Category

Downsizing

Why We’ve Downsized … Again

As we’ve alluded to a few times here on the blog and on Instagram, we’ve decided to make some big changes to our travel style for upcoming adventures in 2017. So we wanted to share our thoughts on why we decided to leave our camper behind as we set off to criss-cross the country this year!

Boondocking in Gila National Forest, New Mexico

On our drive north after wrapping up our Appalachian adventure Ryan and I began discussing what our 2017 travels would look like. We’d previously assumed we’d be taking the camper with us around the country, but after six weeks of having it on the road with us, we weren’t as excited about the prospect as we’d expected to be. Fortunately, we were in agreement that for the next leg of our travels, we needed a better — and smaller — plan.

We began discussing options. Our first idea was to leave the camper behind, sell the Tahoe, and purchase a small (<18′) RV that would lighten our travels but still provide the comforts of home. Ryan did some research, we found several on Craigslist, but pretty quickly discovered that for what we wanted to pay, we’d definitely be getting a fixer-upper — and we weren’t sure we had the time (or the energy) to do that again. And, since we were heading north, any projects would have to be completed while braving a frigid New England winter. That prospect was less than thrilling.

Next we considered trading in the Tahoe for #vanlife … in fact, Ryan had already built out into an epic road tripping home on wheels in his mind. But, while we’re still positive a van is in our future, we struggled to find one at the perfect intersection of price point and specs we were looking for. (And Ryan wasn’t thrilled at the idea of buying a van that had endured salty New England winters.)

Those options having fallen by the wayside, we were back to square one. And at that point we realized — Franklin, our trusty Chevy Tahoe, was already a pretty sweet road trip machine! Ryan went back to the drawing board and had soon sketched out plans for a new car camping build, including an awesome new kitchen design. He took on some projects to make Franklin look and run better. And before too long, our current vehicle had transformed into a comfortable and reliable mini home on wheels! 🙂

All that is the what of our upcoming travels, but I also wanted to share why we found ourselves wanting to downsize in the first place. Minimalism has been a big driving force in our lives over the past couple of years, and I always loving talking about why we love living small and the things that drive us to a lighter, more adventurous life.

Our Camper Fall 2015

1. Towing the Camper Can Be a Drag

There, I’ve said it. After getting off to a rough start towing the camper through the mountains of West Virginia, it took us a while to settle in to pulling 6,000 lbs behind us wherever we went! That’s the cost of carrying all your creature comforts with you, I suppose — but after about a week on the road, we were already tired of setting up, breaking down, not being able to get drive through … the list goes on. And it was also frustrating that Ryan was the only one able to drive; hats off to you ladies who are skilled at towing, but I’m just not! While he’s usually happy to be behind the wheel, there were times when he was tired, or not feeling well, or just didn’t want to drive, and we missed the flexibility of me being able to take the wheel. Overall, while we adapted pretty quickly to the vagaries of life with a camper in tow; it just seemed like a continuous, low-grade hassle, and one we didn’t feel like dealing with for the next nine months.

Car Camping Seminole Canyon Texas

2. We Want to Cut Costs

You had to know this one was coming! You guys, camper spots, even without sewer hookups, are expensive. Of course, there’s always boondocking, but if we were going without things like air conditioning and an electric hookup to run the fridge, what was the point of having the camper with us, anyway? This trip we’re looking to do a lot more boondocking … maybe even check out a Walmart parking lot or two … and just generally rough it in the interest of adventuring more, and saving money. (The sacrifices seem totally worth it if it frees up more cash for things like rafting the Rio Grande in Big Bend, or taking an air taxi to Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska!)


3. We’re Comfortable with Less

After selling 90% of our stuff, taking two six week car camping trips, and figuring out we don’t miss our stuff, even the camper was just feeling extravagant! And after another summer parked in Harpers Ferry, and a three month stay with my parents (plus a very generous Christmas!), we were both beginning to feel the weight of our stuff again. (Can I just say — going through every nook and cranny to pack for this upcoming trip was highly therapeutic!) We’ve learned that with car camping we have just enough to feel comfortable … but not too comfortable. We’ve been joking that the next step in our downsizing process is a backpack apiece! (Spoiler alert: we already have them 😀 )

Ryan in a Tree at Big Bend National Park

We’re Craving More Adventure

One more thing we learned on our last trip — somehow, having the camper ended up putting a damper on our adventurous spirits. I often think of Jess Curren’s excellent post, I Don’t Trust Myself in Suburbia, and somehow, the camper was starting to feel like our own personal version of suburbia. (If you haven’t read her post — and even if you have — go read it. Seriously.)

