The Benefits of Selling Everything You Own

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It’s been five months since we sold almost everything we owned and embarked on our Never Ending Voyage. It’s been a long, hard trip. Each morning I wake up and think about all the cool stuff I left behind:

“This Paraguayan sunrise sucks,” I’ll lament.

“If only I could be back in Manchester, sitting on my Ikea couch and watching the latest Michael Bay DVD on my huge Sony TV.”

OK, so I never actually owned a huge Sony TV and I’m never likely to say that about Michael Bay – dude raped my childhood – but, really, I’m still very surprised at how little I do miss.

Even if you’re not planning to be as nutty as us and get rid of your house, your car and anything you can’t get on your back, take the money and spend it (Pensions? Pffs, pensions are for old people!) on walking the earth until it starts running out (the money, not the earth) at which point you desperately scratch around looking for a way to make more just to eat that month (on a totally unrelated note, I think you could do with a new awesome website), there are still some major advantages to be had from getting rid of your junk.

1) Clutter Free House

Space is important. Hotels know this – that’s why you pay five or six times as much for less than double the square footage. Space gives you, er, space. To think. To breathe. To do calisthenics.

Sitting cooped up in a closet of a bedroom surrounded by bookshelves and boxes stacked to the ceiling while trying to work on a desk where every inch is covered by papers, pens, coffee mugs and knick-knacks except for the napkin-sized space you’ve allocated for mouse movements is not conducive to a relaxed and comfortable environment.

Not at all.

2) Clutter Free Mind

Spoiler Alert – If you’ve seen Up In The Air, click here to continue

There’s a scene in Up In The Air where George Clooney talks about filling an imaginary backpack with all of the stuff you own – house, car, tables, chairs, computers, books, DVDs, sofas, broken picture frames, bent spoons, that Madonna T-Shirt from 1989 that you’ll never wear again but can’t bear to get rid of (NOT MINE) – and then trying to carry it.

Then he tells you to burn it. Even playing along and pretending to, there’s a palpable sense of relief in the activity. A slightly panicky, oh-shit-what-now euphoria.

That. Is what freedom feels like.

Slightly panicky.

(The fact that he then goes on to talk about relationships in the same way should be glossed over quickly because the rest of the movie is about how relationships are important and basically how these talks he gives are rubbish. Still, I think the stuff thing holds.)

We used to own cars that were worth less than £500 because we lived in fricking Manchester. If you own a Mercedes or a BMW in a city like that then how can you not have a lingering sense of anxiety every time you leave it parked in an on-street parking bay down some dodgy looking back alley.

That, my friends, is stress. Ownership is stress by another name and it’s only worth it if the good bits of ownership outweigh the stressful bits.

MacBooks, yes. Ferraris in Burnage, not so much.

3) Money!

Obviously, the act of selling stuff instead of buying it will make you better off overall (that’s math, that is).

But there are other, secret, unknown, hidden benefits that I want to share with you. Secrets that swagger with impressiveness. Secrets so great, your world might actually implode.

A story, to illustrate.

We stayed in a studio apartment in Buenos Aires for two months. There is no way we would have fitted all of our old life into this tiny space. Our dining room table would have taken up half of it. Add a drum kit and we’d have had to have moved the bed out.

But, with just two backpacks and a guitar, it was huge. We barely made a dent in the closet space alone. In fact, we could have lived quite comfortably with all of our stuff IN the closet.

Without our old possessions, we can live in a tiny shoeboxes, still feel like we’re living in a palace and save a ton of money on the rent. Win, win and win.

And once you live in a smaller place, everything else gets cheaper too – gas bills, electricity bills, insurance – it’s all extra cash in your pocket which you could use to, ahem, not buy more stuff or, even better, cut down your working hours and have more of the one thing that money can never buy – time.

I know, right? Mind. Blown.

