The seed has been planted! “That’s it! I’m ready for a big change! I’m going to buy a van, turn it into a tiny home on wheels and I’m going to travel wherever I desire!” Yes! Such an exciting time!
Once you get your van built out you’ll have to move in all of your belongings. So where do you store your curling iron, straightener, hair products and all of your makeup? Where are you going to put your Xbox, controllers, surround sound, 60” tv and gaming chair? Maybe your massive lawn gnome collection will fit in the trunk? You’re going to need 14,000 articles of clothing right?!
The very first step to transition to a life of travel is answering the heaviest question of them all: “What do I do with all of my stuff?”
There are many ways to answer this question. You can pawn all of your stuff off on a family member and hope they’re okay with storing your belongings in their garage or their basement. Or you can spend $100 a month on a storage unit to hold all of your belongings.
But ask yourself this question – why are these things sitting in storage? If it’s all of your winter activity gear and you’re taking off at the beginning of summer then, okay – maybe. But is it just some glassware you got from Target? Are you just holding on to clothes you hope to fit into again someday when you shed a couple of pounds?
If you want to hear our advice on the best way to store your belongings for a life of travel then here it is:
The best way to store everything you own is NOT TO OWN EVERYTHING!
It’s a fact that the less you own, the less you have to worry about. And it’s a pretty incredible feeling knowing that everything you own, everything you need, is within arm’s reach.
We know first hand that downsizing your belongings isn’t as easy as it sounds – at the beginning, at least. But once you start getting rid of stuff, it gets easier and easier (and easier). Before you know it, you’ll be ditching things left and right without even hesitating. And the weight of a huge stressor you didn’t even know you had will be lifted off your shoulders.
Selling your belongings is also a great way to build some savings before hitting the road. We were able to make over $10,000 selling nearly everything we owned, and that money helped us get through our van build and kept us on the road until we built up a regular income.
So if you want to rid yourself of all the stuff you don’t need, declutter your life, destress your mind, and make some cash while you’re at it – read on!
How to Start Downsizing Your Stuff
The dining room at our old house – packed with stuff!
As you go through your stuff, pick up one item at a time and ask yourself the following questions:
- When was the last time I used this?
- How frequently do I use this?
- How necessary will this be for me moving forward?
- How many of these do I need?
Now let’s break down each of these questions.
When Was the Last Time I Used This?
If the last time you used an item was over a month ago – GET RID OF IT. Almost everything in our van are items that we use daily, and the items we do not use daily – we definitely use them once a month at least. I would say if you haven’t used it within a week to get rid of it, but some items are necessary without being needed every single week (ex: spare batteries, pepper spray, deck of cards. etc).
Also, as you start removing things from your life, the idea of getting rid of more will become less intimidating. So start simple. If something is rocking you emotionally with the idea of getting rid of it, set it aside and hang on to it for now. As you pare down your belongings, you may find it easier and easier to say farewell to things you once thought you could never part with.
How Frequently Do I Use This?
If you use an item once a week or more, consider hanging on to it for now. If there is an item that you use maybe once every few months – chances are pretty good you can get rid of it. There’s no sense in traveling around with a stapler and three-hole punch if you may only use it once a year (full disclosure: we have both of these things, but we do use them).
Keep in mind – if there is something that you MAY need extremely occasionally – you can always pop into a thrift store to see if they have what you’re looking for, and just re-donate it when you are finished with it. Or you can use resources like the library, UPS stores, and similar spaces that let you temporarily use something for a small fee, if not free.
Long story shorter, if you feel like you use it a lot and it brings value to your life, hang on to it for now – you can always re-evaluate later. But if it’s something you rarely use – get rid of it!
How Necessary Will This Be for Me Moving Forward?
This is an important one to examine. Obviously, you won’t know what all you will need until you actually hit the road. That being said, you can still make a list of things you will be needing in your travels and keep some items with this in mind.
For instance, you can probably get rid of that prom dress from a few years ago, but if those hiking pants still fit maybe consider keeping them for now. I’m not sure how necessary that collection of Beanie Babies is going to be, but that hanging basket they are sitting in may come in handy in your van.
You can always continue to get rid of things, so if you are on the fence about anything, hang on to it for a little bit. Once your van is built and you start moving your stuff in, then you can begin to get a better idea of what all to keep and what stuff you can continue getting rid of.
