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Selling Your Stuff: How to Get Rid of it All and Have More Travel Money

Thinking of selling everything you own to be free and travel the world? Or maybe you just want to lighten the load and live with less?

Well, I gave it a serious go, but I have to admit to you, right off the bat, that I suck at minimalism. I honestly shouldn’t be giving anyone advice with this so, I’m just going to share with you what I did manage to do and and how I did it. What I can say is that I got rid of about 93.5% of my belongings.  When I first realized this, I was feeling like a failure. Especially, since I’ve been talking so much about my new ‘nomadic minimalist life’ and then, Lucky, the owner of a fabulous moving company who literally saved me (story to come later) said, “This is just step one for you, with more to come. You’ve done so well, think about how much you started with.” And with that, I felt much better. So, I’ll say, don’t be hard on yourself when going through this process. It’s already difficult enough without berating yourself at every turn.

Photo courtesy of Freddie Marriage

Selling Books:

It may seem weird to you that this is the first category of belongings that I’m discussing with you, but I LOVE my books. Because I love them so, I had an embarrassing amount. This was my biggest challenge and I felt considerable anxiety about parting with them. There were definitely tears shed.

The best thing to do is utilize your closest locally owned book store, if they have a buyback program, for several reasons. One being that we all need to do everything in our power to support the few local stores we have left because they are such a huge community resource and they are dying at a rapid pace. Another is just for the sheer pleasure and convenience.

I was so fortunate to have a fabulous local book store in Kailua called, Bookends, that I have frequented for the past six years. They have a book buyback program on Wednesday mornings and the staff is so much fun that I looked forward to my weekly visits. I took all of my books to them first and then looked for other ways to sell the ones they passed on. I only took a few boxes in each week over a two-month period as their buy back budget is limited. However, in the end I sold back 296 books for a total of $450. Not too shabby.

Next, use online buyback companies. I had an extensive personal library, academic library, and a classroom library to dissolve and over the years I had invested thousands of dollars. The thought of not getting some value back was mortifying. This process took me about a week to complete and was a lot of work, but in the end, I recovered another $512. This is how I sold most of the books that my local book store passed on:

  1. First, download the BookScouter app on your phone or IPad. This app was a fantastic resource that allows you to scan the barcode or enter the ISBN number on your book and search all the online buyback options quickly to find the highest offer. Once it finds the highest offer, you can quickly add it to your list and move on to scanning the next book.
  2. As you scan your books, make stacks for each of the companies with an itemized list of the titles and the buyback prices on top of each stack. I used color coded post-its, because it made the stacks all over my living room look a little more cheery, and that’s just how I roll. This will make packing your boxes up for shipment much easier!
  3. Also, have a box ready for the books that get no buyback offer. These can be put out at your garage sale or donated to your nearest local school or public library. If you donate, make sure you get a receipt for your taxes!
  4. After you’ve sorted and scanned all your books with BookScouter, and made your stacks and itemized pack sheets, you need to go into each individual buyback company and finalize your buyback request. This is the part of the process where you will create your official pack lists and print your free shipping labels.
  5. Now you are ready to pack your boxes! It’s a good idea to collect boxes of all sizes ahead of time and buy some really good packing tape. Since it will be difficult and time consuming to find boxes that fit perfectly, it’s easier to cut boxes down and create your own custom size for each stack. These will fit well and not allow movement or damage during shipment. Don’t forget to put your pack list inside and secure your free shipping label on the outside. Once completed, you are ready to take all your boxes to the post office or UPS to drop them off! Whew!
  6. The companies pay in various ways. Some with old-fashioned checks sent through snail mail, several through PayPal, and Amazon offers credit or cash. A couple of the companies offered a much higher amount of credit than cash buy back value, but if you’re trying to reduce or eliminate, credit is counterproductive. In the end, I sold back to six companies; Amazon.com, Powell’s Books, Textbooks.com, Cash4Books.net, Textbookrush.com and Sellbackyourbook.com

Selling Clothing & Shoes:

Turn your house or garage into a fine upscale boutique! Let’s face it, at garage sales, the clothing items are usually not the top billing items. I had a lot of nice high-end clothing and shoes…like many others, one could say that I had a little bit of a shoe addiction, only most of mine were sandals or hiking shoes. I really wanted to get as much money back as I could, so I decided to set my house up like a boutique and then advertise the sale on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. I hung clothes lines throughout the house and displayed things in each room as nicely as possible. I played music, diffused the air with essential oils and allowed women to try things on in my bathroom. It was really quite lovely and relaxed. As a bonus, I met some amazing people! I sold tops, skirts and shorts for $1 each and dresses, pants, and sandals for $2 each. Some of the shoes and winter ski gear were $5 each, but that was the highest price on items. In the end, I sold loads, made $786 and several new friends, and still donated 6 large bags to charity.

If this just doesn’t sound appealing to you, you can do a quick search for consignment shops in your area (Maybe there’s something locally owned, or if not, look for a Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange nearby.) or you can use thredUP.com to sell any designer clothing. The amount that I had to deal with was a bit overwhelming, and the process works much like the book buy backs, only they send you a postage paid plastic bag to mail your clothing to them. Not ideal for moving hundreds of clothing items quickly, but if you have a few you would like to clear out, give them a try and please let me know how it goes!

