Ten Reasons Why Your Family Shouldn’t Take a Year Off: Reason #3 “What will you do with all your stuff?”

Pulling up your family’s suburban roots and heading off for some developing country for a year is foolish. There are lots of reasons not to do it. For example: What will you do with all your stuff?

As we started planning to rent out our house, we looked at all the “stuff” we had accumulated for the previous 10 years and wondered where it would go. We got some storage quotes for our things that ranged anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. Fortunately, we found tenants who wanted our house furnished, so the biggest hurdle – where to put beds, couches, tables, desks, etc. – was cleared. It also helped that we decided to sell our second car, a 14-year old sedan, which further reduced our storage needs. The remaining stuff would be dealt with in four steps: 1) Toss it, 2) Sell it, 3) Donate it, 4) Store it.

Step one was pretty easy. Like most homeowners there were lots of things left over from house projects, such as old paint cans, old 2”x 4” pieces, extra pieces of chicken wire, old cinder blocks, etc. that had outlived their usefulness. After about four or five trips to the dump with the mini-van, all that was gone.

Step two was by far the most satisfying phase: selling it on Craig’s List. Craigs’s List is a beautiful thing because it accomplishes three worthwhile and simultaneous objectives: 1) you liberate yourself from your unwanted material goods, while 2) transferring it to someone who really wants it, while 3) keeping it out of a landfill. We sold dozens of items on Craig’s List, most of which fell into two categories: Kid’s furniture and toys that were either outgrown or no longer wanted and merchandise from sample sales of the various retail companies that I’ve worked for. If an item did not sell, we slashed the price; in some cases we offered an item for free, just to keep it out of the dump. For a couple months people were coming by the house at all hours to buy things. With multiple appointments on the same day, we sometimes became confused. “Are you here for the PlayStation2 console or the Pottery Barn rug?” “Was it the snowboard or the Williams-Sonoma wine rack?” “The Trek kid’s bike or the rattan chairs?” As these good passed from our hands to someone else’s, I reflected on the excitement of acquiring many of them. I remember buying the distressed pine wine rack at a Williams-Sonoma sample sale, snagging it just before another man could get to it. I remember the elation of beating him to it and getting it at a substantial discount over 12 years ago. It has done nothing but collect dust in our garage since that time.

Step three was simply a matter of taking everything that languished on Craig’s List and donating it to the local Goodwill store. After this was done, our garage was starting to look downright empty. Now it was time for step four: store it. Between our storage shed, the attic above our garage and the loft space above my mother’s garage we had about 1,500 square feet of storage to use. Over the course of the 2 months leading up to our departure, we gradually filled up every square inch of that space. We also stored our mini-van at my mother’s house.

With everything put away we felt really good about getting rid of almost half of the things in our house and even better about getting a lot of it to someone else who wanted it.

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