How Many of These Do I Need?
This question can be super helpful with several categories. Before we hit the road we had about 10 wine glasses, 20 pint glasses, 15 coffee mugs, 20 shot glasses and that was just in one cabinet. Now we basically have three drinking receptacles each – one for water, one for a hot beverage, and one for a cold beverage.
You should ask this question about your clothing as well. Do you need 20 t-shirts? Do you need 8 pairs of shorts? Do you need 200 pairs of socks and underwear? We know how difficult it is to get rid of clothes – for some reason it is the hardest of all of our belongings to part with.
We have about five packing cubes filled with clothes in our van but even then we still tend to wear one outfit a week, sometimes even longer. (We know, we are those “dirty hippies”).
Everyone is different, but either way, you don’t need a full blown wardrobe – no one does. Do you really wear every single article of clothing you own every single year? Chances are no – so get ready to purge, and then purge some more!
How To Sell Your Belongings
Just a few of the many books we used to own, laid out for sale
Now that you’ve decided what to get rid of, it’s time for the exciting bank account-growing part: selling everything!
There are a few different ways to go about selling your belongings. We’ll go over some of the best methods, which are:
- Facebook Marketplace and Buy/Sell/Trade Groups
- Yard sales/Garage Sales/Estate Sales
- Church/Community “Trunk Sales”
There are other avenues as well, but these were the main ones we used and the ones we found to be most successful.
We’ve given star ratings (1-5 stars) for each one of these platforms for three important criteria:
- Financial: A higher rating means you can often get a very good price for your items and/or buyers are less likely to haggle. A lower score means you might have to take a lower price and/or buyers expect to haggle you down in price.
- Time/Effort: A higher rating means more of a time investment. A lower rating means less of a time investment.
- Sketchiness: A higher rating means this method of selling can be somewhat sketchy. A lower score means it is not very sketchy.
How Long Does it Take to Sell All Your Stuff?
This varies depending on how much stuff you have and how much time you put into it. We started selling our stuff in June of 2016, and we sold our last item six months later, in December. Now, we weren’t selling our items nonstop 24/7, so don’t feel discouraged about this being that time consuming. But at the same time, if you want to sell your things and get some good money out of it, you will have to put in the effort like it’s a second job.
Facebook Marketplace and Buy, Sell, Trade Groups
- Financial: 5/5
- Time/Effort: 5/5
- Sketchiness: 2/5
Selling through Facebook was easily the most profitable way we sold our belongings, but it was also the most time consuming.
When we began selling everything, Facebook Marketplace was brand new and super glitchy, so we had to resort to joining about 20-30 “Buy, Sell, Trade” groups and posting every item we sold in each individual group.
One of the reasons Facebook Marketplace is so beneficial is because people will scroll around the Marketplace or Buy, Sell, Trade groups just checking out what other people have for sale, plus you can reach a much larger audience.
It’s also more beneficial financially because buyers will rarely haggle with you. They’ll see the price you listed and go “Okay, sounds great! I want it! Can I come get it now?” On top of that, people publicly comment on your post to say they’re interested. This introduces an element of competition, so you might even see potential buyers get into a bidding war.
We think Facebook Marketplace is an incredible way to sell all of your belongings from clothes to household items to antiques and even super random stuff (trust us – we owned some mega odd and random items, and we sold them all!)
We also love how it takes out the sketchiness factor that Craigslist has – not that Craigslist is sketchy, but you know nothing about the person you are interacting with. Whereas on Facebook you can check out a person’s profile before meeting up with them. This means you’ll know what they look like (so you don’t walk up to the wrong stranger at the Walmart parking lot trying to sell them a shoe horn), and you’ll have an idea of who exactly you are interacting with.
Facebook Buy, Sell, Trade Groups
You can also join Facebook Buy, Sell, Trade groups that are centered on specific neighborhoods instead of cities in general. This helps people narrow down their shopping area, which is really helpful for people not wanting to drive 20 miles for a $5 hair straightener. If you sell an item on Marketplace, it gives you the option to check off about 10 Buy, Sell, Trade groups to post to as well.
