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Why you should try selling everything you own (at least once in your life)

Why you should try selling everything you own

Tomorrow I move out of my apartment, with all my worldly possessions squeezed perfectly into one backpack.

This is the second time I’ve gone through selling or giving away everything I own. The last time was before I departed for my 3 month trip through Europe with Robert, but even that time we still kept a few homewares. We knew we’d be coming back to Australia for at least a year after the trip, so it would be a hassle to collect those appliances and utensils all over again.

But this time, we’re going the whole hog.

Aside from a few small sentimental items that we’re leaving at our parents’ places, anything that doesn’t fit in our backpacks is gone. Everything that hasn’t sold will be given away to charity, or charitably left for our housemates (both poor uni students) to claim as their own.

The journey from having everything to having nothing has been an emotional rollercoaster, but I’ve stepped off the ride a wiser person, equipped with a knowledge and understanding of material possessions that I definitely did not have before.

Whether you are taking off for travels, moving house, or just want to reduce the copious amounts of stuff you have – here’s why I think you should try selling everything you own at least once in your life.


Selling everything you own

Some of the ‘stuff’ we’d gathered over the past few years.

Most of us start collecting material possessions from day one. As a child you receive birthday presents and toys, then as a teen you gather CDs and furniture for your room. Once you move out of home, that money you’ve started earning from having a job gets converted into kitchenware, artworks, new shoes or fancy electronic devices.

And way later when the opportunity comes along to give all of it up, you stand back and realise your home is overflowing with items collected slowly over [insert your age here] years.

The thought of letting it all go is terrifying. Some of these items have been a part of your life for years. You’ve used them every day, or you’ve packed them safely in a cupboard just in case you get use of them somewhere down the track. If you don’t have these things anymore, what will happen if you then have need of them later?

Well, nothing, actually.

Why you should try selling everything you own

Attempting to fit all my worldy possessions into a backpack.

It’s funny how attached we become to things we don’t need. Once you get past the idea of turning your life upside down by getting rid of everything you own, you realise how futile it was to keep it all. You think about how you held on to that set of china teacups for 10 years without ever using them, and what a waste of space they were.

You find that the only reason you were holding on to possessions was sentimental, and once you finally cut that connection with the couch you’ve sat on every day for the past 5 years or the desk you’ve used to pile years of documents on, you can see that everything is replaceable. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a couch now, because if you decide you need one in the distant future, you can just buy one.

And the possessions that you do end buying down the track tend to be temporary. No longer do you form a mental connection with everything you buy, because now you know that you don’t need it. You don’t have to have the best new leather couch or the most expensive brand appliances, because second-hand stuff will do the trick just as nicely.

If you’ve been smart about selling your stuff, you’re left with a wad of money in your pocket – all of which you can now spend on an experience. And on top of that money you got from selling everything, you’re not spending as much now. Because you have no stuff replace or repair. You don’t have to pay insurance on your collection of things to ensure they don’t get damaged or stolen.

Why you should try selling everything you own

Our apartment after we sold everything. The TV and amp are owned by our housemates!

After the initial shock of being left with almost nothing wears off you realise hey, this is actually pretty good. The metaphorical weight of every possession has been lifted off your shoulders. Your mind has stopped thinking about all of the tasks your possessions would require. You’re free and able to do anything and go anywhere. The world is your oyster.

Selling everything you own changes you. It makes you realise that having a bunch of stuff is not actually important. It shows you that material possessions are not what make up who you are, and that it’s actually experiences and memories that make you happy.

It’s not an easy thing to do, but believe me – you’ll come out the other side a stronger and wiser person.

Have you ever tried to sell everything you own? What was your experience? Share with us in the comments!


