Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Mentality of Selling Your Possessions

Maui, Hawaii: I actually packed too much.
How can you just get rid of all of your stuff like that?

I'm asked that question constantly. The answer is: because that's just what it is. Stuff. I find one of the bigger travel inhibitors (outside of children and relationships) is stuff. It's quite amazing actually. We as a species started out with nothing but the clothes (plants?) on our back and a few tools for obtaining food and a cave as a home. Then we started building huts and beds to keep ourselves minimally comfortable. We were mostly a nomadic species, hitching up our tents and yurts and heading wherever good weather or food was. With those motivations (and getting away from our crazy family) we spread across the planet.

Fast forward 2015...16. Most of the terrestrial Earth has been explored. We've settled. We can easily access our own food. Heck we can change our own weather in the form of heating and AC. We don't like someone? Forget crossing the mountain, we just put up fences. Problem solved. We became too comfortable. Stagnant. We pride ourselves in our permanence. We pride ourselves in our stuff. In fact, what have houses become but shelters not only for ourselves but our stuff. The more stuff you have, the bigger the house you need to accommodate it. Or sometimes vice versa. Do we really need two to three living spaces? Do we need to change our perfectly good furniture every year? According to LA Times, the average American has 300,000 items in their home. NPR wrote that the size of the American home tripled in the past 50 years.
No matter where I live, my room is still messy.

We all fall victim to what society tells us. We need more stuff. You have to update your electronics every year. Your car isn't cool anymore, you need this one instead. It's a never ending cycle.

Before you go longterm traveling, I find it best to adapt an ¡Olvidalo! spirit and free yourself of what can and will hold you back. You could definitely put your stuff in storage but then you are stuck with paying $50-$500 per month holding on to things you aren't even using. That $50-$500 could go towards an extra month or two of rent in a foreign country. It could drive you across the US. It could go toward four months of food. It can get you a month of partying; or even a entire cup of coffee at Starbucks ^_~. Before you leave for your travels take each individual item and think "what would I lose by keeping this? Or what would be gained from losing it?" I've sold most of my possessions three times. The only thing I've regretted selling were my CDs; and even then, I could just get them again.

When you've whittled down your stuff to what you need, don't think about it for a while. A week later look at the stuff again and follow the same process. "What would I lose by keeping this? Or what would be gained from losing it?" If you can, get your possessions down to one large box and leave it with your family or friends. While the ¡Olvidalo! spirit calls for adapting a new mentality and forgetting the unimportant things, you must seek remember the important things. I've lived a lot of different places, had a lot of roommates and met a lot of people. After a while it becomes a bit difficult to keep track of it all. I always recommend keeping pictures and tokens of the past or a memorable moment or trip and keeping them in the box. Even now when I look at them I am reminded about how fast life is and how easy it is to forget what's important or how some person made you feel.

Traveling -especially if you've never traveled outside of the vacation context- changes you. Without fail, you will come out of it a different person than you went in. Most times those things you've held on to don't seem so important any more. Sometimes they aren't important to anyone else, either. You could hold on to your electronics but by the time you get back they will be obsolete and unsellable. Those heels are way cute but when you've walked halfway through Germany in a pair of Toms carrying a backpack the size of your whole body, the urge to walk on stilts doesn't seem appealing anymore. That super amazing high pressure 15 setting, light up showerhead felt great but after having to bathe in a cold-ass river in October for a few days  you will be grateful for any warm water at any pressure.  Either way, that money would be better spent in your pocket than towards stuff in a storage unit, collecting dust.

For more facts about "stuff" check out 21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own.



  1. I agree wholeheartedly! One of my favourite things to do on a monthly basis is take go through our "stuff" and find things to donate. It's actually almost a game! I "win" if I can find something(s) to donate. Sometimes it's hard to find things, but if you want to win the game, eventually you'll realise some of the things you think are important, really aren't. I think all of the garage sales we did back in the day and then working at charity shops gave me this mentality? Anyway, it feels better to keep a few quality items that beautify or enrich your life in some way.

    “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” ― William Morris

  2. I do the same. I also find it a good idea to donate something of equal value every time you buy something. That way you keep the items in your closet (backpack) down to essentials. That strategy even prevents me from spending more money.

    My inner dialogue goes something like this:
    "This is a cute belt."
    "But then I'd have to donate a belt"
    "Buuut I reaaally like my belts sooo nevermind."

    Money saved! ha


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