“We are advocates for an active, outdoor, adventure, family-oriented lifestyle so what does that say about me when I can’t even get us out the door in over a week? It says that life in Suburbia is hard and we are cheaters.” — Jess Curren

Traveling with the camper we found ourselves sleeping in later, spending more time watching TV on the laptop (seriously, we watched three seasons of Chicago P.D. in six weeks), forgoing campfires in favor of nights on the couch, and generally sucking at getting out the door and exploring. I can’t explain what it was, other than that we were just too comfortable. And comfort is not why we upended our lives and moved into a camper.

And That’s Why We’re on the Road with Just Our Tahoe

So, here we are — on the road, headed southwest, with all our stuff packed into our Chevy Tahoe. We’re planning on mixing it up this trip; it’s not going to be nine straight months of camping. In fact, in the two weeks we’re taking to get from New Hampshire to Louisiana, we don’t have a single night of camping planned — our route is formed by waypoints with hospitable and welcoming friends and family. So, while we will be doing lots of car camping this year, we’ll also be stopping with friends, and we are also hoping to dip our toes into the world of professional house sitting. And I’m sure we’ll pepper in some hotel stays and tent camping, too.

That’s all, folks! Thanks for reading along 🙂 Tell us in the comments: What’s your favorite method of travel? RV, van, car camping, tent camping, backpacking?

10 Tips for Using Facebook Selling Groups

When I shared the nuts-and-bolts details of HOW we sold 90% of our stuff, I noted that one of the most effective selling resources I used was Facebook selling groups. I’d say about 80% of the stuff I sold went through the Facebook selling group I used. But prior to this downsizing experience, I had never used Facebook selling groups, and there was definitely a learning curve — it’s very different from selling platforms like Craigslist, eBay, and Amazon.

Whether you’re downsizing, clearing out your closets for the new year, or just looking to make a little extra cash, Facebook selling groups can be a tremendously effectively tool. Here are my ten tips for using Facebook selling groups.

10 Tips for Using Facebook Selling Groups - Our Streamlined Life

1. Find the best group for your needs.

When I first started using Facebook selling groups, I was listing in three local sites: Loudoun County Upscale Resale, Loudoun County VA Online Yard Sale, and Loudoun County Area Garage Sale Group. I pretty quickly learned that which group you use will really impact how much money you can make, how quickly you can get rid of items, and your overall sales experience.

  • Local buyers. Finding the most local group you can is extremely important to move items quickly. I think one reason Craigslist let me down was because the selling range (the DC metro area) was just too large. A buyer who lives just down the street from you will be much quicker to pick items up (which also cuts down on people flaking out). Someone who lives an hour away from you may ask to pick up an item on the weekend, then change their mind or have something come up between now and then, and then you have to start your whole process almost from scratch. In many cases I had people come pick up an item less than an hour after I listed it — something that’s only possible in a super-local group.
  • Relatively high price point. This made a huge difference in sales, and it’s the reason I eventually started listing exclusively on the “upscale resale” group. It takes a lot more work to sell 10 $2 items than it does one $20 item, which makes your life so much easier. (More on this below in tip #4.)
  • Quick turnover. When you’re looking at Facebook selling groups, it should be pretty simple to pinpoint pages that are active and pages that are just **crickets**. Look for lots of chatter on the page, lots of comments on posts — and comments that indicate that the group members are actually buying and picking up items, not just window shopping.
  • Clear rules. I know some people chafe against rules, but in this case they’re your friends. The main Facebook selling group I used had pretty aggressive rules, but that also meant expectations were clear and people were on their best behavior. Rules like “no business ads” keep spammers away and keep your stuff from getting lost under junk ads.
  • Selling page vs. group page. Some Facebook selling groups are just that — groups. To list an item you have to create a photo album of items, then share it to the wall. It will make your life much easier if it’s a group that’s set up to sell. If it is, you’ll see a box like this where you’ll input your information into a template and it creates a tidy listing for you.

