A little over a year ago I found myself yearning for a change. I made good money but was deep in debt, and more than anything….I had a lot of “stuff”. I also had $120,000 in debt.
Some how, over a long period of time, I had been conditioned to actually believe that material possessions would make me happy. I had a ton of stuff: nice cars, lots of clothes, tons of musical equipment, the latest technology, you name it. After reading some blogs and a great book called “Unclutter Your Life“, I decided it was time to purge my stuff and use the proceeds to begin my debt snowball.
I know this sounds like a huge project, and it is, but now that I have gone through it I can save you a lot of time if you choose to embark on the mission. Remember, you can go at your own pace.
Here are the steps:
Step 1: Identify Your “Stuff”
You can either get all of your stuff together at once, pick only 1 room (or space) at a time, or experiment with 1 item to see if my plan works! The way I chose my stuff was pretty extreme, I will admit: If I had not touched the item in 3 months, it went bye-bye. Everyone’s criteria will be different, but when I do stuff I go hardcore. With my 3 month rule in place, I had a room full of stuff ready to purge in no time!
Step 2: Categorize
Basically, my stuff was categorized in 3 ways: Stuff to Donate, Stuff to Throw Away, and Stuff to Sell.
The throw-away part is simple (if you are not a hoarder, which is subject for another post altogether). I swear, I cleared up 200 square feet (at least!) in my home by simply throwing stuff away. If you don’t like throwing stuff away, try Freecycle, an incredible website where you can give (and get) stuff for free.
The donate pile was extremely large and freed up my entire garage. I donated hundreds of items to organizations such as Vietnam Vets, Salvation Army, our local Library, and our schools. It felt really good to give, and the tax deduction was pretty sweet, too!
That left me the Stuff to Sell batch. I could easily have sold stuff I donated (and stuff I threw out, as well!), but I chose these items wisely. There were about 60 items that included old phones, technology, music items I barely used (tuners, metronomes, music, etc.), and random stuff like vases, pictures, and small trinkets. Again, there are very few material items that I felt attached with. Any item in doubt you can keep for awhile in a box somewhere; if you don’t open the box in 6 months…sell the stuff.
Step 3: Purge!
The Give Away and Throw Out was easy. The Sell took some time. This is how I did it (note: you can jump to my beginner’s guide to selling stuff on eBay as well):
You MUST get the free eBay App for your phone! Set up an eBay account if you do not have one, and also set up a free PayPal account. The app for eBay is so incredible; you take a picture of each item and within 2 minutes it is up on eBay for auction!
I sold only 1 item per day, which really takes away a lot of the stress of this whole ordeal. I set each auction to last 5-7 days and sold one item per day. That way, when each auction ended I walked it right to the UPS store and mailed it. That way, you are mailing 1 item per day (during your lunch, or whenever), for the next 2 months or so (for 60 items). You will find a good groove for the process, I promise!
60 days later, I took $15,000 from my PayPal account and paid off a huge chunk of my debt. Talk about building some momentum…this was huge! I sold $15k worth of crap that was just sitting around! I don’t miss any of those items. I needed a bump like that to get myself going, because I looked at that huge mountain of debt I had and honestly did not know where to start.
PS: I freed up approximately 400 square feet of space in my home. Beware: the urge to move to a smaller place will follow the purge. Just saying.
Finally, I got rid of my cars with payments and bought “beaters”. I was leasing one car ($300/month) and financing another ($450/month). I sold one privately and returned the other one to the dealer and bought 2 cars; a Honda Odyssey for $5k (yes, that’s right) and a cheap Accord.
Goodbye $45,000 in automobile debt!
In 2 months, I eliminated over $60,000 of debt and created space in my home and my brain. I felt incredible, and this was just the beginning!
So, are you ready to get rid of stuff? How important are material items in your life? How did you purge your items if you have done this?