Not everyone searches Facebook Marketplace, but they will search a BST group in their area. This just helps you expand the areas your listing gets posted. If you edit your Marketplace listing, it will edit all of your other listings as well, so you won’t have to go to each individual group and change your listing.
Here’s how selling on Facebook works:
Step 1: Go to Marketplace and Click “Sell Something”
Step 2: Tell Marketplace What You’re Selling
Step 3: Create Your Listing
Creating your listing on Facebook Marketplace
You can do this a couple different ways. You can create one listing per item, or you can make one listing that has multiple items. If you are doing a listing that has multiple items, be sure to number every photo and have the item description match the corresponding photo number.
If I am posting a listing that includes a pair of shoes, a body pillow, and a drum kit, I will take a photo of each item and put a number on each photo. Then the description will include the item description next to each number, and the dollar amount I am asking for each individual item.
Here’s a description example for a listing with multiple items:
Selling the following items, description numbers correlate with photos PPU in Orange County. POOS.
- Pair of converse shoes, slightly worn – $10
- Faux Mongolian body pillow – $18
- Full drum kit including snare, bass, two cymbals, hi hat, and 4 drumsticks – $200
When you post a listing that has multiple items, we suggest just putting $0 under the “Price” tab since there is a variation of numbers. People also put $123,456. It’s up to you what you wish to do, but we find putting $0 is more of an eye-grabber.
Communicating with Potential Buyers
Selling on Facebook has some rules that people get pretty nit-picky about, and the last thing you want to do is piss off any “admins” in any of the Buy, Sell, Trade groups (trust us, some of these admins are very particular about their rules).
When someone is interested in one of your items they will most likely comment on the photo and say “Interested” or “Int”. You have to go with the first come, first serve model when selling on FB. If your item is still available, you then have to take the conversation off of the listing and privately message them. To reinsure you’ve done this, I highly recommend responding to their comment with “Just sent you a PM!”
If you do not hear back from them, you are welcome to move on to the next person who said they were interested. If someone then makes a complaint with an admin that you “skipped them,” you have proof that you reached out to them, you let them know you reached out to them, and when you received no response, you moved on to the next person.
IMPORTANT: It is very common that people will say they are interested and not follow through. Prepare to be frustrated at first. But if you take the steps listed above, you can confidently move forward to the next person interested and get on with your day. You’re trying to sell your stuff and hit the road. You don’t have time to twiddle your thumbs all day waiting for someone to respond about a $3 pair of earrings!
Some Things We Learned About Selling on Facebook That You Should Keep in Mind
- Use the acronym POOS (Posted On Other Sites) to let others know that you are listing your items not just on Facebook Marketplace but elsewhere as well. Sometimes people get a little competitive with what they want, and if they are the first person to comment that they’re interested and you tell them it’s sold, they may raise hell if you don’t warn them first about your items being listed elsewhere.
- Use the acronym PPU (Porch Pick Up) to have people come to you. You are welcome to tell people “You have to come to me to get this item” if you don’t feel like running all over town dropping off items to people or meeting hundreds of strangers in parking lots all over town. Saying PPU just lets them know that they have to come to your house to pick up what you’re selling them. Don’t feel obligated to go this route though, not everyone is comfortable with strangers coming to their house and that’s okay, too.
- Use the acronym OBO (Or Best Offer) if you are willing to negotiate. We only used this when we were in a RUSH to sell a specific item. Most of the times we were able to get exactly what we wanted for an item. But if something was struggling with selling, or we needed it gone NOW – using OBO will get people offering slightly lower prices which is a guaranteed way to move your items out the door more quickly.
- Be sure to check your “Message Requests” on Messenger. I’m not exactly sure the algorithms that cause this, but sometimes you will not get an alert when people message you about an item, it just ends up under “Message Requests” without you getting an alert. So make a habit to glance under this tab every once in awhile to avoid missing messages from anyone.
- “Is this still available?” is a message that will pop up in your inbox frequently, even long after an item has sold. This is part of the “time” aspect of selling on Facebook. You have to get very used to repeating yourself. I suggest making a “note” somewhere on your phone where you can copy and paste common responses you find yourself sending to people to avoid having to type the same sentences over and over again.
