How to Get Rid of All Your Crap
In my journey from being a North American Entrepreneur to a Professional Hobo, I had to shed a lot of crap. The crap took the form of everything from the emotional to the physical, but for the purposes of this article I will focus on the process (which proved to be quite effective) of shedding the physical junk that clutters our lives.
This process is great not only for people wanting to make drastic changes in their lives like I did, but also for the average bear who needs to downsize the amount of stuff they have.
Divide Into Piles
The first step is to go through everything you own, and categorize. My categories of choice were:
Take With Me (or keep)
Take With Me (or Keep): For myself because of my planned travels, this pile had to be relatively small, as it had to fit into a couple of backpacks. I read once that when faced with decisions like this, women tend to over-pack clothes, and men tend towards "gear". For me this rang true; I used to have a coordinated outfit for every possible occasion, and my boyfriend was a real gear-hog.
The reality of the small size of a backpack forced us to seriously look at everything we owned. If the article of clothing or piece of gear didn't satisfy at least two purposes, it had to go. Everything had be uber-practical.
For backpacker wanna-bes out there, there is a golden rule of packing for a trip: First, lay everything you want to take out on your bed. Then, take half the stuff away. Pack what is left. Then unpack, and take away half again. That's all you really need!
Even for those not backpacking, I think most would agree that we can easily live with a quarter of the things we have in our homes. It might take some adjustments initially, but our real quality of life wouldn't suffer.
So be brutal in your elimination piles! Your keep pile doesn't need to be big.
Store: Storage could take the form of a nearby locker, storage unit, or even friend's closet. For myself, because I refused to pay the outrageous cost of a monthly storage unit, and didn't have family with space to store my belongings, I had to make some tough decisions.
Since part of the point of my journey is to let go of the materialistic values we are conditioned to have, I figured the time was ripe to just let go.
So the items I kept were those I deemed "irreplaceable". This included family heirlooms, artifacts collected from world travel, selected artwork, and pictures/scrapbooks. Believe it or not I managed to fit all this into less than 5 boxes, and truthfully I don't miss any of it. It currently sits in my friend's spare bedroom closet.
Sell: This was where the process got fun. Because of the sheer amount of stuff I had to sell, I took a three-tiered approach to selling my belongings:
Firstly, I took pictures of all the major items I owned (like furniture) that I was selling. Starting two months before I left town, I sent an email to my contact list (about 300 people strong), itemizing the major things I had for sale, and inviting queries by email for more info. I fielded the responses attaching pictures at that time, and serious buyers came over to my place to choose what they wanted.
One month before my departure, I listed everything remaining (which was still quite a lot) for sale. Personally I used Kijiji and Craig's List, but according to Linsey , Amazon and Ebay are also great ways to sell and buy gently used items.
Lastly, for whatever didn't sell using the above methods, I held a giant contents sale over an entire weekend. It was tiring to say the least, but it was also an effective way to eliminate most of what I had, and a few friends even came by to wish me a bon voyage and help me to bide my time as the day passed. Once I resolved myself to the situation, I had fun.
Give Away: There were many items that I knew family members or friends wanted or needed, so I set them aside as gifts. And of course, I also donated certain items to charitable auctions and other organizations that were close to my heart.
Anything left over from the garage sale that would be valuable to a charity also got donated.
There was a very interesting transition that took place over the few months that I underwent this process. At first, I was convinced that everything I owned was quite valuable, and had set asking prices accordingly. For (very) gently used furniture, I generally tried to recoup 75% of my cost to buy. Other items were priced accordingly. But I also found that people weren't banging down my door to buy all my wonderful possessions like I thought they would. Our belongings are most highly valued by only ourselves, as I soon learned.
As the weeks and months passed, the prices came down and down and down again. By the time the contents sale came around, I just wanted the stuff gone, and was practically giving everything away. In some cases I actually did just give the stuff away. I didn't feel ripped off at all; instead I was happy that my stuff was going to a new happy home. I had already said goodbye to these belongings and simply didn't want them to occupy a landfill.
And for your entertainment, here is a quote from my personal blog written the day after the contents sale, when I was exhausted, but elated:
"The more I purge my belongings and move towards a simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, the less I want to accumulate “stuff” ever again. I thought I had purged most of my “stuff” prior to moving into the place we are in now, but alas 2 years of living in one place brought into our repertoire many items that we “simply can’t live without”!
I hope that in the future I can hold more perspective on this point and continue to learn the difference between wants and needs. I can only imagine there are many things we’ll encounter in our travels that we see as “needs” that many native-dwellers would disagree with. For example….shoes. Shoes are pretty non-negotiable for me. I like them, I need them. If I don’t have them, my tender tootsies are miserable. I can’t walk more than a few feet a minute without them. Yet for others, shoes are more of a luxury.
….Shoes, a luxury. Ha! And here I am wondering whether or not to bring my pretty pink high heels, or just to “make due” with my black slingbacks. Yikes!"