I may need that someday!

I may need that someday!

Too much stuff! That is the problem that most people face in today’s world. People work 40+ hours a week to pay for stuff they have, yet rarely use. Extra costly “toys” like boats or jet skis, only get used a few days or weeks out of the year. Yet you work your fingers to the bone weekly to pay for these items.

The road to freedom begins with prioritizing. Is that $20,000 boat that you use one weekend a year worth it? What about its insurance, storage and upkeep? Start off by listing your extra toys and see just how much they are costing you and your overworked fingers. You may find yourself surprised – it’s just not worth it!

Then get your finances in order. Try to pay off those credit cards and any outstanding bills you have. How? Start selling stuff off. Host a garage sale, go to your local flea market, advertise on a radio/internet swap listing, advertise in a free or cheap newspaper classified or sell it online through eBay or another seller website.

This is the biggest and hardest of them all. Yet if you overcome this hurdle, it’s all downhill after that! What’s so hard? Downsizing! For some reason, modern humans need to acquire massive amounts of credit card debt and collect or gather mounds of “stuff”. You have to stop it and you have to do it cold turkey.

If you make purchases on a credit card regularly and only pay the minimum monthly payment – do you know now much that pack of gum is going to end up costing you at the end of the year? So stop buying anything you don’t need. And do what our ancestors did – if you don’t have the money (cash) to buy it, then you don’t really need it. Do with what you’ve got, as my Mom says.

Start going through that stuff and get rid of it! Yes, you may need that special size screwdriver in two or three years, but it’s certainly not doing you any good now. No sane person needs more than one toaster. Unfortunately, when my family started downsizing, we came across five of them in our storage!

Yet that’s the easy stuff. The hardest is dealing with those items that have a history or some sort of mental hold over you. Deceased Uncle Bob willed you that mounted Marlin – you just can’t part with it! Actually, you can. Get over it – it’s a stuffed fish for Pete’s (well, Uncle Bob’s) sake. The only reason he left it to you cause Goodwill wouldn’t take it and the lawyer was charging him for a Will anyways, so he might as well leave it to you. Ask other relatives if they want some family-handed items. Take photos for your records (if you just can’t let go) and attach a little story of who gave it to you and why it was so gosh darn important you have it hold down your attic for the past ten years.

Then go through some of your things that you considered passing on. In all honesty, will your relatives want those broken picture frames or old suitcases in your attic? Or those incomplete China patterns shoved on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard? Probably not. They are more likely to have an auction company come in and sell off what they can (since you didn’t leave them any money because you spent your lifesaving’s calling QVC each week) or they will find a cheap dumpster company to come and haul it all to the local landfill.

Tell your relatives you are downsizing. Ask them if they want certain items and take a photo of the item. Tell them the history behind it or better yet, write it down for them. Anything they don’t want, find other good homes. Have a family crib but no new babies to put it in? Find a family in need who can use it. History is wonderful, but if it isn’t passed on its worthless. So pass it on!

See that three-story dollhouse in the photo above? My dad made that for me when I was nine years old. I had it for over twenty years. There was a lot of memories, but I have no need for a dollhouse. It went to a little girl who could provide it a good home and pass it on to another when she was ready to let it go. I have photos of it, I have the memories of it and I have the knowledge that it is being loved by another.

If you find that some of your items are just not worth the effort (or money) to try to sell, then consider donating them to charity. Many charities and non-profit organizations have wish lists and your old desk might just be the thing they need! Most will offer a tax receipt for your donation and many charities will even pickup your larger items.

Unfortunately, because of storage space and other issues smaller charities might not be able to take certain items, such as clothes, holiday decorations or electronics. If this is the case, contact your local FreeCycle group and post a free ad for your free item(s). And sometimes it’s as simple as placing a FREE sign on it and toting it to your front yard.

This is where you need to start before you can even think of opening that road map. It’s hard, again, once you get over that initial “letting go” stage, it’s easier! You’ll find that extra stuff wasn’t as important as you thought it was – if you even remember it!

I reached that “letting go plateau” and now when I open my closet or a drawer I say, “Why do I have this?” Everything I currently own could be placed in a normal-sized shopping cart, yet every time we find a new place to call “home”, I manage to find a bag or two of items to donate to the local charities. Material things aren’t a priority to me anymore.

I can’t even envision hoarding (yes, that’s what it is, there, I’ve said it!) stuff again. Just look at the picture above. This was just some of the stuff we had. Shoved away in a storage facility, where we paid monthly bills (and insurance) to keep these precious items. Ha! Precious! I forgot I had half of it and when I opened the boxes I was wondering why I had kept all that junk!

But this isn’t the secret, no this is just the beginning. Get your pens out and start formulating your downsizing plan, then you’ll move closer to how can find freedom on the open road!

UPDATED: February 13, 2013