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Ashlea Wheeler

Blogger & Photographer at A Globe Well Travelled
I'm Ashlea, an excitable Australian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

31 Responses to “Why you should try selling everything you own (at least once in your life)”

  1. Evelina

    Oh I can relate to this so much! I hate having a lot of possessions. It just makes me feel tied up somehow.
    Need to have another sale and get rid of more stuff.. It stacks up so quickly though!
    I’d happily live out of a backpack

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It really doesn’t take long to build up does it! I had only been living in that apartment for a year and it was amazing how much ‘stuff’ I’d gathered in that time.

      Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Possessions definitely weigh you dow and stack up quickly, I couldn’t believe how much I’d accumulated after just a year! Living out of a backpack is something everyone should do at some stage. It really changes your perspective on what possessions really mean 🙂

      Reply
  2. Jen

    At first it’s the hardest thing you have to do, but once you start getting rid of stuff it feels better not having it. Especially as your adventure departure date nears 🙂 Thanks for the shotout Ashlea, kudos on selling all your stuff!!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I know what you mean! Once you get closer to leaving, you feel great about leaving nothing behind. It’s invigorating to know that there is nothing tying you down 😀 Thanks Jen!

      Reply
  3. Justine

    I sold all of my stuff about a year and half ago, right before I embarked on a year-long journey. The process was not easy. For me, I was freaking out that when/if I returned home I would have absolutely nothing. And the thought of replacing everything completely terrified me. At first, I figured I would store a whole bunch of stuff at my mom’s house. But after I started purging myself it felt really good. I ended up keeping next to nothing. In the past 18 months I’ve managed to live out of a backpack for a year. And at my apartment in Jakarta I’ve bought very few things. I love knowing that I can just pack everything I need into my backpack and take off again. And not being bridled to that absurd amount of stuff I’d accumulated throughout the years is so freeing! Happy travels 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I had the same freak out moment Justine! All the what-ifs that go through your head about having nothing. I’m glad you were able to overcome it and feel free to travel whenever you want as a result 😀

      Reply
    • Alexis

      I’ve been thinking about doing this, too, but already live pretty minimalistically–ha, so am worried I won’t make enough off of sales to go much of anywhere. But I think I’ll give it a college try!

      Did y’all have more success with online sales or in person ones (yard sales, etc.)? I’m trying to get out of the country in the New Year but don’t know if it’ll be enough time to sell everything.

      Reply
      • Ashlea Wheeler

        Good on you, Alexis! Minimalistic living is the best 😀 We mostly listed our items online (though an Australian Craigslist-type website) and then had people come in and pick them up from our place. I think 1-2 months is a good amount of time for selling your stuff, we managed to get rid of most of it in a month but a few things stuck around a bit longer 🙂

        Reply
  4. Tiffany

    Before I moved abroad I got rid of tons of stuff. I didn’t have time to sell it before I left , so I gave tons of it away. My sister is using most of my furniture. I remember taking 10 bag of clothes and shoes to the charity shop! Every time I go home, I purge more stuff from my stash. I have now lived without it for a year and half so I don’t feel the need to keep it. I did keep some things because I thought there was a possibility I would hate living in Qatar. I love it and don’t plan on going back! Great advice! I agreed purging felt great! I couldn’t believe all the stuff I had kept over the years!

    Reply
  5. Petra @ The Global Couple

    It feels so refreshing getting rid of stuff doesn’t it! We kept some sentimental stuff at our parents’ place too and when we came home we wondered why we had kept a lot of it! Best of luck with the move 🙂

    Reply
  6. Alison

    I agree 100%! My husband and I sold everything we owned, except a few personal things we left with family, 10 years ago, to move from Canada to Belgium. Starting from scratch was so liberating and there wasn’t one thing I regretted not keeping. In fact, my only regrets were the things we kept!

    Now, ten years later, we’re doing it all again. Although we’ve amassed much less this time around, there’s still plenty to get rid of in the next two months. Then we’ll pack just enough to live on in a tiny motorhome so we can slow travel around Europe for at least a year. It’s our dream, and there’s no way we could do it with a load of possessions holding us back. I would much rather make memories than own things any day! Bon voyage!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I know exactly what you mean Alison! Once you realise how easy it was to give away everything, you realise it’s futile to continue keeping many of your other possessions! I think the second time would be easier than the first, am I correct? Since you’ve done it before, you know the mental process behind letting go of everything?