Selling Your Furniture:

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace make selling your larger items fairly easy, you just have to be mentally prepared for some super strange interactions. No matter what price you list something at, people will ask you to take less, so it’s worth stating that your price is firm, or marking things up $25 more than you really want. This way you can let savvy buyers feel like they got a steal of a deal when you agree to lower the price. This worked well with my kayaks, small appliances, and other larger items. Just keep in mind that common sense doesn’t apply in today’s world. Therefore, you must make sure you state completely unnecessary things VERY clearly. For instance; No Deliveries-Pick Up Only and Cash or Certified Cashier’s Check only. And honestly, it still won’t work, because many people don’t even bother to read what you’ve written. Also, make sure your photographs don’t have any other items that are not for sale or you’ll spend hours explaining absurd things to people. For instance, the car sitting in the distant background, behind the advertised shelf unit, which they can only see one headlight of in the lower right corner of the photograph is not actually for sale. (True story!) Just approach it with a very tolerant mindset and all should be well.  I did try OfferUp as well, but never sold a single item through them, just had a few odd interactions via messaging.

I had several antique and custom pieces that I wanted to get decent prices for, so I decided to hold an auction. Over a four-week period, I let people come to view the pieces and make an offer in person. At the end of the four weeks, the highest offer would get the piece. It seemed like a great plan, however, it didn’t work that way in the end. A couple of people who came to view and place bids were really rude, so even though they had the highest bids, I sold the pieces for less money to the nicer people. One woman bid over $50 higher on my small hand painted Buddha entry table, which had already skyrocketed to a price I couldn’t believe, and then, on her way out the door, she told me she planned to paint over the Buddha. Not a freaking chance sister! Needless to say, she didn’t get the table.

What I learned in all of this was that the money didn’t really matter. It had taken me over 30 years to find and be able to afford the perfect pieces, and I loved my eclectic blend of furniture.  Most of all, I wanted them to go to people who would love them too, no matter the price.

Selling All the Odds & Ends:

I know it’s hard work and…well, they can be awful, but old-fashioned yard sales are really the best way to do this. I had open garage sales for four weekends and tried to set it up well and make the most of it. I found that having food ready ahead of time, and making the environment as nice as possible with music and diffused oils really helped. I also tried to think of it as getting to meet new people and have some good conversations. Beyond all that, yes, it makes for very long days and does suck! But, with 8 full days of sales, I averaged $585 each day, on things I would have just donated otherwise. That’s $4,680 more to put in the adventure coffer! Not too shabby!

Now, after all of this, what to do with the stuff that’s still left? This is something that I really struggled with. I wanted these things to go to families who needed them, without having to pay for them or go through any type of “screening” process. It seems that many of the most common charity organizations discriminate against people based upon various things in the name of screening. Families can be eliminated for ridiculous things such as homelessness, drug use, sexual identity or orientation, religion or lack thereof, and a whole host of other ludicrous things that should have no bearing upon being in need or deserving of help. These organizations are essentially saying, “We want to do good things to help the community members, but only the ones who fit in our tiny little box of acceptance.” Or even worse, “We will help you and forgive you for all former transgressions, but only if you agree to practice our religion.” Please don’t support these charities just for the sake of ease. I’ll admit that I have been guilty of this in the past, before I was aware of their practices…but no more!

So, after the garage sales, I decided to donate my leftover books, dvd’s and cd’s to my neighborhood public library who passes anything they don’t need on to the Friends of the Library Program. Everything else was donated to a newly formed organization at the high school where I taught called the Kaimuki Youth Organization, which employs and supports students with exceptional needs. They collect items to organize, display and then hold sales periodically to generate funds and practice various employment skills. If you are located on Oahu in Hawaii, please consider making your donations to them. If you have a lot, they can even arrange to pick your items up! The only organization I found on Oahu which gives to families freely, is Helping Hands Hawaii, but they were too busy to schedule a pickup for me in time.

Remember, the more time you have to sell your things, the more money you will recoup from them and the more pleasant the experience will be. Getting down to the last minute and having to ditch your stuff for nothing is no fun. All in all, I did fairly well, but really could’ve used an extra two weeks. Honestly though, I find that applies to most things I do in life. There just never seems to be enough time, I almost always need two more weeks.

If you have friends who are willing to lend a hand, for goodness sake, LET THEM! This will make all the difference in the world and you may even find yourself having fun at times! Whether you are selling things to be free and travel, or you’re just tired of being bogged down by it all and wanting a lighter life, this is hard! If you’re really struggling, try taking a break and watching Minimalism. This movie really spoke to me and was completely aligned with the changes I wanted to make in my life. I watched it on repeat until I sold my television.  Most importantly, be very kind to yourself through the process. It’s human nature to become attached to things, but it is also incredibly freeing and cleansing to let them go.

Some other sites to help you rehome your belongings:

Decluttr.com

SecondSpin.com

Fye.com

Do you know any other good methods to sell personal belongings or helpful sites that I missed? If so, please add them in the comments!

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Gary
    June 26, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Great job Bethany!
    Great ideas for making money! Must have been lots of work. Glad you got through it all, and came out with some cash too!

    • Reply
      Bethany Eells Porter
      July 7, 2017 at 8:29 am

      Hi Gary! Thank you for the comment!
      It was loads of work, but thankfully I had quite a bit of time and help. In the end, it was completely worth the effort!

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