“These individuals have riches just as we say that we ‘have a fever,’ when really the fever has us.” -SENECA (4 B.C. – A.D. 65)
“It’s possible to own too much. A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.” – Lee Segall
It’s time for a reset. I’m going to sell (almost) all my stuff. That which I cannot fit in my 2002 Toyota Tacoma is either posted on Craigslist or headed to Goodwill. I am analyzing each object in my possession and ruthlessly cutting out the superfluous. To get rid of your stuff, follow these steps.
Stop Being a Hoarder
As a child I was an organized hoarder. I could not bring myself to get rid of anything. Every object in my room had a sentimental memory attached to it so things began to take on an exaggerated sense of importance. I had shelves dedicated to small polished rocks and trinkets that I picked up on family trips. I had drawers full of old magazines that I hadn’t opened in years. Books that I read were stacked high, gathering dust next to my soccer trophies. These things were connected to certain people at certain times in my life and it would be an affront to our relationship if I were to rid myself of these objects. So I held on to things for much longer than I should have. Until I went to college.
Going away to college, living in a small dorm room with nothing but a twin bed, a desk and a computer, is a valuable lesson on the necessities of life. Upon my return home after my first year, the objects in my life that once held so much sentimental value had detached themselves in my mind from the memories of the people they were associated with. My relationship with these people was what mattered, not the objects that represented the relationship. I had a great time ridding myself of years of accumulated junk, freeing myself from the anchor of these possessions.
However, this lesson was forgotten all too quickly after graduation as I accumulated all the trappings of a young professional lifestyle. I needed a place for my stuff, and I needed stuff for my place. I now have a one-bedroom apartment full of furniture, clothes and grown up toys. I played with the idea of renting a moving truck, car dolly and hiring some help to move all of my things back home before I leave for my trip. But running some quick numbers I realized that the cost of this effort would almost exceed the value of the objects themselves. Instead, I could simply sell my things, save the moving cost, drive my truck home, and re-buy the stuff when I get there (if I wanted to). In doing so I get this great feeling of freedom by detaching myself from my commitment to these objects, and I get cash money in the bank. Win win.
“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, they own you.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Get Rid of Your Stuff
My method for ridding myself of all this dross is simple: all large items worth more than $10 are posted to craigslist, anything worth $10 or more that is small enough to ship easily is posted on Ebay and anything worth less than $10 that serves no purpose in my immediate future (next 6 months) is either donated to Goodwill, thrown away or given to friends. All items are sold at or near market value and I determine that price based on a quick search of craigslist or ebay for similar items. Remember that if you actually want to sell something you have to offer it at market value. You may think your fine china is worth hundreds of dollars (it should have appreciated!) but if you search ebay and the same items are being sold for tens of dollars rest assured you will not receive hundreds of dollars for those items.
It helps to have a truck – for large pieces of furniture I make sure to note in the ad that delivery is negotiable. This increases the number of potential customers for your items as many people do not have access to a pick up truck, and it gives you another source of income as you can charge for your time/gas/vehicle use if they want the item delivered.
I find books to be one of the hardest items to get rid of. I’m always thinking – what if I need to reference a particular passage from one of my favorite books, or what if a friend was visiting and I wanted to give him or her one of my old novels? But the reality is that most of those books simply sit on the shelves gathering dust, benefiting no one, and they are a heavy burden to move when relocating. I also have a collection of text books from college – but I promise you I never once re-opened “Pre-Stressed Concrete Analysis” after the final for that course, and I cannot imagine a situation where I will wish I had that textbook on hand. I suggest taking these steps to ridding yourself of this burden of knowledge:
1. Separate your books – organize them into two piles. The first pile is books that you truly love and cannot part with under any circumstance, or books you have not read yet that you plan on reading, or books that you are going to give to a friend shortly. The second pile is books that you are willing to part with.
2. To deal with the first pile – see if you can purchase an ebook version of your favorite books. You do not have to actually purchase the ebooks, but keep a list in Evernote for future reference. Any books that you can download in digital format should be thrown into the second pile. I know people love the smell and feel of a book with pages but get over it – you are killing trees and wasting space. Books without a digital counterpart can be kept. Books that you are planning on reading should be read soon so that you can add them to the second pile. Make sure to get the books that you have set aside for your friends into their hands within the next week.
3. To deal with the second pile you have a few options. You could spend the time on Amazon posting individual books for sale but then you have to deal with the time it takes to create the posts, wait for the sale and ship the items. My preferred method is to take the entire box (or collection of boxes) down to your local used book store and cash them out or receive store credit. You can use the store credit to buy more books (either for yourself or as gifts) and repeat the process to slim down your collection even further. Any books in the second pile that the used bookstore will not buy back can be taken to Goodwill or the local library.
This effort leaves me with a small accumulation of items that will fit in my truck for transport back to California. The money I make from selling my stuff will be placed in an ING high yield money market account and saved for furnishing an apartment in the future, should I need to do that.
So I challenge you – unclutter your life. Start small. Find one thing in your house that you have not used in over a year, take a picture of it, and post it to Craigslist for sale. See what kind of feeling this evokes. Can you simplify your life? Can you boil it down to the necessities? Reducing the amount of objects you own improves your mobility and greatly increases your peace of mind, whether you travel or not.