Selling on Craigslist
- Financial: 3/5
- Time/Effort: 3/5
- Sketchiness: 4/5
Craigslist is a much easier selling platform as far as posting your listing, but you just won’t get as many people interested as you will on Facebook. People don’t tend to scroll around on Craigslist seeing what’s for sale the way they do on Facebook. They normally are searching for something specific.
Craigslist is a great platform for selling larger, more sought after items like washers, dryers, and other appliances, bicycles, beds, furniture, cars, etc. You should be prepared for people trying to haggle with you, and buyers won’t have a profile to look at. But it’s a great additional avenue to get some more items moving out of your house.
Some tips: Always make sure to take clear photos of your items to include with your posting. This cuts down on a lot of back-and-forth with potential buyers. Also, if you’re selling a bunch of items on Craigslist, we highly advise creating an account. This drastically speeds up the process of posting and managing your listings.
NOTE: We did not list ALL of our items on Craigslist. Only more specific items we knew people tend to look for.
Just need something gone? Put it out on the street and post it the free section as a “Curb Alert!” with your address in the listing. We’ve done this with many things we needed to get rid of but probably couldn’t sell (like scrap lumber, old tires, and a broken TV), and the items are usually gone within two hours (it’s insane how quickly curb alerts get picked up). One person’s trash is truly another’s treasure. So before you add to our overflowing landfills, see if someone can use it first!
Yard Sales / Estate Sales / Trunk Sales
- Financial: 2/5
- Time/Effort: 3/5
- Sketchiness: 1/5
We probably hosted at least three of these in the process of selling all of our belongings. There isn’t much of a difference between yard sales and garage sales – except for one is selling items on your yard and one is selling items out of your garage. An estate sale is another ball game that you need to prep for.
At yard sales and garage sales, you set out items you are wanting to sell and people go through only the items you have out. We highly suggest some sort of pricing system. The two best ways to do this is to either sticker every individual number, or have a color coding system. Example: Every item with a green sticker is $5, every item with an orange sticker is $1 and every item with a red sticker is $0.50.
Some random knick knacks in our house priced to sell
At estate sales, you typically open up your entire home for people to come in and buy any item inside of the house. These take a lot of time to prep for, but they are the most efficient way to move a lot of items out of your house.
Feel free to put items in an area of the house with a “Nothing for sale beyond this point” sign or something similar. We did that with our upstairs. Anything we were keeping or not ready to sell we threw upstairs and just taped off the stairs saying don’t go beyond this point.
The more organized your estate sale is, the more items you’ll sell. We had a bunch of folding tables propped up and did our best to organize items on each table that were similar. One table held all of our wedding decorations while another table held all of our picture frames.
Mark off everything you do NOT wish to sell. You will be surprised at the items people will ask to buy from you at these events if they’re not marked. We had people trying to buy half-empty boxes of pasta and bottles of scotch, our built-in corner cabinet, and our refrigerator. So if you don’t want to sell it, be sure people have a way of knowing.
Estate sales are WILD! Every time we had one, we opened for business at 7AM, but would be people literally lining up at our front door by 5:30. People get pretty intense about it.
Also, be prepared to bargain. Estate sales are key to getting rid of a LOT of things quickly, not making $500 off of a guitar. Almost everyone will try to negotiate with you, and you will have most success if you accept an offer instead of refuse.
Estate Sale Tip: Get Some Additional Help
Try to get some extra hands on deck to help. We supplied coffee and donuts and had a bunch of friends come over to help monitor, answer questions, and carry different items out for customers. Some items are big and heavy and not everyone is strong, so we had people available to help. Everyone will walk in asking different questions and you won’t have time to answer them all yourselves, so having trusted friends available to answer basic questions is key.
Let your helpers know what you expect as far as bargaining for certain items. If there are items that you won’t go cheaper than a certain dollar amount on, make sure everyone knows and is on the same page. For everything else, allow your helpers to negotiate for you to a price they understand you are comfortable with.
John and I ran the check out and the money so it was very common for us to have someone tell us “The guy in the tie dye shirt told us we could have this for $2” and we would happily move along with the transaction. Again – you won’t have time to talk to each and every person, yet alone negotiate with them – that’s where your helpers come into play.
