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.
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.
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!)
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?