Taking an Inventory

So, now that I’ve made the decision to take a leave of absence and travel around the world; what do I do with my all my stuff? All the stuff I’ve accumulated, especially in this job over the past 5 years. I started the process by taking an inventory of everything I owned and the first thing I discovered is that I just didn’t realize how much stuff I actually own. I mean I knew, but I didn’t know.

The more I sifted through my things, the more disgusted I became. I was finding things that I didn’t even know I owned any longer and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much time and money I’d spent over the years acquiring things. The extra shirts for work, the shiny new mobiles, and the jackets – I actually counted 23 pieces of outerwear in my closet. When did it go so wrong? The ironic thing is that I don’t use most of these things on a regular basis and when forced to think about it, don’t make the cut in my new lifestyle.

So, after cataloging everything, I broke it all down into in four categories: things to keep, things to sell, things to give away, and things to take on my trip. For the things I’ve decided keep, and not take with me, I’ve tried to be stingy and created two criteria in order to keep something – sentimental value or necessity at trip’s end. It turns out that of all things I own, it’s the artwork, gifts or knick-knacks I’ve collected over the years that I care about most, not the toys, gadgets or furniture that I’d spent so much energy on. As I went through everything, memories of long forgotten jobs, travels, and even past loves started flowing. Touch a picture, remember a story. The things that spark memories or helped create them are the things that I’m most connected with and am the most protective of.  I have no memories of my phone or my couch.

As for what I thought I’d need at the end of my trip, I’ve decided to keep a few work clothes, some winter weather clothes (won’t be needing those for a while, but I’m from Minnesota so I’ve gotta keep them) and everything in my kitchen. I’m still debating on the TV and stereo (opinions are welcome) as I’ll probably just buy those again at some point and I don’t think it makes financial sense to sell them and they’re easily sold by proxy if I so choose.

The only big item that I’m keeping is my Triumph Scrambler. I did think about it for SE Asia, but shipping it over and potentially back was just too expensive. I’m not thrilled that I’ll have to continue making payments on it (my only reoccurring cost on my trip), but I do love riding it and since I’m selling my Jeep, it’ll be all I have when I return. I was also thinking if I’m able to continue traveling next fall, maybe I’ll head south and explore Central and South America by bike. In the meantime, I’ve got a friend that’s willing to store it for me and even said that he would handle a sale for me if I decide to switch tacks in the spring.

After figuring out what fit into which column, I started selling. I listed few things on eBay and Amazon and took quite a few boxes to a book dealer, but the bulk went on Craigslist. I had remembered seeing a post a few years ago in the Best of Craigslist (always fun to read if you’re bored at work) by a man selling everything he owned to travel the world and figured I could make a similar effort. I made a passionate post to the Craigslist community to take my things off my hands and help me take off on this adventure. I’ve sold a few things before and have learned Craigslist can be a mixed blessing. It’s the online version of 50’s community centers, but with a bit more crazy thrown in.

Throughout the selling process, I’ve continued to struggle with my materialistic tendencies. Some days are fun and easy and other day’s things are harder to part with and the hagglers don’t help. While I understand and respect the art of haggling, and frankly love being on the other side of it, admittedly, I’ve been shocked at how cheap people think my things are. I’ve even caught myself being offended at some offers. These are my things! Don’t they know how wonderful they are?!? I guess it only reinforces how much I’ve overvalued my possessions. Maybe the hagglers do help after all, but I’ve still had to hold my ground in a few instances to make sure I’m getting what’s fair.

True to my past experience, I’ve also had my share of odd people including the long-haired, “therapist” who reeked of pot and desperately wanted to pay the $20 price with a check so he could deduct it on his taxes to the churchie who didn’t come to look at my area rug as he’d said, but to preach the good book and try and convert me from my judaistic ways. As creative of a recruitment technique as it was, I didn’t budge…I’m still a Jew.

On the brighter side of Craigslist, I’ve also gotten almost as many gestures of support and encouragement as offers to buy things. Like the woman wrote me simply to say how much her career break round the world trip changed her life or the young father who gushed about what a wonderful experience this would be for me and then kicked me an extra fiver to have a beer on him while I’m on the road. I’ve gotten dozens of emails from people expressing support. All from an ad posted in the furniture section of Craigslist. It’s been surprisingly refreshing and each and every one instills confidence and makes me more and more eager to hit the road.