter as you watch all of your stuff walk out the door!
Have you accumulated a lot of junk? Could you get rid of it all?
Great post guys, I’m currently in the process of doing exactly what you did, posting everything on Craigslist in Chicago and trying to get rid of the big ticket items first. Thanks for the advice! 3 months to go, and all my books to post! It seems like people really will buy anything on Craigslist!
It’s really funny some of the things we sold on Craigslist. It’s so easy to put up, we’ll probably sell a lot more when we get home too. Books are pretty tough on Craigslist, I’d go to eBay or Amazon for those.