FB Selling Groups Template - Our Streamlined Life

2. Learn the lingo.

Every group has their own language for selling and buying. There should be a pinned post at the top of the page explaining abbreviations and what they mean. My Facebook selling groups used shorthand like “SA = still available,” “BU = backup (If the person who said they want it doesn’t take it, you’ll take it),” “PPU = pending pick-up,” and “EUC/GUC = excellent/good used condition.” Making sense of abbreviations helps you respond and sell more quickly.

3. Be available.

In the best groups, stuff sells quickly. The first time I listed items I was shocked that people were messaging me within minutes of my listing being posted! I quickly learned it was very difficult to just list items, leave my postings, and then come back and sort through all the responses. If at all possible, you’ll want to post your listings at a time when you’re also available to answer questions and set up meetings immediately.

4. Set your own rules.

Everything will go more smoothly if you clearly state your own selling “rules” and conditions in each and every listing. Some things to consider:

  • Will you bargain, or is your price set in stone? Include language like “price firm” or “OBO (or best offer).”
  • Will you sell to the first person who comments, or to the first person who can pick up? Include language like “priority to first pickup, please comment with dates & times.”

5. Observe selling patterns.

Every group has active times and slow times; figure out the patterns of your Facebook selling group. If you’re posting during a slow time, your listings will get pushed to the bottom of everyone’s feed. In my group I found that Tuesday – Thursday were the most active days in the group, and activity was best from about 8am – 4pm (with a definite spike around lunch time). On the other hand, items I posted late at night or on weekends (especially Sunday) got little-to-no interest. Think about the demographics in your area, and who the ideal “customers” for your stuff are, and that should give you a good initial indicator.

6. Create bundles.

This was HUGE for me in moving non-furniture items. Once I found myself with a lot of miscellaneous stuff that seemed best suited for a garage sale and wasn’t nice enough to meet the $20 selling minimum in my Facebook selling group, I started bundling. If you don’t know what to bundle, let your house give you some clues. At one point I took the two throw pillows, a fuzzy blanket, and a basket I had on/near my couch and bundled them together. I took a centerpiece I’d created — a runner, tray, and a couple of candles — and sold those in a $20 bundle (all were homemade or thrift store finds). Rule of thumb: if it all goes together in your house, it will go together in someone else’s house, too.

Table Centerpiece Bundle - Our Streamlined Life

7. Take awesome photos.

First, the basics. Vacuum/polish/tidy everything in your photo, as needed. Make your item look the best it possibly can. You’re much more likely to sell your item if it looks clean and neat. Take pictures from as many angles as possible, and highlight up front any damage or imperfections. Then, look at your listing as your chance to be a designer for a day. In many cases I found that staged photos moved more quickly than photos of just the item on its own, like the photo of my work space below. They show how nice an item can look (and also that you’re generally a clean and not scary person and that they can feel comfortable bringing your stuff into their home).

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8. Get creative with your listings.

This is a trick I learned when I was listing our dining table (below). We had bought this table as a project, but hadn’t gotten to it yet when we started downsizing. I considered completing the project to make more money off the sale, but with everything going on I decided it wasn’t worth my time. But I still wanted to make sure others could see the potential in this table that I did! So here’s what I did. First, I uploaded a few pictures of the table, as-is. Then I included a few photos (from Pinterest) of what I had been planning to do with the table. I wrote up a little copy explaining my vision for the table, my ideas for the project, and even what products I’d been planning on using! The woman who bought the table was about to have her youngest child go off to kindergarten and was looking for a DIY project for some of her new-found time. She was super excited to hear my ideas and take on the project, and was happy to see my table to be loved in a new home.

2014-08-07 15.01.55

9. Relist as needed.

If something isn’t moving at the price you’re asking, don’t be afraid to relist it; maybe the right person just hasn’t seen it yet, or missed it in their feed. In most groups you can just “share” or “bump” your listing on the page, to make it show up at the top. But I learned it was far more effective to copy-and-paste the information from the listing into a new selling template, then delete the old listing. It looks fresher, and can create new interest in an item, instead of making it look like something that’s been passed over for a few weeks. (Take a look at your listing and see why it might not be moving, too: do you need better pictures, more details, or better sales copy?)

