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

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Showing 13 comments
  • Lizzie

    Hello Jodi.
    This resonates for me and I’m doing something similar myself – not to the same extent though! I agree with so much of what you have said and I’m wondering how you feel about the ‘clutter’ of books – hard to sell online? – and art objects. These things are where all my attempts fall short!

    • Jodi

      We found books really hard to let go of. We’ve stored many of them. And to be honest, those we decluttered we took stright to the op-shop as selling them online + postage just isn’t worth it x

  • Kerin

    Great post. I’ll be taking your advice as we move to a 2 bed apartment temporarily while we build, but I want to start again in the new (smaller) house with much less stuff. I am also struggling at the thought of saying bye to my pram and cot. Such a silly thing but feels so hard to let go! Wishing you happy travels.

  • Kristie

    Hi Jodi,
    I’ve been in the same process, but over a much longer time span and not quite to the same extent. But in that time I’ve managed to get rid of somewhere around 70% of my stuff and live in a small one bedroom townhouse. It’s a freeing experience. And a humbling one. What I still own now are things that I use on a regular basis and that fit my values and lifestyle. Enjoy your new adventure!

  • Melody Guy

    Great post. Not buying is the challenge. I’m getting better but still see that I often buy when I’m not feeling good (even though now it is at least things that I’ve thought about). I’ve decided to try a new rule when buying “If I lived in a caravan would I prioritise the space for this”.

  • Krista

    Thank you Jodi! I like your point about stuff being a distraction. I noticed this when I became a mother, and that realization is what started me on my minimalism journey. I wanted to get rid of anything that distracted me from that precious time when my kids were little.
    20 years later, I’m still minimizing my possessions and still discovering more benefits at each next level. It’s an incredible journey.

  • Lindsay

    Thank you Jodi for your openness. Sorting through our things is hard but examining our hearts and questioning our intentions is harder.

    I will keep your list floating in my head for a while as I look at the things surrounding me.

  • laura ann

    We have been downsizing slowly for over a year after 22 years in one house. I am not one to like clutter, but things accumulate in garages, closets, etc. Will soon move to a two bedroom apt. The more people in the family, the more clutter one friend said after her kids left home. Toys, games, sports equipment, clothes and extra furniture can pile up over time. I donated books to several church libraries and the city one. Much was donated to children’s group homes.

  • Silver

    Thank you for sharing Jodi. I am a sentimentalist who holds on to things… I always blame it on my nomadic childhood – I didn’t have lasting friends or a family home so momentous bind me. However, I thought I might share a story told to me by one of my friend’s father. He turned 50 and decided his life was a mess of clutter and bad decisions and he wanted a clearer future, so he randomly chose 13, outside of furniture he could keep 13 boxes of stuff. Amongst what went to the op shop were a collection of journals/magazines related to the Air Force squadron his father had flown with in the war. He was a pilot too, and had always felt that these were one of those few links to a dad who was dead…. but he never read them. So he boxed them up and dropped them at an op shop that sold war memorabilia. A few months went by and he received a call, someone had bought the boxes, found his name somehow attached and wanted to make sure he had meant to discard these journals… “yes” and he told the story. The man who had bought these journals was the son of another man who’d flown in that squadron, and his father was still alive, and to cut a long story story, my friend’s father went to lunch with an elderly man who flew with his father in the war – he got to hear stories about his dad as a brave young man, a father who was flying to keep his wife and baby son safe and free – a man he didn’t know but brought to life through stories. By giving up those journals my friend’s dad actually got to experience a very close connection to his dad.

    • Jodi

      Goosebumps. This is AMAZING! x

    • Jamie

      OMG Amazing.

  • birgit

    Jodi, thank you for this post. Its very inspiring.

  • Emma

    Hi Jodi
    I’ve taken a leaf out of your book and started buying all my sons clothes and shoes secondhand. Why have I only just started ? Quality over quantity is my new motto! Would you mind pointing me in the direction of some great secondhand shops on Instagram ?
    Can not wait to see your journey unfold. Exciting times ahead for you guys and I’m insanely jealous !!

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