10 things I’ve learned from selling most of my belongings

This week we move from a three-bedroom house into a 24ft caravan. Needless to say, we have sold most of our belongings (about 80 per cent of our belongings, to be precise).

We’ve spent the past ten months selling and donating what we no longer need or want. In the past I’ve lost enthusiasm part-way through a purge but this time, with a tangible reason and a deadline, it’s been surprisingly easy.

Here’s what I’ve learnt from letting go of so. much. stuff!

  • Sorting through my belongings was a great way to assess my spending habits : as I dug deeper into the wardrobes I was confronted with years of frivolous spending habits coupled with a definite obsession with expensive clothes. When you really *see* what you’ve spent money on over the years it triggers a rather humbling realisation; I spent hours and hours working to earn money to buy these clothes that are sitting in my wardrobe getting dusty. What nonsense!
  • Quality items will always re-sell : clothes, accessories, furniture and electrical items will fetch a good price if they’re a quality item that has been well looked after (or a vintage item that’s loved for its rarity). I set up an instagram page – @simplicitymarket – to sell my pre-loved clothes (and the children’s outgrown clothes) and in the past 18months I’ve sold hundreds of items. It’s been a very worthwhile side hustle that I’ll continue to do as we travel (country op-shops, here I come)
  • I can’t remember most of what I sold : which begs the question, why was I holding onto it in the first place?
  • Children accumulate toys, books and miscellany at an alarming rate : and yet they rarely develop an affinity with any of it. Every piece of research I’ve come across suggests that children will engage in more meaningful play when they have less toys. Put simply, less clutter equals more engagement (same is true for adults, perhaps even more so).  If the past few weeks are anything to go by, children are content with a scooter, a tea set, a bit of duplo and some treasured animal friends.
  • Sentimental items can be sold without regret : last week I sold our beloved pram that has happily carried all four of our babies from birth to toddlerhood. I thought I’d be sad about letting it go but passing it onto a first-time mum who is weeks away from having her baby was such a beautiful experience. It’s gone to another family with many love-filled baby vibes.
  • My most treasured items weren’t bought : handwritten notes, handmade cards, ID bracelets from the maternity ward, tiny woollen booties and thousands of photos on hard drives – these are the most important things I own (a timely reminder that I need to sort and print my photos – stat!).
  • Stuff is merely a distraction (and a time waster) : we live in a consumerist society that floods us with temptation so we work to buy things that fill our homes and make us happy, albeit temporarily. This is the cycle I walked for a long time, even when money was tight. It took me years of thinking about simplicity till I actually, truly put the motions of deep decluttering into place and realised that less stuff equals more space and more time and more truth. My truth: I live with so much more than the essentials and I often forget my privilege.
  • Our obsession with consuming is environmentally disastrous : And I’m so guilty of this. I’ve spent so much money on clothes that were most probably made by women who weren’t paid fairly. I’ve purchased kitchen gadgets on a whim and never used them. I’ve been sucked in by the “simple, eco, green” label that often sells me things I don’t need (more stuff albeit with an eco slant). But more importantly than that, I’ve come to realise that decluttering for the sake of decluttering is sometimes just as harmful as consuming. Why? Because throwing away practical items for the sake of chasing a minimalist dream is simple wasteful. If something works and you use it, even if it doesn’t tick your aesthetic or eco boxes, it’s worthwhile keeping. 
  • When you decide to live with less, lessons abound : our children have been witness to this entire sell-to-travel experience. They have watched us umm and ahh over what to sell. They’ve seen us photograph each item, list it online and take it to the post office. They’ve watched the house get emptier and subsequently felt the excitement levels rise as we near our departure date. And they now know that we’ve consciously chosen to let go of our belongings so we can travel. A wonderful lesson in sacrifice and reward.
  • Decluttering is one (easy) step, resisting the urge to consume is the next (hard) one : living with less is ultimately about resisting the urge to consume, making do, mending what’s broken, going without and ultimately finding joy in the fact that you need less. 

Photo by Tim Coulson