When heading out on an adventure for a year or so, you will need to determine what to do with all of the stuff accumulated over the years.
And there will most definitely be a lot of stuff.
Clothes, furniture, cars, toys, tools, bedding, pots, pans, lawn equipment, and so forth. The list goes on and on.
When leaving for my current adventure, an RV trip across America, I way underestimated how much our family of four had accumulated over the last few years. As a result, I way underestimated the effort and time required to sell, give away, throw away, pack, and store our things.
I also underestimated the storage space I would need, which almost became a costly mistake.
Before getting into what you can actually do with your stuff before an adventure, here are two pieces of advice to help you avoid anxiety and unexpected costs.
First, avoid spending money to shed your stuff
Storing and disposing of your belongings may cost you money. From movers to moving trucks to storage units to junk haulers, there are many ways that you could drive up expenses to situate your stuff before an adventure.
Unless you have plenty of money, we suggest you actually use this opportunity to make some money for your adventure, or at least break even with storage and disposal costs.
By selling some of your belongings, finding cheap and free places to store your stuff, and keeping costs to a minimum, you can net some positive cash flow from this part of the plan. Cash that you can put towards your adventure.
Second, start shedding well before the adventure begins
Most people despise moving. I certainly do. It’s slow, labor intensive, uncertain, and sometimes seemingly endless.
Shedding your belongings ahead of an adventure comes with similar pains, but it can be cathartic relief if you approach it with the appropriate timing and the thought that every item you sell, trash or store gets you one step closer to adventure.
We suggest you plan for at least six weeks before your departure to get rid of, pack, and store all of your stuff.
At least six weeks before your departure, spend a couple hours each night to sell, toss, or store the non-essential items first, those items which have no functional use in your daily life.
Empty out the random closets and cabinets. Purge the old wardrobe. Take pictures and art off the walls. Move out a guest bedroom or random pieces of furniture throughout the house.
Over the weeks, you’re home should become increasingly barren as more and more stuff is sold, stored, or thrown out.
Your goal should be to have only the bare essentials in your home in the last week prior to departing on your adventure. In the last day, you should only be living with the clothes and gear that you’ll be taking on your adventure. Everything else will be sold, disposed, or in storage.
Why not just pack all at once?
Because we think it is riskier to do so. Starting early on your efforts to shed means you don’t have time pressing on you. With ample time, you will make smarter decisions about what you keep and what you don’t, where you store your stuff, and in getting the best deal for the stuff you decide to sell.
When your time is short, you rush decisions, and often you have to make less than optimal financial decisions, such as renting an expensive storage unit or paying someone to haul away bulky garbage.
For the stuff you don’t want to keep…
You’ll need to be ruthless in deciding what you need and want to keep. Don’t let sentiment get in the way of logic or financial common sense.
Here are some strategies to unburden yourself of things.
Selling your more valuable belongings can not only cover the costs associated with storing the stuff you want to keep, but also it can help you generate some cash to put towards the adventure.
Have a look around your place. See anything collecting dust that someone else would buy?
Chances are you have items in your rooms, closets and sheds that others would purchase.
Post them on Craigslist, ebay, or a local classifieds service.
Always start the shedding process by trying to sell the things you don’t want to keep. We suggest selling first as it takes time to sell. You will need to post ads, meet buyers, and finally make the deal. This all takes time. Also, if your stuff doesn’t sell, then you can always give it away or toss it.
Once you sell a few items, you just might catch a fever and start posting anything and everything for sale.
Have at it. Your stuff in storage won’t do you much good on the adventure, but cash in the bank will.
Before throwing something away, consider whether or not someone else could make use of it.
There are plenty of charitable and for-profit organizations that will gladly accept donations of your gently used clothing, toys, furniture, tools, kitchen utensils, and other items.
Donations aren’t just limited to small items, you can donate large furniture, large appliances, cars, and boats.
You can carry your items to local charities, or in some cases ask the charity to pick up your donations.
On top of the benefit of knowing that your stuff isn’t going to waste, you can also claim appropriate tax deductions when Uncle Sam comes knocking on April 15.
Even if you’ve got some furniture or things too worn or broken for charity, set them on the curb.
A stranger will often take it away for you for free, like the jogging stroller with the busted wheel in the background of the picture below.
If you can’t sell it, donate it, or give it away, then pitch it.
To speed up the disposal process, we suggest you get a dumpster. The weekly trash haul by the city, if you have one, just won’t let you move enough volume to make quick progress.
