Though the very thought of what I’ve done would have shocked my former self years ago, I now take pride in having sold all of our possessions not once, but twice now. During our combined 2.5 years of nomadic wanderings, it was liberating to know that nothing collected dust in a storage bin, or sat in cluttered piles in my in-laws basement. It was all gone, save for the possessions in our 28-litre backpacks.
But what if you don't want to get rid of absolutely everything? No problem! This post will help you effectively de-clutter and sell your stuff, even if only some of it. After all, every dollar earned is another dollar towards a flight, a bus ride, a hotel – one dollar closer to your dream adventure.
Twice now we have sold all of our possessions with the objective of getting the money back in the bank, ridding ourselves of crap, and inflating our travel savings. Everything described here is from our own experiences.
The first time we sold everything we owned in 2012 (and I truly mean every single last thing!), we made $6,500 CAD total in cash. We earned an additional $5,500.00 selling our car. That's a grand total of $12,000 from two people living in a two-bedroom apartment over three years. Yep, we had a lot of crap!
The second time we sold all our belongings (2014), we made approximately $1,000 after minimalist living in a one-bedroom apartment for a year in Australia. In that time, our possessions had all been either given to us for free or bought used. We pretty much broke even or made slightly more than what was spent acquiring those items. Cumulatively, that’s a grand total of $13,000.00 and let me tell you, for any savvy traveller, that money will take you far.
The cleansing process from our condo in Toronto.
Selling all of your life’s possessions is not easy. It just isn't. Humans like stuff, and we accumulate a lot of it. The reality is, some of that “stuff” can hold us back from the things we want to do, like travel or move cities. This guide will concisely lays out the steps to selling everything – or at least some things – to maximise profit and minimise the stuff that is holding you back from adventure.
“But here's the thing–no matter how many possessions you have, you never feel secure. As soon as you get one thing, there is always something else you “need”.”
― Karen Kingston
Step 1: Detach from your attachments
The utmost important step of selling items is not the actual selling, but your commitment to passing it on. And remember – that’s all it ever is. Not dumping, not getting rid of, not wasting – you’re passing something on. In an era where we senselessly burn through resources in the name of consumerism, passing things on is a good way to make money and help the environment.
I won't spend much time rambling on how to detach from your “things”. Just know that the more you sell, the more you’ll feel smothered by the remaining items that are unloved, unused, and just unnecessary.
Next, rest assured that you will most likely not miss that item. Hell, I can't remember 90% of the crap we sold! Besides, nearly everything is replaceable and/or can be re-bought cheaper second hand.
We've always thought it was senseless to place items in storage where they would only depreciate in value. My view is to purge everything you can part with. You may as well make the maximum profit while an item is more current. It's not going to get any newer.
If you want more in-depth and convincing help on ridding your belongings, I recommend reading Vagabonding: An uncommon guide to the art of long-term world travel, Life Nomadic, and Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up)
Step 2: Sell early, sell often
Having had two very different experiences selling our possessions, I strongly advocate for giving yourself as much time as possible to maximize profit. In our first sell-off in 2012, we began selling three months pre-departure.
I cannot emphasise enough the value of time. Without it, you will end up purging items by the bag load to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. Not that donating is bad (it's great!), but you are missing out on monetising on at least some of your possessions if you need the cash.
When you have time, you have patience. Sorting and pricing requires mental energy. Create designated evenings or weekends where it’s “stuff sorting” time – possibly accompanied by music and beers if you so wish to pump yourself up for your impending travels (usually effective til about beer #3).
Our selling routine went something like this:
- Determine if item is sell, donate, or keep*. (*If it’s keep, ask yourself why. Is it irreplaceable? Choose your keeps CAREFULLY! Re-visit your “keep” pile on several occasions. It gets easier to pass on as you revisit)
- If selling, take a few quality photos. Photograph the front, sides and back as appropriate. Take clear photos in bright light (natural sunlight is best). Good photos often determine not just if an item sells, but whether it looks deserving of the listed price.
