What Liquidating My Apartment Taught Me About Stuff

To get ready for our stints as Urban Nomads, Vanessa and I have been selling as much stuff from our apartment as possible. When you’re getting ready to travel around the world without a home base to deposit all this stuff, you suddenly realize the few items you actually need versus those you once thought you might need.  Now that we’re well into the process, I can tell you we were both completely unaware of the astronomical amount of stuff we had hidden around our home. Seriously, after two day-long garage sales here in LA and several weeks of aggressive listing on Craigslist, I can’t actually tell anything is gone!

Image by Calevans

How can that be? I know for a fact we’ve sold plenty of items to happy buyers, enough in fact the proceeds will probably pay for most of our travel that summer. Add on top of that we donated literally boxes worth of smaller items we didn’t unload during our garage sales. Yet still since we started this process I haven’t yet missed a single thing I’ve parted with.

What does that tell me? That there were oodles of unused items laying around our apartment, just collecting dust and taking up space. It made me painfully aware of a tendency I think a lot of us have: the need to fill vacant space in our lives with things just for sake of having that space filled. I really didn’t think I was an offender in that category, but clearly I was wrong.

After going through this experience I think the “stuff” we have in our lives is no exception to the 80/20 rule. In fact for me I’d go so far as to say I use about 5% of my stuff more than 90% of my time (my laptop, iPhone, bed, desk, a few kitchen items, and projector). Another epiphany happened when I realized just how many trips, dinners and excursions were represented in the funds spent on stuff I’ve never used, or used once. I’ve now resolved not to replace all this “stuff” if and when I end up in an apartment long term again.

There is just no need for most of the things we buy. We need a certain number of items every day, everything else is just filler so we don’t have an empty drawer or closet. That was the person I used to be, now I intend to live the way I travel, to erase the difference in the amount of stuff I have when mobile and when stationary. I see this as a positive in two ways. One, I’ll save a ton of money by not buying a lot of useless garbage. Two, I’ll never be able to tell the difference between when I’m traveling and when I’m staying in one place for long.

You may think you need way more things when you live in one place than you can possibly take with you on a trip, but I challenge you to question that assumption. I have and found it to be almost totally false. Time will tell if I’m right in jettisoning the filler from my once full apartment, but I sure hope it is! If you have experiences with stuff, either having too much of it or wishing for more, leave a comment below.

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