10. Be friendly, polite, and safe.

As in every community, eventually you’ll come across someone who gets pushy with you, stands you up, or is just generally a jerk. Resist the urge to squash them like a bug: especially if you’re trying to sell a lot of stuff, antagonizing people on the page is only going to create drama. If you’re selling over a 3-4 month period, you’re building into the community on the page, and people will remember if you’re nice. And if anyone makes you feel unsafe or creeped out, report them to the group’s admin and decline to sell to them. That said, in many ways I think the Facebook platform is safer than Craigslist because there’s more accountability in having other members know who you are and even just having a picture associated with your name. I never had any issues, and in most cases I even felt comfortable, after chatting with people on Facebook messaging, to let them come by the house when I was home alone.

Those are my ten tips for using Facebook selling groups. Have you ever used Facebook selling groups? What are your tips? And do you have any questions for me?


Sell It or Store It?

Sell It or Store It- Blog Header

You have probably figured out by now that when we decided to downsize into a camper, I was excited, not apprehensive. The idea of living with less stuff felt incredibly freeing to me.

So … What Do You Do With All That Stuff?

That said, we still had to decide what to do with all that stuff. Ultimately, it came down to three options:

  • Sell it.
  • Store it.
  • Donate/trash it.

Well, I guess I should back up. Obviously there’s one more category of stuff: the things we chose to bring with us into the camper! For us, most of those items fit into a handful of categories: clothes, books, computers/electronics, kitchen tools, and camping gear. (I’m planning on doing a small space living series in January, so you’ll probably get to see just about every item we own!) Anyway, choosing which stuff to keep boiled down to two basic questions: “What do we truly NEED?” and “Do we have a space to put it?” We had a pretty defined storage area for each category of stuff, and that ultimately determined what we were able to keep.

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We literally determined how many books we could keep by measuring the length of our one bookshelf and purging accordingly.
As you know, we chose to sell about 90% of our stuff. We had very few items that were super sentimental or super nice, so we felt having the cash in hand would be the best option for us.

Why We Chose Not to Rent A Storage Unit

If you’re considering downsizing into a camper (or other small living space), you may be thinking about getting a storage unit to store your items in the meantime. When we were beginning to downsize we read about many full-timers who did just that. If we had decided to keep any furniture at all, we probably would have had to do that. But luckily (I guess???) our furniture was all highly replaceable … mostly IKEA and thrift store finds. That made the decision pretty simple for us.

I should mention here that at one point, back in our apartment days, we did have a storage unit for a while. We had moved from a roomy apartment into a much smaller one, but we weren’t planning on it being a permanent situation. In fact, we upgraded to a larger apartment in our same building about nine months later, and were happily reunited with all our stored goods.

I’m saying this just to point out that if downsizing is just temporary for you, or you have a very definite space of time in mind, it may not be worthwhile to get rid of everything. Selling all your earthly belongings is a time-consuming task, and you have to consider the cost you’ll re-incur down the road when you have to go buy every stick of furniture over again.

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I loved my blue velvet wing chair, but it wasn’t worth it to me to pay $60/month to store it. Good-bye comfy reading chair!

Consider “Alternative” Storage Methods

Since we’re planning on traveling indefinitely, we knew we didn’t want to deal with the potentially-costly issue of paying for storage. That brings me to the second possibility when it comes to storage: “Hi, Mom!”

When we started going through our stuff, we kept coming across items we didn’t need on a day-to-day basis, but we were still loath to part with — like the nativity that had been handed down to us by Ryan’s grandma, or boxes of photo prints from the pre-digital age. We slowly gathered those items into a pile, divided them into bins, and sent a few to my parents’ home and a few to Ryan’s.

The test that stuff had to pass was: “Is this item replaceable?” For us, furniture and clothes are replaceable; family heirlooms are not. (And we’re very grateful to our parents for lending us the storage space!)

