How to Get Rid of Your Stuff When Becoming a Nomad
If you’re like us, you’re either thinking about taking on a nomadic lifestyle or you’ve made the decision to become nomads. We’re knee-deep in the process to become nomadic, and we’re in the disposal phase of our journey. Here are some tips for what to do to dispose of your things, and some insight into how it’s gone for us.
As a reminder, we plan to completely empty our house, sell it, and leave the country with two carry-on bags and two backpacks. There will be no storage unit, but we will have a safe deposit box. Knowing what the end is in mind, we’ve systematically begun the great disposition of things.
Tip One: Keep the end in mind.
At One Year Before Departure
We’ve reviewed the items in our house, and we’ve created mental piles of what is going where. But first, we’ve asked our adult children to come to the house and take whatever they want. Whatever they want.
Tip Two: As soon as possible, ask our family and/or friends to come to your house to take whatever they want.
Act Like You’re Dead
Honestly, we’re approaching this task as if we were dead. Rather than force the dreaded task of asking our kids to clear out our estate, we’re doing it while we are alive but as if we are dead. “Becoming dead” has allowed us to emotionally detach from items and get into disposition mode.
Before the kids came to the house, we each made piles of a few things we wanted each person to have. These items included some heirloom and genealogical things, and particular pieces of jewelry and ephemeral. When the kids arrived, we told them that we wanted them to have these items in particular. If they didn’t want them, that was okay, but *they* had to throw them out when they left.
The kids came through the house and took all the pretty things. Art, vases, jewelry, some collectibles, a few household items, and one of the TVs. Although these items could fetch good money at an estate sale, the challenge with art, especially, is finding the right buyer who wants to pay the actual value of a piece of art.
God love the art collectors and dealers who trade in this space!
For us, we’d rather give these items to our kids for them to enjoy (and for us to enjoy when we visit) then try to find picky art buyers who demand provenance and appraisals.
Although the kids took most of the best of the things in the house, there are still many pieces that appeal to collectors that will attract people to our home for the next step in our disposal process.
Now that our children have taken many pieces that have emotional attachments, we can focus on the rest of the house. Our goal is to get the most money we can get for our stuff with the fewest amount of personal interactions.
Six Months Before Departure
Tip three: Hire an estate seller.
Interview estate sellers. We have debated many ways to sell off the rest of our stuff, including the dreaded yard sales, craiglists, and Facebook marketplace listings. We’ve chosen not to hassle with these direct-to-consumer options. Often the buyers that come to your house through these venues are picky, cheap, and unreliable. (Yes, there are exceptions and I’ve sold a few things successfully through these venues.) But in general, because we have an entire household of goods which could be sold to hundreds of different buyers with varying levels of tastes and budgets, we’ve chosen to use an estate seller.
Estate sellers come to your house, evaluate the entire lot of goods, then they tell you what percentage they’ll take in cash from the total sale of all goods. They do all the marketing, staging, people managing, and selling. We will not even have to be in the house on the day(s) of the sale. For me, this is worth 40-50% of the sale, especially since they know the value of a half a bottle of Windex and a limited edition print from a local artist.
Repeatedly, the estate seller has told us not to dispose of anything. They can sell everything in our house. Whatever they don’t sell, they’re glad to find a junk hauler to take the rest. We haven’t made the decision yet on the remainders; stay tuned.
Three-Six Months Out
In the meantime, although the estate seller wants all our goods, there are some people and places that I’m willing to do the extra work to be sure they get good donations. I want our stuff go to people who really need it or want it.
Tip four: Don’t look at your memorabilia.
For example, the yearbooks. My personal rule of thumb is don’t spend time looking at stuff that is tough to dispose. You’ll lose momentum and your gumption to get rid of things. (If you have a box of stuff in the basement you haven’t looked at in years, don’t open it!) But, alas, I got sucked into my yearbooks, and this is what happened.
