Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….
Today marks 8 months since we left Canada. On October 15th, we flew to Costa Rica, on a journey that had barely any structure. We were to housesit for 2 months on the beach in the South West corner of the country, but really, that is all we knew.
Chris was bringing his tattoo gear, I wanted to write, but really, other than that, we didn’t know how we were going to make money, we just knew that we needed to go. We were tired of the life we were living in Canada. The constant crush to make money, the massive overhead that we carried around, house mortgage, vehicle payments, gas costs, utilities, credit card payments, insurance payments…….the list literally went on and on.
So we did it. We made a decision and made it happen.
It really is as simple as that.
Some will ask where our inspiration to do this came from. For me, it was a bit of a build up over time. I had been complaining about having too much stuff for months. Finding a tool in our house was like searching for buried treasure, as our workbench was a heaping mass of different projects, bags of screws, and any manner of ‘you name it’.
Our basement was…….well let’s just put it this way. We actually BUILT a shed in the back yard, a REALLY nice and EXPENSIVE shed, so that we could move STUFF from our basement, out to the shed. It was ridiculous! I look back at it all and all I can do is laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
We had grand plans for that basement, we were going to create the ultimate artist space in our basement so that we could finally one day focus on our art to make a living. But we worked our asses off at our real jobs, hoping one day that we would get to that magical place. That place somewhere off in the distance.
But you know what? It was a fictional place, and we kept running on the hamster wheel, barely making a dent in our debt, barely eeking out an existence at all.
Then there is the travel part. I grew up travelling and continued to do so all the way into my late 20’s. But then the magical number of 30 arrived and I told myself that it was time to grow up. It was time to start a family, it was time to build a life. Pretty much all of these decisions led to a life of no travel.
8 years flashed by, struggle……. struggle……. struggle, a divorce happened, career changes happened, houses were sold and bought, a new relationship was born, but the outcome was always the same. I ended up running, running, running and never getting anywhere. PLUS, I realized that I hadn’t travelled anywhere significant in all of that time. This coming from a girl that used to travel at LEAST once per year for 2 months or more.
What had happened to me? Where had I gone? All of my priorities had flown out the window and I was left feeling like I was constantly scrambling to pick up the pieces of my life.
When was life going to get easy?
I was tired, worn out and frustrated. SOMETHING had to give!
And so, at the age of 40, I finally felt like I had a plan. I was watching the Minimalism documentary when I had a lightening bolt moment. It was like someone just smacked me in the back of the head.
“Is it really this easy?” I asked myself.
“Is all of this stuff what is standing in my way of my travelling?”
The answer turned out to be, yes! All of the things that I had carefully crafted my life around, having a house, building a career, gathering a bunch of stuff, is what was actually holding me back. In that instant, none of it mattered anymore. All of the stuff I had worked so hard to get, suddenly meant nothing to me. I realized in that split moment, that I needed to let it all go if I ever wanted to live the life that I only dreamt about.
I was going to do what was important to me after all, because I realized that if I didn’t do it then, when the hell was I going to do it?
Thankfully my partner was on board right away, despite not travelling very much at all, and we got started getting rid of things right away and working towards our goal.
In the beginning, we thought it would take us 1.5-2 years to downsize everything, finish renovating our house, and to close down our businesses. But as we started to get rid of things, it all kept snowballing, opportunities came up and we managed to do it all in 9 short months.
You might ask,
But how did you get rid of all of your possessions?
Here is a short guide to how we did it, and how you can too!
I immediately started a “Things for Sale” album on my facebook page. This album quickly turned into a “Clothing For Sale”, “Books For Sale”, “Plants for Sale”, and “Our Art for Sale” albums. Almost everyday I was photographing items and posting them in these albums. We had great success with doing this, but I attribute most of that to living in a small community where the community definitely does support each other. Plus I knew many, many people through my involvement in community organizations and having owned a shop in town for 4 years.
These albums, with the exception of our Artwork Album, would usually be items that were under $100. Chris and I would walk around the house at night and just grab things that were the least important to us. Normally this would include items that we had been carrying around just because…….you know the ones, gifts maybe, or something you had to remember a certain memory. I think we all know what stuff this is. It’s the easiest to let go of, and you just have to get started. Once you get started, things start to snowball. Suddenly you start to realize that these items that you have been holding onto so tightly, really are just things after all, and they are simply in the way of your goal and potential freedom.
I also sold items on Facebook using local Buy, Sell, Swap pages. Again, our small community is all about buying used stuff, and if they can get something used, they would much rather do that than grab it new. On these pages we had great success selling tools, some appliances, our lawn mower, bikes and other larger ticket items. I have heard that people in larger cities use Kijiji and Craigs List. While there are certainly risks involved with using these platforms, they do present a good way to rid yourself of items. My advice for selling things in large populations, is to meet people in public areas to do the exchanges.
2. Garage/Yard Sales
Over the course of the 5 months of nice weather that we had available, we held 6 yard sales. Things that weren’t selling online, or that were too small to bother listing online, would go into boxes to go into the next garage sales. We priced everything! Normally we used masking tape and just wrote a price on with a sharpie, but it was essential to do this. Of course, people would haggle (and we normally wholeheartedly accepted any offer,) but at least we wouldn’t have to decide prices on the fly. Everything was laid out simply and easy to read. Of course, we had a few boxes with things like books, DVD’s, Shoes etc. where we would just write $5 per item on the box, or make a small sign, but it was always clearly labelled.
Normally Chris would stand inside our yard, and I would be outside along the driveway. We both had change and would negotiate our own deals with whomever approached us. We never argued about what we should get for an item, it always came down to the fact that it needed to go. That was the end story.
