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How to prepare yourself to become location independent, and travel long term.

Selling your stuff

Before our first ‘round the world’ trip in 2009 we made two huge errors prior to departing.

  1. We massively underestimated how much stuff we actually had.
  2. We massively underestimated just how long it would take us to move it all.

Although we were convinced that we didn’t have that much stuff, as we began the process of emptying our flat, it quickly became apparent that not only did we have about three times as much stuff as we thought we had, it took us twice as long as we thought it would to empty our small flat and clean it. Because we knew we would return from the trip in 12 months’ time, we planned to store most things at my parents’ place, although we did sell a number of larger items (sofa, desk etc) to friends. As my parents place is relatively small, they ended up living for 12 months surrounded by guitar amps, bin bags of clothes and cardboard boxes, for which we’re eternally grateful and very sorry about.

Being too casual about the vastness of the task and not giving ourselves enough time became extremely stressful prior to that trip, and as the days to departure loomed ever closer, we found ourselves totally exhausted and stressed rather than excited and relaxed.

If like us, you are going to be leaving a house or a flat before you travel, not only will you have to go through all of your stuff, categorise what you want to do with every single item, organise a van to move the stuff, cancel all of your bills, change your address on everything you have, sign up for new online accounts and order new credit cards (which are cheaper to use abroad), get vaccinations, buy insurance, move your stuff, organise your trip (a huge task in itself), organise what you are going to take on the trip, clean your home, sell your stuff, have at least three leaving parties (one for family, one for work, and one for friends – which will inevitably mean three hangovers!) plus you’re probably going to be actually working up until the day of departure too as you’re going to need as much money as possible for your trip, not to mention the emotional stress you will be going through. You may find it a pretty tough time.

Although the pre-departure period can be very stressful, and emotional, it will all be made worthwhile the moment you arrive at your first destination, or lie on a remote beach sipping from a coconut looking out across the ocean. These moments of freedom are priceless.

So, if you are thinking of traveling long term or becoming location independent, here’s our advice to getting rid of your stuff.

  1. Start early! The earlier the better. Ideally six months before you leave.
  2. Plan.
  3. Do not underestimate how much stuff you actually have. You will probably need to make a decision on every single thing you own, from your car to your cd collection down to those random bits of paper that you’ve been carrying with you everywhere for the last 10 years. It takes time!
  4. Be ruthless! If you really want to break away from the norm and travel long term, you need to remove as many ‘things’ from your old life as possible. You have to be ruthless! Making a clean break not only makes you feel good, it is a symbolic gesture that can strengthen your resolve as you prepare for a new way of living.
  5. Apply early. Make any applications for new bank / credit cards / accounts at least two months in advance.
  6. Remove all debts. Okay, so this one is more tricky. If you’re only going to be travelling for a year or two, you may need to  take out a loan to make the trip happen, we did this first time around. But if you’re wanting to make a clean break and give yourself a real chance to survive the location independent lifestyle, you must remove all of those monthly direct debits and debts before you leave. Having that burden will be super stressful and expensive when you’re not earning your normal monthly wage.
Here’s how we did it much more successfully the second time around.

Start early

We began to organise our stuff on the 3rd January 2012 ready for our departure on the 24th April giving us about four months. Not ideal, but we’d only been back in the UK for 18 months after our first trip so we had a lot of things already in place, and even though the four months was enough, it was still tight and if you’ve never done this before, you may have a lot more stuff than we had which is why we’d recommend six months.

Plan and categorise

We started off by trying to categorise what things we would need for the next few months and what things we could do without right away. The stuff you don’t need right away, start selling now! The stuff you still need but want to sell later, plan how you’re going to sell it and when.

Make lists

I love making lists anyway, it’s one of the most exciting things about travelling for me – planning and listing where we’ll go and what we’ll do and what we’ll need but prior to leaving. So it’s a good idea to make a few pre-departure lists and stick them to a door that you pass regularly. That way you can add to it or scrub off anything as you walk past. A ‘to do list’ a ‘selling now list’ and a ‘selling later list’ we found very useful.