After all of this, we’ve grown a deep rooted love for estate sales. We’ve actually ran some for others since we’ve hit the road – if we had friends/family members wanting/needing to get rid of stuff, we would happily step in and set up an estate sale for them and run it for the weekend. They are fast, they are wild, and they are so busy. But they are a lot of fun, and they make you some quick money while also helping you get rid of TON of stuff in a short amount of time.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to advertise your yard sale/garage sale/estate sale on Facebook and Craigslist with your address included so people know to come check you out! Signs with large, bold lettering on main roads and intersections help direct people as well, but many yard salers look at Craigslist and Facebook first to plan out their routes for the weekend.
NOTE: If you run your sale on Sunday as well, people may expect items to be discounted. It could be different in your area, but in St. Louis it was commonly understood that Sundays are half price days.
Church Trunk Sales
These are normally fundraisers where you buy a spot (nothing expensive, maybe like $20 or $30) and then you are allowed to sell whatever you wish in your designated area. Sometimes for an additional $5-$10 you can also rent some folding tables, which are really helpful if you don’t already have some.
These events are very similar to yard sales and garage sales, but you have to bring all of your items to the event, which takes a little more effort. They tend to be pretty well promoted throughout the community too, so more people will be anticipating coming to the sale and spending some cash.
Personally, we did one of these and chose not to do another one just because it was a large hassle bringing boxes and boxes and boxes (and boxes and boxes) of items out to the event when we felt we probably could have made close to the same amount if we had just sold items in our own yard. This may vary person to person though, especially depending on the items you are selling.
How to Decide on Prices
Priced out items at one of our estate sales
Pricing your items can be confusing at first. You don’t want to price your items too low, or you won’t make as much money as you could. But you also don’t want to price them too high, because then the item might sit there without any bites.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer on pricing your stuff to sell. A lot of it depends on the specific items, the condition, demand for the item, and the going rate in your area. But here are a few general tips for setting your prices:
- Research the prices on similar items in your area. If you’re planning on selling something through Facebook, search around the Marketplace and local BST groups for similar items. This should give you a general idea of the prices people are paying for certain items. Searching around on Craigslist and attending local yard sales will give you an idea of prices for those avenues.
- Ask yourself how quickly you need the item gone. Do you need something gone ASAP? Set your price lower and it will move. But if you’re selling a big ticket item and you don’t mind hanging on to it for a bit, set your price a bit higher and see if someone bites. The same goes for accepting offers. If you don’t need it gone right away, there’s no reason to accept early low-ball offers. We held out on selling our couch for a few weeks because we weren’t getting offers we liked. We eventually sold it for exactly what we wanted.
- If you’re not getting any interest, drop your prices. Little to no interest in an item you’re selling is a good indicator that your price is too high. If no one’s biting after a few days or so, think about lowering the price.
- Consider offering bundle deals. Have a bunch of jewelry, or books, or clothes – or anything – to sell? Offer people bundle deals for taking multiple items. People love feeling like they’re getting a bargain, and this encourages buyers to walk out of your house with more of your stuff. Win – win!
Pricing your stuff is a skill, and like any skill you’ll get better at it the more you do it. So start slow – sell just a few things at a time, do your best at setting prices, and see how it goes. The more you sell, the more confidence you’ll gain, and the better you’ll get at pricing an item so that it moves while putting the most money in your pocket.
We had no clue what we were doing when we started selling our stuff, and pricing was really confusing. But by the end, we were able to look at just about anything and immediately know what we could get for it. It’s all about practice.
What Are You waiting For? Get Selling!
Back-to-school season is in full swing and that cooler weather is about to start rolling in – which means fall yard sale season is on it’s way! And as soon as that season wraps up we will find ourselves in the midst of holiday shopping beginning – so this is a prime time to start getting your belongings out of your house so that you can move into your soon-to-be new home!
For more awesome vanlife tips, epic build guides, and photos of cute puppies in magical places, be sure to follow us on Instagram @gnomad_home and on Facebook. Cheers!
Great detailed advice on how to downsize successfully, because it can be hard to part with items.
Would love to see the update on the travel.
Thanks so much. I’ve been paying $100 per month storage for 5 years. I tried placing an ad on Craiglist to give the unit away but got no takers. I was going to try again this morning when I got the email for this.
Hi Will, thanks for commenting, and best of luck with your storage unit! 🙂