Minimize - Our Streamlined Life
Most of Ryan’s clothes now fit in these bins.

Digital Storage Options

There’s just one more gray area when it comes to decided what to do with your stuff when you downsize: the option to digitize things like documents and photos. I personally didn’t do much of that, beyond checking to see if a few manuals were available online in PDF form (most were). For one, I’ve yet to find a service that will digitize your photos without costing an arm and a leg — and I’m certainly not patient enough to scan them one by one.

I also consider myself a paper-lite person in general. I open my mail over the recycling bin and choose paperless billing whenever possible. We were able to condense our files down to one four-inch expanding file folder that now holds pesky things like old tax information and electronics warranties. If you’re not sure what things to keep and what you can toss, I found this book detailed and helpful, and Marie Kondo’s perspective on paper clutter is also very freeing. [affiliate links]

Once we had separated out what we could/needed to keep, and we we could store with family, the remaining task was simple: Sell everything we could and donate or trash anything that was left at the bitter end!

How did you decided what to store and what to sell when you downsized?

The Four Best Books on Decluttering, Organizing & Minimalism

Four Books -- Our Streamlined Life

I always turn to books when I want to learn more about something or am looking for inspiration. These are my picks for the four best books on decluttering, organizing, and minimalism. They’ve inspired me, taught me, and encouraged me, and I’m sure they’ll do the same for you! (And they’re all available for Kindle, if you’re trying to keep your shelves clear!)

The Joy of Less A Minimalist Living Guide by Francine Jay - Our Streamlined Life

The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life by Francine Jay

From the publisher’s description: Having less stuff is the key to happiness. Do you ever feel overwhelmed, instead of overjoyed, by all your possessions? Do you secretly wish a gale force wind would blow the clutter from your home? If so, it’s time to simplify your life! Just open this book, and you’ll be on your way to a simpler, more streamlined, and more serene life. 

The Joy of Less was the very first book I ever read on minimalism and I can say without reservation that it changed my life. The first line of the book reads, “What if I told you that having less stuff could make you a happier person?” — and when I read that it spoke right to my heart. This book helped me realize why I was feeling like my stuff was holding me back, and taught me what to do about it. It starts philosophically and moves on to the practical, and is a great resource no matter where you are in your minimalist journey.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - Our Streamlined Life

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

From the publisher’s description: Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles? Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

I will admit that I was very slow to jump on the Life-Changing Magic train. Everything I’d read about it made it sound just a little too “woo-woo” for me. When I finally picked it up, I read it through three times in a row just to take it all in. Kondo teaches that instead of organizing we should focus on keeping only the things that “spark joy” in our lives … a concept it took me a while to absorb. In fact, her methods are very different from many minimalist guides: She doesn’t believe that all stuff holds you back, just the wrong stuff. I’m not there yet, but I find the idea of a life filled only with the things that “spark joy” to be lovely.

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider

From the publisher’s description: Organized Simplicity‘s aim is to convince its readers that simple living is the absolute best way to live.  Be it with house cleaning, family schedule management, personal finances, and managing the “stuff” you allow within your four walls, the only way to live well is to do so intentionally and simply.

The gold in Organized Simplicity is found in the first half of the book: “Living Simply in the Real World.” Tsh Oxenreider redefines simplicity, talks about the impact of stuff (our “modern-day slave master”) and gives practical advice on how to set a personal “purpose statement” that works for your family, whether you’re looking to calm your calendar or clean out your basement. It’s intentional, practical, and covers everything from financial well-being to improving your health.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

From the publisher’s description: Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

Okay, so The Happiness Project isn’t technically a book about decluttering. But the January chapter which discusses “tossing, restoring, and organizing” is so good it has still earned a spot on my list. Gretchen Rubin talks honestly about the impact disorder and clutter can have on energy. Her analysis of different types of clutter — nostalgic, conservation, bargain, freebie, crutch, aspirational, & buyer’s remorse — is spot on. And just thinking about her concept of a sacred “empty shelf” fills me with delight. (The rest of the book is definitely not about minimalism, but always inspires me to “clean up” my life and live more intentionally.)

 

Have you read my four best books on decluttering, organizing, and minimalism? What did you think? What are your favorites?


