Extreme Downsizing: From a Large House to Two Carry-ons
As we got ready to launch our nomad life, we had to get rid of everything. And I mean everything! Extreme downsizing! From our 2800 square foot house packed to the gills with a lifetime of stuff to our Tesla Model 3, we had to get rid of it all. How’d we do it without going crazy, negotiating a million tiny deals, and making a gazillion trips to Goodwill? How much did we make and how much did we have to spend? We break it all down.
Start with the End in Mind for your Nomad Life
In order to create a time line to dispose of our stuff, we started with the end goal in mind. We knew we had two things to remember:
- We didn’t want a storage unit (but we did want a safe deposit box.)
- We’d leave the house with two carry ons and two day packs
Knowing the end goal, we worked backward from our departure date to determine when and how we’d get rid of everything. “Everything” meant the house and *all the things in the house*, including the garage.
Have a “Take Whatever You Want Day” for Family
Next, we called all our family members. After their shock resided over our plans to sell and travel, they settled into the idea and arrived at our house. We told our adult children to be happy! Rather than us writing wills and distributing our heirlooms to them after our deaths, we could share and discuss while we were alive! We each gave various heirlooms to various children, then we asked them to “go shopping” in the house. Hesitant at first, they soon got the hang of it, opening drawers and closets and loading up their cars. Glorious! And bonus, a family member took our beloved dog.
Out went the “good art”, sewing machines, skis, pictures, home goods, towels, linens, games, clothing, hiking boots, collectibles, glassware, notes, love letters and anything else they wanted. It was hard not to “force” things on them–no one wanted the china–but in the end, we were thrilled so many of our favorite things were staying “in the family.”
When Is “Big Trash” Pick Up?
After the kids came through, we set our departure date. From there, we worked backward to looking at our city’s garbage pickup schedule to determine when our “big trash pick up” date was. This is the date that the city allows us to put out oversized items and extra garbage that exceeds the normal weekly allotment. We knew that after we had executed our various “git rid of strategies”, we’d most likely have a few bulk items. If we could schedule so that the city picked up these items for free it was a win-win.
Next, Schedule an Estate Sale Prior to your Nomad Launch
We never doubted that hiring an estate sale company to run an estate sale would be the right solution for us. After interviewing a few estate sale planning companies, we found one where we negotiated a 60/40 split (we got 60%) with a $350 fee. They would advertise, promote, stage, price, run, collect, and distribute all the items of the sale. The sale would run for three days. At the end, they’d itemize by category all that sold and cut us a check. Perfect.
Knowing that we’d have about 75-90% of the house items sold, we had to make plans for the remaining 10-25% The estate company said they could take care of it, charging us a per item fee to remove the remainders. Instead, we took matters into our own hands.
Extreme Downsizing: Have a Free For All Sale
We scheduled the estate sale for a Thursday-Saturday. Monday was our Big Trash pick up day. Thus, on Sunday, we had a “Free for All” Sale. We put a post out on Facebook Marketplace stating that everything in the house was free. Here is what the ad said:
Everything is FREE.
Preference in first hour to teachers, non profits
and those collecting for homelessness.
Must take immediately.
Women’s clothes sizes 4-12
Men’s clothing size M-L, 34
Winter jackets, gloves, hats. Adult sizes
Small kitchen appliances
Pots and pans
At 11:30, the line started. It was 30 deep by the time 12:00 rolled out. In the rain! We let 5 people in at a time, giving them 10 minutes to scour the house. Within 45 minutes, we had maybe 5% left of all of our stuff. By 3:45, everything was gone. Every piece of furniture, clothing, linen…everything. Seriously, the only thing left was trash. We bagged up six bags of trash, put them on the street for “Big Trash” pick up, and cancelled the UHaul we thought we’d need to take the remainders to the dump or Goodwill.
By the time the city came by the next morning to get our weekly trash, only one bag remained. One.
Thus, we got rid over everything in our house without a single trip to the dump, a thrift store nor a church. And those in need either came to get what they needed or representatives for them came and got those things.
We walked away with $1519 in our pocket from the sale of goods.