4) Appreciation

Now, I don’t want to get too militantly anti-personal property here – I’m no Pinko Commie (U-S-A! U-S-A!). Stuff can be great. I am especially enamored with the shiny, electronic stuff (how I crave a currently unjustifiable iPhone – are you sure you don’t need a website?) and musical stuff (full disclosure: my drum kit is in safe storage at my mum’s – I couldn’t bear to get rid of it, but I WILL (someday)).

But, if you don’t have the space for the stuff and you don’t want to spend too much money on your stuff, then every purchase needs to be justified and carefully weighed (literally, if you’re carrying it all on your back).

And when you put that much thought into your purchases, you appreciate them a whole lot more. Just last week, I spent a full two hours stroking my brand new Columbia fleece.

That last sentence is possibly a lie, but I am wearing it a lot and I’m not past having a sly little stroke when no one’s watching (and also touching my new fleece).

If you want to be really hardcore, you’ll use the 1-in-1-out rule, where every purchase has to replace something similar – swapping a pair of socks for an XBox doesn’t count! I’m not there yet, but having a 40-litre backpack is kind of naturally limiting anyway so I almost rock.

Conclusion

Stuff sucks!

Kind of.

Well, not all of it.

Some stuff sucks!

Er.

Having more stuff than you actually need sucks!

Yeah, that’s it!

(Quick – get to the poignant summary!)

What’s really surprising is how much stuff I simply don’t remember owning. I’m sure if someone handed me a list right now of all of the things we sold I’d be surprised at how little I recognised; at how much of it was just clutter filling up my life, standing in the way of my freedom.

BOOM!

Now Go Do It!

PS. If you need a little help we’ve written about how we sold our stuff.

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162 Comments (17 pingbacks)

  1. Oh, and Erin, thank you for the pet traveler link but as you see, those pets were all traveling in motorhomes and such. Again, living in a car is a whole different thing.

    Reply

  2. Well as an update I am having a good ole’ time myself. I just sold my lovely sofa that I purchased in 1998 for $975. That’s not so much the big deal as the fact that I have the receipt and paid only $1040 for it back then. Ha! That pays July’s rent here while I get rid of my wall unit, and some antiques and then I’m gone.

    I’m juggling with how I’ll end up there – roommate temporarily while I look for a “permanent” apartment of my own (so I don’t waste money turning on utilities and all) or stay at a hotel a few weeks (same reason).

    Either way the bottom line is I have never felt so excited to be free from the hostage situation my “stuff” has kept me in. Seriously – I’ve been a hostage.

    This is so friggin’ liberating. I’ll figure it out as I go but I am sure having a good time getting there! I’m giving up the living in a car idea but now that I’m experiencing the exhilaration of detaching myself from stuff, this is the most therapeutic and amazing thing I’ve ever done.

    I don’t think people realize how unfree they really are with their things. Not saying I don’t love whatever I have and that I won’t “want” and “have” again, but not to the point where having cripples me to come or go as I please. Never that again.

    Thank you for the support and great comments here everyone. I so appreciate what I’ve read and I’m gonna keep on reading whenever a new comment pops up!

    Reply

    • That’s so exciting Patricia! I’m really pleased it’s working out for you and am impressed how much you got for your sofa. Usually furniture sells for a tiny fraction of what you originally paid. It sounds like you have a great attitude about it all.

      Reply

  3. Being a techie and running a techie company I’d amassed thousand of pounds worth of ‘stuff’ especially expensive shiny electric stuff. An Apple addiction is way more expensive than a drug habit :-) Anyway, I sold about 75% of my stuff before I moved in with my gf in April. The other 25% will go before we leave in October.

    The experience has been liberating and a small price to pay for the freedom to roam the world.