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How to Sell 90% of Your Stuff

Downsizing from a 1,000 sq ft apartment into a 200 sq ft camper gave Ryan and I a unique opportunity to take a good hard look at our stuff and how we felt about it. We took a survey of our stuff, figured out what we did and didn’t use, determined what was beautiful, what was useful, and what just wasn’t valued or necessary. Perhaps most importantly, we decided early on we did not want to just put everything in a storage unit — meaning a LOT of stuff had to go. Here’s how we sold 90% of our stuff!

How to Sell 90 Percent of Your Stuff

For Ryan and I planning invariably starts with making a spreadsheet and running numbers together. Selling all our stuff was no different: our very first step was making a spreadsheet. A Google document entitled “Sell All the Things” would become the organizing force behind the task ahead. I divided it into six sections, one for each room in our home: Living Room, Kitchen, Bathroom, Bedroom, Office, and Miscellaneous. Then we took an hour or so and went room by room, listing all the big stuff — couches, tables, chairs, etc. — and assigning estimated price values. At this point, we priced things generously, knowing we had a good eight weeks ahead of us to move everything.

The next step was color-coding the spreadsheet. (Yes, we are both slightly OCD and organization dorks.) I had three colors. One meant “sell now” — stuff we could live without immediately. One meant “wait until the last possible moment” — for stuff like our bed, which we definitely wanted to keep around as long as possible. The third was a nebulous in-between indicator — stuff we’d like to have around for a while, but wouldn’t ruin our lives to go without.

At that point the tally on our spreadsheet was just around $2,000. This helped to set a baseline for selling our stuff and also gave us an idea of a budget for our camper renovation, since we planned to use what we made selling our stuff to update the Rambler. (I should also note that because we were moving into a camper, rather than just a general downsize, I knew we’d be selling all our furniture, as the camper itself would provide replacements for everything we truly needed.)

Next, Ryan took a Saturday afternoon to take pictures of all the items listed on our spreadsheet. He cleaned, polished, and vacuumed as needed, then took photos from every angle, in the best light possible. He also made a super-helpful spreadsheet of dimensions for me, which made my life much easier when I was emailing with potential buyers.

With the groundwork laid, it was time to start listing our first items! I put them up on Craigslist with detailed posts and an overload of pictures, and … crickets.

Now, here’s the thing about Craigslist. I had used it before — mostly when we were in the middle of a move — with varying results. It seemed like each sale was a tremendous amount of work, from haggling about prices, to no-show buyers, to people asking for dimensions/pictures/general info already included in the ad (my biggest pet peeve!). But this time, after a week or so of listing, stuff just wasn’t moving.

Please go away, stuff.
Please go away, stuff.

Just when I was starting to panic, Ryan suggested I join a Facebook selling group called “Loudoun County Upscale Resale” that he’d heard about from a coworker. I checked it out and could tell things seemed to move fairly quickly. I cautiously listed an item, and had a buyer in under fifteen minutes — and she picked it up later that day. I was floored.

Once I began using the Facebook selling group, the big items moved quickly — so fast, in fact, I could only list them when I knew I had a block of time to dedicate to working with buyers and arranging pickups. I’m planning on writing a full blog post dedicated to using Facebook selling groups. I had never used them until this spring, but given the sheer amount of stuff we were selling, I learned a lot in a very small amount of time. It proved to be an invaluable resource with many advantages over Craigslist.

With that process well underway, I began tackling the more time-consuming part of the equation: Selling, donating, and trashing the little stuff, like books, decorations, and household items.

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WHAT DO YOU MEAN THAT’S ALL THE BOOKS WE CAN KEEP?!
I was determined to actually sell as much as I could, before resorting to donating. With that in mind I ended up utilizing four resources for selling our stuff:

  • Ebay. This was mainly for clothes, but also worked to move some knick-knacks and books.
  • Amazon Trade-InThis made getting rid of books and dvds a breeze: just type in the ISBN and Amazon tells you how much they’ll give you for your item (in the form of an Amazon gift card). With books, we literally chose how many books we could keep based on the measurement of our one bookshelf in the camper. Everything that didn’t fit was fair game, and if Amazon offered anything at all in trade-in, I shipped it off. (They give you a pre-paid shipping label, too!)
  • Amazon Marketplace. For books not available for trade-in, I turned to Amazon Marketplace. Typing in the ISBN gives you a pre-filled listing, and you can set your price as desired.
  • Yard sale. This was the most irritating and least profitable part of my selling experience. I had a yard sale a couple of weekends before our final day in the apartment. It might have been because everything at the yard sale was stuff I literally couldn’t sell anywhere else, but I got almost no traffic and only made around $30.