Selling the House for Free without Commissions
Originally, we had decided we would sell the house For Sale By Owner as an empty house. The Free For All would be on a Sunday, we would promote the house for a few weeks prior, and we’d have an open house of scheduled appointments on the Saturday following the Free For All. We wanted to sell it empty because our stuff was worn out, and we knew the house wouldn’t show well with outdated home goods. Empty would be easier and better.
Although your experience when you read this article may be different, in Denver, the housing market was hot hot hot. We knew that the minute we listed the house it would sell, and we’d probably get an offer over the listed price. So we had to time the sale with precision in relation to our departure.
Guerilla Marketing: Create Buzz to Sell a House by Owner
Prior the estate sale, I started a “marketing plan” on Facebook to sell the house. My neighborhood is highly sought after and sales often happen through word of mouth. Since we were selling For Sale By Owner (FSBO), not only did we not want to have to pay a commission to an agent to represent us as sellers, we also didn’t want to pay a commission to a buyer’s agent either. We wanted buyers to come to us directly.
In order to create buzz around the sale of our house, we started posting in the various Facebook pages for our neighborhood. We posted “indirect” posts about the sale of our house. For example, in the neighborhood moms page, we posted, “We’ll be selling our house in about a month. Can anyone recommend a place to board our dog during our open houses.” In the general neighborhood page, we posted, “We need a painter to paint the exterior of our house before we sell next month.”
In each post, we hinted at the sale and the timeline, but we didn’t directly state the house was for sale. Every time we posted, we’d get direct messages from people asking about the sale. We took their names, told them it’d go for sale in a month, and that we would reach out. Agents contacted us too. They even stated they had buyers ready. Our plan was to put everyone off until a week before our projected open house date so we funnel the demand and manage all the potential buyers into one day.
Right before the estate sale, when the house was all a plunder and a giant mess of disorganization, an agent reached out. She had a “hot buyer” who was prequalified and preapproved, and she begged us to see the house. We finally relented, advising her the house was a mess, blah blah blah. She promised she just wanted to look at the floor plan and house’s condition.
We left the key in our lock box that was left over from our Airbnb Superhosting days, and went out to dinner. The agent came and video’d the house for her long-distance buyers. A few discussions later, we had an offer that was $90k over what we originally were going to list the house for, the buyer was paying closing costs and the agent’s commission, and all we had spent to market the house was $50 for some flyers we had planned to put out at the estate sale.
Selling the Car prior to Nomad Life
As of the writing of the post, we haven’t sold the car yet. But we’ve sold many in the past, and our most recent transaction was with Carvana. For the sale of the Tesla, we will use Carvana again. It will be a simple and seamless process. From there, we’ll transit to Newark Airport and fly to Ireland to start our nomad life. With two carry ons. Two backpacks. And $91,519 extra in our pocket. Minus $50 for flyers we didn’t end up using.
A Note about Marketplace Buyers
Many of our friends suggested we use Facebook Marketplace to sell our stuff, yet at the same time they complained about all the no shows, the haggling, and the missed pickup times. Even though we might make more money on Marketplace (or similar) managing the sale of our own stuff, we simply did not want the hassle. After the estate sale and the Free For All, we had kept a twin bed for our daughter to sleep. Eventually, we did list this on Marketplace, and the experience was exactly as my friends had enumerated. We weren’t out to make money on the bed–we just wanted to get rid of it–so we listed the bed for $10. We also stated we would refund the $10 upon pickup. This ensured we wouldn’t have no shows. After several people refused to pay beforehand, one lady reached out. She “had a friend with Venmo.” Once we received the Venmo $10, we gave her the address, set the bed out, included all the linens and pillows, and tucked a $10 bill inside the pillow. She was thrilled. We were thrilled. And we didn’t end up with a series of no-shows.
It’s Not Easy to Get Rid of Your Stuff
Honestly, it’s not easy to get rid of all your stuff. Emotionally, it’s a bitch. Be sure to take your time to grieve the loss of your favorite shirt, your Grandma’s china, and your high school year book. But then after that, party on my friends. The best is yet to come. I promise.