- Don't be lazy with postings. Detailed description paint a clear idea of the item for buyers. It will not only improve your likelihood of selling, but getting your asking price. Be convincing and specific. State an item's true condition, features, colour, and any freebies or extras you're willing to include. Help the buyer envision its quality and potential use (e.g. “would make a great gift for the holidays” or “a lovely piece to brighten up any living space”). Finally, make sure to include a link to a mass album or a page of all your listings to say something like, “I'm selling many more items as I'm going away overseas, feel free to check them out here: ____”.
- Physically sort items and have clear piles for what’s what. It’s ideal to keep your “for sale” items together. If interested buyers are picking up from your house, you can then welcome them in to show your other items for sale. On average in our experience, half of buyers who see our other stuff will buy something else too, especially if a bundle price is offered.
Once you have a clear routine, you’ll get efficient at sorting and selling. For many, this is the most painful part of the process, but it is where you will likely make the biggest chunk of savings for your trip. It pays to sort and sell ahead!
Step 3: Research and price properly
Researching and properly pricing items is key to getting the most money back in your pocket. Are you starting to see a pattern here? Take time to research. Research grows those savings!
As you choose items to sell, try and confirm the regular retail price (RRP). If you’re always guessing, you could be really underselling a piece, and it takes hardly any time to do a quick Google search. Check Amazon or eBay to see going rates for your item in new condition.
Now: pricing. I usually sell somewhere around half price of an item, with a 10% buffer above or below. If you’re totally unsure, especially with larger items, search locally on Kijiji or eBay to see prices of similar items.
When in pricing doubt and when you have the time, start higher (time permitting) and see if you get any bites. I usually give big-ticket items 1-2 weeks before price-dropping. As you can see, this is why having the time on your hands is essential to maximise earnings!
Step 4: Sell everywhere
The less venues you’re using to sell your items, the less potential buyers are seeing them. If you have the patience and hours, post on all venues possible that are used in your local area, including:
- Craigslist (USA, Canada, Europe)
- VarageSale (Canada, USA, Australia)
- Facebook albums, Facebook marketplace (global)
- eBay (global)
- Etsy (global – more for craft goods)
- Decluttr (USA, U.K.)
After having tracked literally every transaction from our first sell-everything-you-own-experience in Toronto, most of our buyers were from Facebook friends, Kijiji, and Craigslist respectively.
A photo album on Facebook of the items we were selling made it easy for friends to see and call dibs on, which was hugely successful. Kijiji and Craiglist, though tiresome due to no-shows, were effective too. Personally, I never wasted my time delivering items to buyers. Only on a handful of times we met people in a public place that was convenient. Not to mention, with pick-ups you can invite people in and sway them to buy something else if you have more for sale.
In our second experience selling everything in Sydney, we had less success via Facebook and sold most items via Gumtree (Australia’s equivalent to Kijiji). Hence, you need to figure out what's common in your community.
Step 5: Stay strong!
The final important note of selling everything you own is to simply stay strong – mentally and emotionally. Don’t mourn for the pieces of plastic and metal that were once shelf ornaments, dish sets, or a TV stand. You no longer need them in your life. You’re off on an adventure, remember?!
My travel memories have – and always will have – significantly more value than any physical item I've owned. As I've wiggled my toes in the white Galapagos sands or burned my thighs climbing the slopes of Machu Picchu, I have never longed for my IKEA wall frames or designer shag rug. Rest assured, you WILL NOT miss your crap!
Inspiring De-Clutter Reads
Need that continued push as you sort through the seemingly insurmountable? Here are some of the most practical ones we recommend:
- Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up)
- Vagabonding: An uncommon guide to the art of long-term world travel
- Life Nomadic
The Thrifty Gist
- Sort & sell everything you don't need. Give yourself plenty of time & be patient!
- Put a good effort into taking bright, quality photos & provide detailed descriptions in your postings. Don't be lazy!
- Post on every platform used in your community – Facebook, Kijiji, Gumtree, Craigslist, Decluttr, VarageSale being common ones
Materialism is seemingly impossible to avoid in our modern world, but freeing yourself of it can be your primary financial means to travel. Keep at it, and chase your dreams!