But my “secret weapon” to moving the little stuff ended up being the Facebook selling group once again. For a while, it had me stymied: this particular group had a $20 selling minimum, in part to avoid people selling just the yard sale type items I was trying to move! But I finally figured out a way to get around it: BUNDLING.

I’d gather up a group of objects that were somehow related. A couple of throw pillows, blankets, and a basket became a “cozy bundle” that sold in an hour.

Cozy bundle - Our Streamlined Life

A batch of fall decor sold in no time.

Selling collage fall - Our Streamlined Life

We even sold a big box of Christmas decorations — in June! And before we knew it, there was nothing left!

The bitter end - Our Streamlined Life
Time to get our redneck on.

The very, very last item to go was our mattress — sold to a lady who picked it up at 6:00pm our last day in the apartment.

When all was said and done, we made $4,000.95 selling items from our apartment — double that initial estimate. I’d say about half the money we made was from the little stuff that fills our lives … books we’d never read, duplicate kitchen utensils, unneeded knickknacks. As to the rest of it, we were pretty pleased considering that our apartment furniture was for the most part a collection of thrift store and IKEA purchases — no designer goods here! In fact, with many items I was able to make more money than I’d paid for it to begin with! Yay for cheap refinishing/recovering projects!

So here it is: my summary of tips for selling 90% of your stuff:

  • Start early. The more time you have to get rid of something, the more firm you can be with your price. I had to be much more flexible in selling items I listed two weeks before moving into the camper than with the stuff I listed two months prior.
  • Begin with the easy stuff. Knowing you’re going to part with most of your belongings can be emotionally trying. If you start with the stuff you don’t care about or never really liked, it can help you to catch the vision and get excited about what you’re doing. After two weeks of selling stuff, we were shocked at how full our apartment still felt — and were pretty excited about the envelope of cash we had. It made getting rid of the stuff we loved just a little easier.
  • Diversify. Don’t limit yourself to just Craigslist, just a yard sale, just whatever. It takes a little more work but finding the best outlet for whatever it is that you’re selling can help you get the most bang for your buck.
  • Make the effort to create great listings. A half-hearted listing, whatever your venue, isn’t going to get you much traffic, and the people who are interested will just ask you a million questions anyway. Take awesome pictures, include every measurement you can think of, and be straightforward about anything that’s wrong with what you’re selling.
  • Don’t sell yourself short. When it gets down to the wire, you can always drop your prices. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to price items ambitiously. A wooden bench we’d bought for $15 and revamped with a little spray paint and a fabric remnant sold in an hour for $50. Don’t focus on what you paid for something — focus on what it’s worth.
  • Nothing is too small to sell. Seriously. Nothing. I bundled up a box of old office supplies and a homeschool mom bought them for $15. Not a huge amount of money, but $15 is $15 and I’d have trashed or donated it otherwise!
  • Hold it loosely. Remember that your ultimate goal (if you’re downsizing) is getting rid of it, not getting rich. The more you can sell, even if it’s for less than you wanted, the closer you’ll be to your new, lighter life.
  • Stay organized. That Google spreadsheet was my lifesaver, helping me keep on top of everything from what I had already sold (color coding!) to what I had made, what needed to be listed, and how much I’d made. One simple document is all it takes to keep you on top of what’s coming in and what’s going out. (**Update: here’s a mostly-blank version of my spreadsheet that you can use as a jumping-off point.**)


Well, that’s all for now, folks! You may also be interested in our posts with more details on how to use Facebook selling groups, and how to decide what to keep, what to store, what to sell, and what to trash. For now I want to know:

What’s your favorite selling platform? If you’ve downsized, how did you get rid of your stuff? What questions do you have for me?