Operation Clean Sweep

Spending Diet update! You can track how my own savings are progressing here.

So here’s the deal:

I have a LOT of stuff.

I have four bookcases full of books. I have a closet overflowing with clothes (although strangely, nothing to wear). I have drawers full of unused electronics, knick-knacks and trash. I am currently residing in my childhood bedroom and, as a result, I am dwelling amongst 25 years of accumulated junk.

A lot of it needs to go.

wall 'o' books
Creative Commons License photo credit: SarahInDisguise

Philosophically, it just feels wrong to go out into the world with all of this stuff weighing me down. If I truly believe that
everything I need to survive can fit into a 65L backpack, what is the point of owning so many things that I won’t use, or probably even think about for an entire year?

Lately I’ve been contemplating how attached people become to the things they own.  We live in a very consumer driven culture where we are constantly told that our possessions define us as people. We buy iPhones and leather jackets and even cereal because it embodies the lifestyle we want to lead. As a result the physical things we own start to become not just our goals but our responsabilities. There are costs to owning things, both big and small, which we never even stop to consider.  Without going TOO obnoxiously preachy on everyone I have to ask if getting so caught up in the possesing of stuff distracts us from what’s really important in life?

From a more practical standpoint, if I have all this stuff that I literally never use, doesn’t it just make sense to convert some of this into cash?

Cleaning The Attic
Creative Commons License photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik

There are a lot of great online resources for liquidating your things. It’s pretty much a right of passage in the online backpacking community to sell all your belongings in a short time. One of the most useful articles on this subject that I’ve found is this three part series by Never Ending Voyage (parts two and three).

In a nutshell, the internet is your best friend for turning stuff into money. There are niche websites for selling everything from your CD’s to your used underwear (I mean, if you’re into that). For everything else under the sun there is Craigslist. Some people have good results with eBay as well but that is more effort than I’m willing to put in.

Now, I’m not going to get all high and mighty here. I want to get rid of stuff, but I am NOT one of those people who can just let go of everything. For example: I am a book hoarder. I don’t care if I’ve already read them, or even if I never want to read them again, I still love them. I will do my best though. It won’t be easy, and I probably won’t be able to part with all (or even most) of them. But the effort is what’s important here.

So I’ll be getting rid of everything from paperbacks to, eventually, my car. I’ll be starting as soon as I get back from Oakland mid-month. I hope it will be a nice bump to my travel savings but even more so I hope it will be liberating.

What are your tips for cutting down on stuff?

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