Fortunately, I am a member of a Facebook group from the community where I went to middle school and junior high, and in that group are several friends I maintain a connection with. As I was going through the yearbooks, I found the places where they had signed my book. I posted a few of their messages to the Facebook group, and this action drew lots of comments from the collective class. This got the attention of the local library who then reached out and asked if they could have the yearbooks.
The next day I mailed them off. It cost me $3.33 via media mail and now the yearbooks are not only in a place I could see them again if I ever get the hankering, but they’ll also benefit many other people. It’s a win-win. I did this for my high school yearbooks as well.
Photo Albums and Photos
Tip five: Digitize and store your photos.
Whereas disposing of the yearbooks has been easy, disposing of the photo albums has not. Ultimately, I either scanned or photo’d all the pages/photos within the albums and put them into Google Photos. Because I have a Pixel phone, I get unlimited storage. I also moved all my other digital photos that are on drives and phones into this Photos account and gave my youngest daughter access to the account. She then perused all the hard-copy albums, snagging prints that she felt she wanted to keep in her keepsake box. When this process finished, we dumped every album into the garbage on a Sunday night. On Monday, the garbage man came and they’re now gone. There was no time to change our minds.
China and Glassware
Tip six: No one wants your china.
I inherited a complete set of Noritake china and all of my Grandma’s Depression Glass serving pieces along with the silver serving spoons and silver serving utensils. I gave the silver and a few of the Depression Glass items, which I shipped via Amtrak, to my sister across the country.
As for the remaining china pieces, no one in the family wants them. None of the china resale places want them, nor does Goodwill. Consignment shops don’t want them either. I’ve even called pawn shops to see if they’d buy them for the gold on the rims. I’ve asked everywhere. Thus, they’ll go in the estate sale. If they don’t sell in the estate sale, I will donate them to a women’s shelter to use as daily service ware. Although the Noritake set is high quality and originally high value, there no longer is a market for it.
Apparently none of the younger generation is asking for place settings at their weddings, and no one is having formal dinners anymore!
I have given all our plants away to folks in my local gardening club. I posted on Facebook that I had potted plants to give to new homes, put them on my porch, and people came and grabbed them.
Paints, Toxic Chemicals, Fertilizer, Compacts Discs, Computers
If these items don’t sell in the estate sale, we will have to take them to a hazmat disposal place in Denver where we’ll pay by the pound to dispose of these toxic, non-landfill friendly, items.
Prior to listing your house, you’ll want to come up with a plan for your pets. If you will be traveling with your pets, find a temporary home for them during the selling of the house. For us, my step-mom will be taking our dog since he is too big to travel with us.
Whereas the headboards and footboards of our bed sets will sell in the estate sell, the actual mattresses will not. We will dispose of these in our large trash collection, which is once a month.
We’ll pack our suit cases with the clothing we want to take, and the rest will go in the estate sale or to the women’s shelter with our china.
Departure Date to One Month Out
Once we’ve had the estate sale, we’ll paint the interior of the house and replace the carpeting. We’ll list the house as empty, and it should take about a month to sell. While it’s listed, we have a Murphy bed in the basement where we’ll sleep and stow the bed during the day. We’ll sell the appliances with the house so that we can do laundry and cook while the house is in sell-mode.
My husband will still be working from his laptop during this time. Since his office will have been sold during the estate sale, if necessary, he’ll work from a coffee shop or a library.
We’ll ride our bikes up to the day we leave. Our bikes will be the one thing we sell on craigslist or Facebook marketplace. There is a great resale market for bikes in Denver, and selling them to the public is easy.
If we don’t use the car on our Plan C option (where we can’t leave the US due to Corona and we’ll be road tripping for a while), we’ll sell the car through Carvana. They’ll pick the car up from us and sign it off in one easy transaction.
Whew, what are we forgetting? What are you having a tough time disposing of? What is causing you anxiety?
Subscribe to the newsletter. What questions do you have?
See you on the trail,