The super duty dumpster option is to rent a construction dumpster, which are commonly available in 20 and 30 cubic yards. That’s a lot of space, way more than most would need unless they were throwing away everything including the kitchen sink. Expect a base price around $500 plus fees for dumping. There are also surcharges if you keep the dumpster past the time allowed.
My preferred option is something like the Bagster. This 3 cubic yard dumpster gives me plenty of room to dump the things I didn’t sell or donate. The dumpster bag is available at my local hardware store. I can take as long as I want to fill it up without fees for time, and when I want it hauled away I simply fill out a form online.
The bag costs $30, and the hauling fee is $129. The cost per cubic foot is much higher than a construction dumpster, but the overall price is lower and just right for me.
Now, for the stuff you want to keep…
For the stuff you want to keep at home while you’re traveling, your first instinct may be to rent a storage unit. However, that is a costly option.
Based on my research, a storage closet 10′ x 30′ that would fit all of our stuff would have cost us $229/mo, or $2,748 per year plus tax and potential fees.
That’s a lot of money that you can keep in your pocket, so use some of the tactics below to store items for the least possible cost.
Rent your house partially furnished
Not all tenants want to use your furniture, and most tenants will be arriving with their own.
Some tenants, though, are in a position in which they need a house fully or partially furnished. As an adventure traveler that needs to store a bunch of stuff, a tenant needing furnishings will be a real benefit.
In our case, we rented our house partially furnished. The tenant was moving from a smaller house, and they needed some furniture to fill the rooms of our larger house. They kept two beds, a crib, two dressers, four chairs, the patio furniture, and a television.
In some cases, you may be able to rent your house for a higher monthly rent if your house comes partially or fully furnished. We couldn’t get a higher monthly rent for the furnishings, as the tenant would have not kept the items if they had to pay for them, but the tenant deciding to keep the bulky furniture in the house meant that we didn’t have to pay to store those bulkier items.
Keep an owner’s closet
When we rented our house, we negotiated to keep the attic above the carport for our own storage use. The attic doesn’t have much height clearance, but it spans about 400 square feet over the carport.
This space gave us tons of storage room for boxes, pictures, and furniture.
If you have an outside shed or large attic, try to negotiate keeping it as part of the terms of the lease.
Let friends and family borrow it
Don’t look past friends and family as a means for finding a temporary home for your stuff.
I had a friend borrow my table saw, radial arm saw, and pressure washer. He’ll use them lightly while I travel, and I trust he will take care of them. By borrowing my tools and agreeing to keep them in his garage, he freed up some storage space in my attic.
In another instance, we stored all of our valuable paintings and a couple of antique pieces of furniture at my mother’s house.
And in yet another instance, my sister is putting our two oversized couches in her living room.
Anything that you can leave with friends or family will help you avoid a storage unit.
Store stuff in your car
If you are keeping your car but leaving it behind, perhaps in a friend’s driveway or something, then consider turning it into a closet by cramming it to the brim with your stuff.
I sold one of our cars, but I kept my 1996 suburban. The suburban is sitting in my mom’s driveway, at her request. It is loaded with a bunch of my tools, building materials, and shop equipment for her or anyone else in the family to use while I travel.
A storage unit is last resort
Take all reasonable measures to avoid incurring the cost of a storage unit. The costs over the course of a year or two can easily reach $6,000.
I’ve met several travelers who realized after a couple years of travel that they had paid so much towards storage costs over the years that they could have bought all of their stored belongings again brand new.
Don’t make that expensive mistake.
How much money did we make?
Our only cost in sorting out our stuff ahead of the adventure was the Bagster dumpster, which totaled $159. I earned $1,120 from selling various items, including a car on life support.
At the end of it all, I put $961 in my pocket.
In a scenario in which I had to rent the storage unit for a year for $2,748, even if I still earned the $1,120 from selling items, I would be out of pocket $1,628.
It pays to avoid storage costs when traveling long term.
Up Next: Make Money and Travel
Until this point, our advice focuses on saving, budgeting, and planning for the adventure.
You should have a really solid understanding of what it’s going to take from a financial and logistics perspective to pull off your big adventure.
While this may be exciting and comforting, it can also be stressful to fully understand the amount of time it’s going to take to save enough money to make the adventure happen.
Good news, there is a way to embark on your adventure even sooner, and that way is to make money and travel.
Got a brilliant idea?
If you’ve got an idea about how adventurers could more easily or cheaply shed and store their stuff, leave a comment for our readers.