When pricing items for sale, I would normally ask between 1/3 and 1/2 of the value that we would have paid. Of course, some items are just easier to ask $1 or $2, and it really isn’t worth getting too bent out of shape about losing a couple dollars here or there. Just remember the end story……it all needs to go. Getting $1 or $2 for something is still better then getting nothing by donating it to the thrift store.
We ALWAYS had a free pile at our garage sales. Items in the pile included bits and pieces of lumber, coat hangers, plant pot and gardening trays……anything that really was a dime a dozen. I mean, you can certainly bundle your coat hangers and ask $1 for them, but you have to pick and choose your battles. Be honest with yourself. If the items aren’t worth the effort put into selling them, just give them away. It’s much easier that way.
3. Group Garage Sales
We had a group of friends that organized a group garage sale in a big hall while we were doing this. Of course, we jumped at the chance to be a part of it. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be what we had hoped, and we didn’t move much stuff at this sale. But it also gave us a chance to chat with our community members to let them know what we were up to. The farther our story spread, the more people that would be interested in what we were up to. Consequently they would be keeping an eye out for our yard sale dates, or would be making sure to check into what we were selling on Facebook.
4. Thrift Stores
After items had been in 2 yard sales without selling, they were carted off to the thrift store. Once an item went into the box, we weren’t allowed to look in the box or think about what was in it. It just went. After our second yard sale, and our first trip to the thrift store, we were ecstatic when they took everything except a pair of ski boots. We left the place and high fived each other afterwards. I can’t tell you how good it felt to do that initial drop off. Our basement finally could breathe a sigh of relief as this really felt like we had cleared a lot and we could now use that area to start organizing the remaining items.
5. Give things to friends and community members
There were many items that we had that we did cherish, of course. The best option for these things, were to give them to some friends that we knew would appreciate them. Over the course of the process, we would decide that certain items were meant for certain people, and we would set them aside to give to them at some point. Both of us are artists, so this meant that many people got little pieces of our art here and there. I can’t tell you how good it feels to know that little bits of our art, and our most valuable possessions ,are scattered across many peoples houses.
Another great idea is to find out if there are families or organizations that are in need of certain items. Bedding, dishes, kitchen supplies and other basics are great to give directly to people who need it. At the end of our process, we had a ton of pens, highlighters, paper clips, binder clips and all manner of office supplies. I put a call out to my facebook community to suggest a local organization that could use these supplies. Many answers came back and we were able to choose the one that we felt could use these supplies the most. It was a great feeling to give this stuff directly to an organization that we knew provided so much to the community, and we could see how grateful they were to receive them.
By the way, as this stuff is usually the most overwhelming stuff to deal with (ie. junk drawers etc.) I simply created a small tote for each item and left them out in the living room. Anytime I came across a pen, a roll of tape, a paper clip, an elastic band etc., I would simply pop it into its appropriate container. At the end of it all, this stuff was all organized and so easy to deal with when we donated it the the community organization that we choose.
Also, if your community allows it, you can place FREE items on your curb in front of your house. Quite often these items would go quickly…….we even got rid of a small bar fridge that didn’t work anymore. Of course, we labelled it as so, but someone picked it up all the same. The old saying “One mans junk is another’s treasure”, couldn’t be more true. You just never know what people are going to want.
6. The Dump
One of the things we detested was having to take things to the dump. And in the end, we really didn’t have to take that much stuff there thankfully. After giving away free items in garage sales, and to anyone that we could think of, our dump runs were few and far between, but they were still necessary. It was heartbreaking taking items that we still knew had reasonable life spans, but we simply could not find ways to get rid of them any other way. In our town the dump charged dumping fees, and I’m sure they do in most places now. So the more we could get rid of another way, the better.
One idea that we had, and unfortunately our town didn’t have one, is a re-use facility. These places take all manner of building supplies, sometimes old tarps, and other items that people simply don’t want to take from you. Its best to research some of those places to see what they accept before carting stuff to the dump.
All in all, and at the end of it all, I felt like we had accomplished an impossible mission. We started with an overwhelming amount of stuff, but by tackling it all in bite sized pieces, we were able to get rid of all of our stuff in a short period of time, and we still brought in roughly $13 000 by doing it. This didn’t include our vehicles which netted us another $4500. Unfortunately our vehicles were left until the last minute, as we both needed them for work, so we ended up taking them to a dealer to get rid of them on our second last day in our town. So, we possibly could have gotten more for them if we had of had more time to try. But again it was all about moving the stuff, and they really were left to the last possible minute.
Through all of this, our end goal was to reduce our possessions to only those that we carry with us. Of course, it’s really hard to let go of some precious items, and we both have one tote stored at our parents houses, and I never did have the time to scan all of my old photos, so my albums are at my parents house as well. But the rest, it travels with us.
Today, when we want to leave a place to go to the next place, we know that we can pack up in an hour and be off. I can’t tell you how good that feels, and I can assure you that we DO NOT MISS OUR STUFF! Plus, I can assure you that you won’t either!
So what are you waiting for? Get the ball rolling by opening that drawer or cupboard that you haven’t looked in forever. Take a good look at what is in there and just get started. If it’s sellable, put it in a box to sell. If it’s an item to donate, put it in a box to donate. But the key is to get started!
I can assure you that once you do, the end will come quickly. Soon enough you too will be off travelling into the wild blue yonder, and you will look back at it all like it was some big dream. You will ask yourself, as we quite often do,
Did that really happen at all?
Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!
Xoxoxo Happy Travels!
Current Location: We are currently in Samara, Costa Rica. After having to leave Nicaragua unexpectedly due to civil unrest, we are here still figuring out where we want to go next.
Travelling Plans: We have nothing scheduled at this point other than a housesitting job in Livingston, Guatemala in late November.
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