    Reply

  4. Dammit, I’m on it! I posted my ad on both Craigslist and eBay today. Check it out! And if you know any NJ people, please, please, spread the word. I already sent the link to Ellen Degeneres, too. And I said specifically that I do not want her money and I don’t even want to be on the show. I don’t want my current clients and one I’m working on now to know.

    http://r.ebay.com/o5H6g4

    By the way, how do you get mail? I’m trying to figure that out. If I’m cruising across states and figuring out where I want to go, how can that work? Guess I’ll just have to pay like a UPS spot or Mailbox Etc. (if they still exist) but then I couldn’t even pay to have them forward mail to me until I have a permanent address. They can’t forward it to a hostel or hotel – by the time I make the request I’d be back in my car driving to my next stop.

    How does that work?

    And tell me what you think of the listing. I’d love to know.

    Oh, and regarding your comments about my cat. You can’t leave a cat in ANY vehicle unattended. You ever sit in a closed car just 10 minutes in 85 degree weather with no air on? Second, I’m in no position to buy an RV, camper or even a van. I’m talking a small used car. I can’t afford more. So it is what it is.

    Read the listing and you’ll get the gist of my plan. It’s also on Craigslist.

    Reply

    • Great, good luck with it Patricia!

      We use Simon’s mum’s address and get our mail sent there. She scans and sends us anything important, but we’ve mostly gone paperless (online bank statements etc). There are services I think that can accept and scan your mail for you.

      Reply

  5. I have to admit that I didn’t sleep well last night. I’ve been playing with the idea of selling everything, buying a car and just living off the road for awhile because I’m always struggling to keep my tiny apartment for $1,000 a month. I’m tired of fighting for an apartment that always leaks and is really just a space for my huge ass wall unit and *stuff*.

    Since I am a Virtual Assistant my income fluctuates. I was a Business Analyst for the NYC Mayor’s Office and when I got laid off years ago I started my own business and felt so free and happy not to have to spend a small fortune to commute anymore. But now, since I don’t have a steady income, my nerves are always on end trying to figure out what next. It’s terrifying.

    Since I can work from anywhere as long as I have an internet connection I figure I’ll sell everything as far as furniture, bedding, dishes, pictures, etc. and then use the money to purchase a vehicle that I can sleep in. I fear that so much but even if I did do it, the one un-figured out part is my cat.

    I adopted him when he was just a year old and that was in 1998. I’m single so he only really knows me and he’d die if I put him up for adoption. I can’t do it. And I burst into tears thinking of putting him to sleep just because he’d be inconvenient. But even if I took him with me and bought a cage for him to safely travel with me, I can’t leave him in a car unattended when I have to go into a library or a McDonald’s for wi-fi.

    It’s May 31st and I’m thinking about using the next 30 days to get rid of everything but the pet part…anybody, please, talk to me. What do I do about him?

    And I am also recognized by Forbes magazine and can design sites. I can do that from anywhere.

    I live in New Jersey.

    Reply

  6. Enjoyed your site – even at 63 I like travelling light, but agree “travel trousers” are awful!!
    I went to the site for info about Kindles, am about to buy one to take to Argentina where my son lives (He’s English she’s from Salta, wonderful city) UK books a problem, and for the kids, Kindle is brilliant. Stepfather aged 89 in Madrid uses one….
    I have a huge garden here in Galicia, and am enjoying “retirement” – glad of the Pension!!!!!! Ha Ha Je Je!!! But perhaps when its all too mcuh we could sell up and just travel around woth next to nothing – very appealing. Keep enjoying yourselves

    Reply

  7. Your writing is one of inspiration, and will be taken word for word by me as I travel down the similar path you have taken.

    Stuff is unnecessary weight that leads to heart attacks. Your comment of pensions and retirement packages being for old people can not be truer! I am 34, live on my own, have a great career, no kids, a house, and a ton of crap!

    It will be more than liberating to unload and free myself! I look forward to sitting on a beach this time next year with an ice cold beer and a guitar!

    Thank You for your inspiration, and if anyone in New Jersey is looking for a renovated ranch on an acre of land, a motorcycle, new furniture, or a go one 3 velomobile…don’t hesitate to reach out :)

    Reply

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