How to sell and get rid of your stuff.

1, Ebay

Becoming a seller is simple. We’d recommend selling smaller things on ebay, but people will pretty much buy anything. We made around £500 selling everything from knitting needles to microphones. Tip: Get some white card and lay it out on the floor or a table, preferably by a well lit window for natural light and spend one entire day photographing everything you plan to sell and save the files to your computer. Then you can just add the items and sell as you go without having to set the camera up again. The better and more professional your pictures look, the better chance of making a good sale.

2, Gumtree

A great way to sell larger items which you can sell locally. Tip: Make sure your pictures are good, and upload them on a Friday night, as we found that most of our sales or enquiries happened on a Saturday morning. Start with a higher price than you want and be prepared to lower your price as the weeks pass by. Re-submit the advert manually every week to keep it high in the listings, for free.

3, Car boot sales

Perfect for those items that nobody seems to want to buy and all the other odds and ends you may still have. We made £180.00 from selling what felt like the last dregs of our belongings. Great for selling vinyl, ladies clothes, bags and shoes too.

4, Charity shops

They take more than just clothes these days. Drop in and ask a few shops what they accept before taking your stuff to them.

5, Selling to friends

A great way to part with your things easily. We made a list of about 30 items from tents to coffee makers and lamps to barbeques and made a pdf file with a short description, a price and a picture and sent it to our friends on our facebook and email address lists. We sold the lot. What’s even better is that you can add a ‘sale date’ and your friends will probably be okay will that. For example we advertised our flatscreen tv this way two months before departure, but our ‘sale date’ was two days before we left. That way everyone was happy!

6, Selling to businesses

If you have anything of a special nature, try selling to businesses. I had a load of Graphic Design books which I sold to my old employer and the local University. I got a great price too.

7, musicmagpie.co.uk

Will take most of your cds and dvds. Scan them (easily using the iphone app), or manually upload the list, get a price, and drop it off at the post office or get it collected from your door. The cheque arrives two to three weeks later.

8, Zapper.co.uk

As with musicmagpie but this time for books. They won’t take all of them, but you’ll be surprised!

9, Amazon

A great idea for any special edition books, cds or dvds. It’s easier than you think to become a seller.

10, Posters in windows

The old fashioned way is still a good way. Great for selling musical instruments.

Non sellable items

As well as your sellable items, you’re also going to have non-sellable items. These will include precious items and all of those pieces of paperwork that you’ve been carrying around for the last 10 years. Be ruthless and start early. Take one room at a time, one drawer or cupboard at a time and make piles of ‘shred’ ‘scan then shred’ or ‘keep’. We managed to get down to about one folder of paperwork each (it feels good).

I also threw out all of my old sketchbooks from years back, which although held great memories I knew I’d never look at them again anyway. And so with heavy heart, they went too.

In total, we made around £2,500 from all of our sales and the amount of stuff we’ve kept is small enough to fit into the boot of a car and is light enough to be stored in my parents’ loft. This takes away a lot of pressure and guilt, knowing that we aren’t burdening anyone with our stuff, nor do we have anything that requires any attention. It can be stored out of sight and out of mind until we want it back. Having the freedom of having no (or minimal) possessions and travelling with everything we need means we are able to go anywhere we want, whenever we want and for as long as we want. It feels good.

 

Comments

Chris
Reply

My wife and I just did the same thing back in October and couldn’t get our heads around how much stuff we had acquired since moving into our house only 3 years earlier. It truly feels good once it is all taken care of and you head out to wherever with bags on your backs and the one you love by your side.
Cheers and safe travels

Mike
Reply

Thanks guys. It is amazing isn’t it how much ‘stuff’ we acquire. We love having the freedom of knowing that all our possessions fit into our backpacks and we can go where we choose. Safe travels too.

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