freedom

Here’s how we downsized and earned a wad of cash

My family is leaving to hike El Camino. To get ready we downsized our possessions until they fit in a storage unit because we’re not sure when we’ll be back. Do you have extra stuff laying around? Some of it is holding you back. Wouldn’t it be great to be free of it?

Before I share our story, I put this in proper perspective: it’s important to know that we’re weird. My family took a backpacking trip a few years ago and we’ve been longing–aching really–to get back to the place we feel we belong. We’ve spent the better part of a year downsizing our “stuff”. Here’s how we got rid of a bunch of it in a 40-day challenge to declutter. Our challenge results are astounding!

So you’re probably wondering what we did, sold, or got rid of at bake sales and garage sales to create such amazing results. Here’s how we embarked upon our downsizing decluttering detox of “stuff”.  

Clothing and Accessories

We quickly went through all closets with a “pull and bag” approach. Speed is key here. Don’t overthink it. The criteria was simple. If we haven’t worn it in a year or more it goes in the bag.

Next, we went back through the closets and took a tiny bit more time. The criteria this time is do I really like this article? If it’s something hanging around because the kids, the spouse, parents or in-laws gave it to you and you keep it because you feel obligated to wear it when you see them it’s time to bag it. Don’t let that stuff hold you back. Someone will buy it at Goodwill.

We took a short time to go through kids clothing we thought would be passed down from one kid to another and re-evaluated usage. This kid hates jeans the other one loved. The jeans are gone, along with anything else that no longer makes sense.

Media

I can’t tell you how many email lists I unsubscribed from during this time. The criteria:

  • Is this information really valuable?
  • When did I last open this email?
  • Will it cost more time to unsubscribe than it will to keep hitting delete?

My inbox has information I consume and that alone is a valuable time-saving feature. What if I want information about that one topic? It’s on their blog and Google will help you find it within minutes when you need it.

We are a family that loves books. We cuddle together and read most nights. We have young kids. Reading is one of our favorite past times.

The criteria:

  • Will I ever read it again?
  • Do I really need it?
  • Will I be able to borrow it from the library?
  • Do I have a digital copy?

If it didn’t fit the criteria it got boxed for Goodwill or given to a church. We also made a substantial donation to our local library and received tax receipts in return for multiple donations. The most special books we want to keep, including kid’s favorite early readers, have been downsized into one box.

Decor

We live in a 997 square-foot apartment. We don’t have a lot of extra stuff. We still managed to sell three desks. They were IKEA-style furniture. A flat surface with legs on one end and placed atop a cabinet on the other side to assemble a desk. Both girls had one in the house we sold and another was my sewing desk. I sold the sewing machine earlier this year and the girls share a bedroom now. They were disassembled and in the back of a closet. We sold every one of them on the 5-miles app.  

We sold other things too. My husband’s Grateful Dead prints, guitars, and amplifiers are gone. We sold knife collections, plate collections, coats, and a keyboard. We sold our Canon cameras, lenses and tripods. Who carries a camera these days anyway? Don’t you use your phone? My phone isn’t the latest generation and it has an 18-megapixel camera. It’s better quality than the cameras we sold and it fits in my pocket. We sold sewing accessories and the couch.

Are you thinking whoa, we went too far? The couch didn’t fit great where it was placed. It was a 13-year-old leather La-Z-Boy piece. It was broken then repaired in a previous move and it is unlikely to survive another move. $400 for a whole couch is better than storing or moving a broken one. What do we sit on now? The love seat. We usually all cuddle together after dinner for story time and we brought out the lay bags for times we all want more personal space. Trust me, no one is suffering. The girls love their lay bags.

The bathroom and kitchen

We went through the bathroom cabinets and pantry in the same fashion and acknowledged that we need to stop buying a lot of things at Sam’s Club and warehouse stores. There are certain foods that we can’t eat due to food triggers and there was expired medicine. In rapid-fire-motion, we disposed of anything that cannot be used. It was fun too. It’s a lot of work to go through this process, so have some fun with it. We played basketball as we aimed items toward the garbage bag. Sometimes the bag moved or needed a rebound player. Have fun and everyone wins.

We brought useful items into plain sight. Extra bottles of body wash were inventoried and removed from the shopping list. Medicine, especially kids’ medicine got moved to the kitchen. When the kiddo spikes a fever while you’re out, you don’t stop at the corner convenience store if you know three bottles of acetaminophen are at home. You beat a path home as fast as possible, administer medicine, and order rest.

We made really creative recipes to consume other ingredients in the kitchen. Dry beans, quinoa, rice, and a can of pumpkin were used in delicious, unexpected ways. We sold small kitchen appliances like the pasta maker.

Sentimental items/kid stuff

If it still matters for the right reasons and isn’t holding us back it’s probably worth keeping. The most helpful item we purchased was a tiny scanner. It cost a couple hundred dollars and saved infinite amounts of space.

We eliminated better than 10 years of tax forms. They have been scanned and sent to the cloud. Paid off notes, mortgages, deeds, all scanned and shredded.

A thrilling rainy weekend was spent going through old photos and scrapbooks. We laughed and cried at events and weddings we’ve attended. Milestones for the girls were re-visited. Special occasions were re-lived. We haven’t looked at some of these pictures for many years. We and the girls experienced freedom as we took pictures of drawings and school projects. Once digital copies were uploaded to the cloud we let go of the physical items. We have them at our fingertips and can pull them up anytime, anywhere.

Life

We gave up stuff until it hurt, then we kept going. Things that hurt were fabric remnants I was holding from creations I made the girls. I kept a bit of fabric from every article, blanket, and book I ever made them. It was going to be made into a hodgepodge quilt. It’s a one of those days project that was about me. The important part is that the girls remember that Mom made one-of-a-kind creations with love. I am confident they will remember Christmas, Easter, birthday dresses and other special creations.

My dad recently gave me the leaf collection he and I made together in Sixth Grade. The time we spent together must be memorable to him too because the album is in mint condition 30-some-years later. I didn’t send it to Goodwill. I am offering it back to Dad for safekeeping.

The same with my college scrapbook. It is being offered to Mom along with a quilt I made. She will cuddle under it every night and feel like she is getting a hug from me.

I don’t want to overwhelm anyone else with our stuff, but I’m sure my parents can each find a place for one album.  

Results

If we tripped over it or didn’t use it we sold it. We are significantly lighter and our wallet is heavier. We earned more than $1700 and that’s after a road trip back home for Spring Break to visit family. We paid cash for any trip expenses from stuff we sold.

Is there irony in the 1500 word count to share a story about downsizing stuff? Probably so.  

If you had the opportunity to trade your stuff for money and freedom would you do it? Share your answer in the comments.

This was originally published as a guest post on Modern Simplicity.

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