Getting rid of stuff and feeling happy about it

my bags are packed for 6 months in Mexico
Packed for 6 months in Mexico. 1 checked bag, 1 carry-on backpack, 1 smaller carry-on bag.

I’ve always been inspired by stories of people who live with fewer possessions. Now I’m finally doing it. As of tomorrow I will have pruned all my belongings down to what fits in one large rolling suitcase, two backpacks, and a few shelves of papers, photos and tools (stored in the basement of my rented-out condo). Oh, and a duffle bag of winter clothes that I’m leaving with friends in Boston.

Since I’ll be living in Mexico for the next six months, I’m bringing only what I need to work online and live in a furnished apartment with cookware provided.

Letting go of possessions was made easier by the fact that I did it in stages. It would have been hard to get rid of absolutely everything all at once! I had many possessions that I carefully collected over the years: books, housewares, electronics, etc. I can be very attached to my stuff, especially if it’s colorful and cute!

Here are the stages I went through:

  1. I rented my 2-bedroom condo furnished to students for six months while I moved into a smaller studio apartment (so I didn’t have to try to sell all my furniture in the middle of winter). I sold and donated many items, only keeping what would fit in the smaller place.

  3. 6 months later I held a moving sale when those tenants moved out (in the middle of summer), to sell more of my housewares and almost all of my furniture, so I could rent the condo unfurnished, longer term.

  5. 6 months after that, when I moved out of the studio apartment, I held an indoor moving sale in order to sell the rest of my furniture, books, electronics, housewares, etc. Since I was moving into a house-sitting job, I didn’t need to keep much.

  7. During the last 2 months of my house-sitting job, I sold remaining items on Craigslist, such as my bike, my iMac, my Vitamix blender, a juicer, my TV, and lots of smaller electronic gadgets.

After each of those sales I donated the leftover items to my local thrift shop and also to my friends. Friends also bought many of my larger items, such as a dining room table, mattress, bike, computer, linens and blankets, pillows, etc.

I love seeing my former possessions when I visit my friends because it reminds me of fun times in my own history. My favorite oak dining room table (an old library table that I got for free ages ago), is now in the dining room of one of my best friends. She has my favorite comfy mattress and shag rug, too!

So I sold and gave away stuff, but it’s still out there making someone else happy and not keeping me tied to one physical location just because of having to deal with stuff. Yay. I feel lighter already!

Using vs. owning
I really like the idea that we don’t really “own” anything. It’s just ours to use for a period of time (long or short). My reading needs are covered by ebooks (which I can access from anywhere), transportation needs by sharing services like Zipcar, Hubway bikes, and friends who loan me their cars.

Also, I upgrade my computers and electronics frequently because I think of it like this: I’m paying for the use of the item while I have it. I bought a new iMac in December 2012 for $1,200 (with the education discount) and sold it in April 2013 for $900. So I had use of it for five months for $300. Since it’s become easier to get money for used items with Craigslist, Ebay or Amazon Electronics Trade-In, it’s easier than ever to keep up with the latest technology and avoid the frustration of outdated equipment that’s hard to use, slow or breaks down. I like the idea that my used equipment lives on and makes someone else happy instead of just sitting in storage somewhere because I kept it so long that it wasn’t worth much. It feels good to let things flow through… don’t hang on, recycle and re-use everything.

Almost every bit of furniture I’ve acquired in the past few years was a used item from Craigslist or a free item that I found. With the exception of certain things (a new mattress is worth paying for!), used furniture and housewares is the way to go, in my opinion!

I like the idea of the “sharing economy.” Here’s a good site to read if you like to see examples of this trend:

housewares for sale
Selling housewares at my moving sale. Stuff seems to accumulate over the years!

gadgets for sale on Craigslist
I’ve had good luck selling things on Craigslist

basement storage
Glad I still have a place to keep files and photos in the basement of my rented-out condo.