16 Feb How to Move Toward a Decluttered Life
This is a guest post from Dorene and Troy of Travel Life Experiences. Two years ago they made a major life change and left their safe, predictable lives. They sold everything they owned to fund their dream-life of long-term travel. Here’s their story about selling everything to reach their goal:
We used to live in a 1,400-square foot home for only the two of us. Sunday afternoons were often spent shopping to kick the boredom and fill the void missing in our lives. With harmless intentions, our house slowly became crammed with so much stuff, including four closets brimming with clothes and shoes, a basement with wall to wall shelving full of records, photo albums and memorabilia, and a kitchen with cupboards rammed full of small appliances. Of course, every chest of drawers in the house had a top junk drawer while the remaining drawers were filled with non-essentials.
After 10 years of this cycle, our unrestrained buying sprees resulted in a house filled with stuff we rarely used, tying up thousands of dollars. The guilt we felt from selling or giving it away was just as profound as the mountain we created. Does this sound familiar?
But, there was one thing that made a difference in shifting our perspective towards change. We moved from a life of well-shopped urban dwellers to becoming a couple with efficient free-from-goods-living.
It was travel.
Each year, we banked our holidays to take in a month-long trip, usually carrying two carry-on bags each. Those four bags satisfied all our needs; nothing was missed. Whenever we arrived back home, guilt instantly set in, and slowly, as time went by, we realized that only less than half of our possessions were used in an entire year.
The more we traveled, the more we felt different about buying unnecessary items. We saw people less fortunate than ourselves, who would never have the means to own what we have, yet they were living a euphoric existence.
Our love of travel and the desire to make changes, set us on a path to making our transformation to a new lifestyle. Our goal became traveling long term, which made the decision to part with our possessions much easier. The sentimental items, oversized furniture and the unused clothes slowly lost their power over us, and the resolution to detach from all our stuff became simpler than we had ever imagined.
It is possible to change the way you think about your possessions, whether you’re planning to travel or not.
The key is having an important goal – a goal that will change the way you see your priorities, spend your money, and use your time. Here are a few tips that worked for us.
- Change your perspective on how your things serve you in your life.
a) Many of your clothes will be out of style or season by the time you decide to wear them again. I used to leave clothes in my closet for 2-3 years, then felt guilty when I never got around to wear them. Often, by default, I would only wear my favourite items, which were less than ¼ of my possessions.
b) Technology changes so quickly that those monitors, keyboards and hard drives you keep in your basement will be virtually obsolete in a year or less. There are many options to donate these items to schools, to parts collectors, or to recycling companies, which are better causes than leaving them as a dust collector.
c) Why would you pay for expensive storage fees to keep things you haven’t used in years? Those items can earn you money (instead of costing you money). Think about what you can buy with the amount you spend on storage in a year. At least, with lesser belongings, you can save money for an amazing and exhilarating experience (like travel).
2. Getting rid of your stuff doesn’t have to be daunting; take baby steps.
Why not try running a yard sale? Or, gradually, take a small amount of your stuff to a friends’ yard sale. A few tips we used when we ran our first yard sale:
a) We took the advice of friends experienced in yard sales. We asked them exactly what to do and how best to do it.
b) Advertise on on-line selling sites and on local neighbourhood social pages. Often people search for sales just before the weekend.
c) Make your sale visible. We hung big fluorescent signs on telephone poles for the main intersections in our area. We also made sandwich boards that we placed at intersections near our house.
d) Create good, visible pricing. We made sure everything was priced reasonably because we did not want to carry anything back to the house. Some people would ask us to negotiate, and we would accept it if they would buy more items. Our priority was to get rid of our things, so negotiating was preferred. Remember that nothing is worth what you paid for it. This is the reality. Also, it is best to price every item. We discovered that most people don’t ask for a price, so make it easy for them to buy.
e) Ensure all your items are easy to see and are neatly organized. This is no different than how you shop at your favorite store. People want to scan, instead of picking up items to see others. Make it easy to browse. We also used some of our shelving in our basement to display DVDs and books. This is a great way to create visibility. Also, avoid potential buyers needing to bend down to look for items.
f) What we didn’t sell, we donated to charity. There was no point in putting anything back in our house. Our yard sale was such a success we had another one, it was easy to find more to sell. Not only did the sales pay for all the painting and repairs needed to sell our house but they also funded some of our travel gear.
3) Once you have sold your stuff, how do you avoid accumulating again?
a) Take the emotion and second guessing out of parting with your stuff. If you haven’t used something in the last year, get rid of it. No, you likely won’t use it again. One year will turn into two or three years before you know it.
b) If you invest the time, you can earn good money from your possessions. We made close to $10,000 selling our goods. Another option is donating your things to a good cause. There is someone out there who will get better use out of your stuff and will probably appreciate it more than you ever did.
c) Regularly scan and keep track of what you own. You can only do this if you start getting rid of things, so that items aren’t one on top of the other. Sadly, we have bought new things completely forgetting (and often misplacing) a very similar item. This was crazy!
d) Find other ways to re-live moments as opposed to keeping your things from the past. For me, the best example of this is music. How about burning your CDs into MP3’s to play on your computer or phone instead of keeping all those dusty boxes in your basement? There are many options to sell your CDs and albums for cash. Similarly with pictures, look into getting your albums converted into digital files and store them on a CD. Digital photos are still a great way to enjoy moments of the past. In fact, they will continue to be much better quality now as the years go by.
Freeing yourself from your goods can be liberating, as well as rewarding.
You will both save money and declutter your home physically and emotionally.
We’d love to hear the steps you have taken to declutter your home. What has worked for you?
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