      Reply
  7. Alissa

    I haven’t tried besides when we decided to move from an apartment to a house, we went on replacing cheap furniture with quality. I probably wouldn’t ever do that now but that’s only because we have a house now and my husband has a career he’s working on (and a second degree, whew!) It sounds very exciting though, especially knowing what things are about to come out of it!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s a really tough decision for someone who travels a lot – quality products will last much longer but then will you actually hang on to it long enough to justify the expense? It all depends on your situation I think. If you’re planning on having one place as a permanent base, I think it’s definitely worth it!

      Reply
  8. Ashley

    I did this very thing a few months ago! Before I moved to Spain I sold everything I’d collected in Canada (except for a few books and very sentimental things that I left at my mum’s house). At first it was kind of scary, but now that I look back on it I don’t regret it at all and I feel so much freer being able to put everything I own into one suitcase. It’s led me to want to trim what I own even more, because I really don’t feel the need to carry around a lot of what I’ve kept.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That is exactly the kind of feeling I wanted to put into words! Intimidating at first, but then invigorating afterwards. Once you get started, you just keep wanting to get rid of more and more until there’s only the bare essentials. Thanks for sharing Ashley!

      Reply
  9. Beau

    Nice work on getting rid of all the clutter! Something we have not managed yet, we got rid of roughly half of our crap, but the rest is sitting in storage! I am sure if we pull it out in the future we will be asking why we kept it!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Half is still a great achievement! I think you’re right, when you revisit the stuff you kept at a later date, you may wonder what the point of keeping it was!

      Reply
  10. Erin

    OH MY GOODNESS! I love this. I am so inspired right now. Umm… I’m going to go get to work.

    Reply
  11. Anne

    It has taken me a lifetime to accumulate all my beautiful things. I finally have a home… In the days when I had nothing and my home was bare and soul less I was depressed and felt lost. Now I have a cosy, ecclectic home filled with things that make me smile. Why on EARTH would I want to go back to roughing it?
    You might love it, but is it wise to encourage this? You could break people! You mimimalists are as unhealthy as hoarders. While it may work for you, it is very irresponsible to promote this.!!!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Well, the minimalist lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but I wrote this post for the people who ARE into the idea. If you don’t want to sell all your things, no one is forcing you to. You should let people make their own decisions on whether they want to be a minimalist or a hoarder 🙂

      Reply
      • Marlene

        I think the one truthful part of this person’s post is that she is surrounded by things that make her smile. That is a state of environment and mind to which collectors and minimalists can aspire. People have to choose their own paths and motivations.

        Reply
  12. Jason

    I know this is an old post, but I’m setting off to do this right now. All these comments and positive support are making it easier, although I’m scared to death!
    I’m 42, bachelor, no kids and have a ton of tools and just stuff. Just time to truly start fresh!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s great news, Jason! It is a scary thing to do, but you should feel a huge weight lift off your shoulders afterwards. Best of luck with your fresh start 😀

      Reply
  13. Michelle Webster

    I have a question, what do you do with old photos? I have inherited my grandma and grandpas photos and now my mom and dads , plus all of mine!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      An excellent question, Michelle! I absolutely could not bear to throw away old photos. Luckily most of mine are now digital, but all the printed photos that I have from when I was a kid are stored in albums and scrapbooks at my parents house. One day I would love to scan them all and digitize, but it would take a monumental effort! Maybe you could scan one album at a time every month or so until you eventually digitize them all?

      Reply
  14. Deanna

    Hi thank you for writing this post. I’m currently purging a 2,500 sq ft house with very very nice things accumulated only about 5 years ago. I feel like I need a support group of people purging… so I googled ” sell everything and regret it” and found this post!

    Reply

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