Do You Sell Your Life’s Belongings to Travel, Or Save Them to Return?

Posted By Jeremy in Planning


Disclaimer: Living the Dream uses demographic data, email opt-ins, display advertising, and affiliate links to operate this site. Please review our Terms and Conditions for more information and our Privacy Policy.

Packing Up Boxes to MoveIn preparation for our RTW trip, we had a challenging milestone we needed to meet in order to get rid of all of our non-essential belongings.  The years of furniture and decoration purchases for our apartment(s) were at an end, and we found ourselves surrounded by dozens upon dozens of items that we had no use for.  The worst part about it was not that we had so much stuff, but rather that we were “moving” to our parents before traveling – over 4 hours away.  This meant two things.  1) We had a deadline.  2) We couldn't have any big furniture go with us.

To us, selling all of our big furniture was common sense.  We would want nicer furniture in our next place anyway, and could use the extra $1,000 to $2,000 in travel money.  When poised with the alternative of renting a storage locker and spending roughly the same amount in the opposite, negative direction, our choice was simple.  But for others who are looking to travel long-term, there are a few selling and storage options worth considering for all the items you'll be leaving behind.

Sell to Your Friends

In what is perhaps the best way to get rid of your belongings, selling to your friends is a dream come true if you can work it out.  Your friends have probably been over to your apartment or house many times before and know whether or not they would be interested in buying one, or in our case many of the furniture items you have for sale.

Compared to other items on this list, selling to your friends has its perks in that you can be perfectly honest with the quality and price of everything you have.  We told our friends exactly how much we spent for everything, where the items were damaged or a little worn, and offered them a great price.  Less money for us, but an easy exchange with no fake pitching.

As luck would have it, one of our friends is renting our apartment after our lease is over.  He is also buying every piece of furniture we own.   We get to leave our entire life in the apartment, not have to deal with Craigslist buyers, and he gets a fully furnished apartment when he opens the door.

Lets just say, he got a good discount.

Savings Capability:  Good!

We unloaded all of our belongings to a friend for a great price, but probably could have made more selling on Craigslist.  Call it the discount of hassle free selling (and buying).  For that, I'll gladly take a hit on the money side.

Sell on Craigslist

If you cannot sell to friends, selling on Craiglist is probably the next best bet.  The problem we have with Craigslist is the same that everyone has.  A stranger sees your posts, expresses interest, and would have to see the item before you sell it.  A small item we can take and meet in a parking lot somewhere without issue, but larger items like our couches and bed would have required a stranger coming into our home.  Weird people testing out our furniture, helping move it, and being in and out of our place?  Makes us a little leery.

But compared to other services, Craigslist is amongst the widest used.  In a major city like Pittsburgh (where we live), furniture goes on Craigslist one day and is purchased the next.  The turnover rate is quite remarkable, showing that a large city has no end of buyers looking for both new and moderately worn pieces of furniture.

Those living in college towns get a double perk when it comes to selling if you can time it during a major move-in month, as thousands of students descend upon your city and use the service to find cheap furniture.  Less than new prices for them, mass sales for you, and everyone is happy!

Savings Capability:  Variable!

Craigslist is very much a local phenomena and is more popular in some states and regions than others.  The seasons also have an impact on Craigslist as you would likely be able to sell furniture during a college move-in month more readily than you would in say, the dead of winter.

Store with Family

Packing for a Long-Term Trip

For everything else that we couldn't sell, we are storing with our family.  Many of our expensive kitchen gadgets and personal belongings (souvenirs, clothes, etc) are also being kept due to their sentimental value or need when we return. Even with that small criteria, we found that we had quite a large number of items that needed a home.

The difficult issue here was keeping the number of boxes we had at a minimum.  First, we were moving four hours away to be with our family.  To avoid the need for a U-Haul we had to minimize our boxes to fit into the number of cars we had available.  Due to multiple family visits for things like Angie's graduation and other celebrations, we had a max of roughly 7 car loads.   The other criteria we had to keep in mind was that our parents have limited storage room.  If we had too many boxes, well, we may have needed a storage locker.

Something about selling our major furniture items to make money just to have to spend it later for a U-Haul or storage locker didn't make sense.  So to keep this from happening a few more of our favorite items had to be sold.  Sad, but necessary to make sure we could fit all of our belongings in our parent's basements.

Savings Capability: Breakeven!

Storing with family is a great option for those who have relatives nearby with available space and an open offer.  The trick with this one is managing the logistics of moving your remaining items and minimizing the number of boxes to not wear out your welcome.

Don't wait until last minute to buy travel insurance. Get covered with World Nomads- we never leave home without it!

Storage Lockers

If all other options fail, and you still want to keep your belongings, a storage locker is probably for you.  The obvious monthly fee for a storage locker is one thing, but there is also the moving logistics like in the previous topic.  For larger items, a truck or moving vehicle may be necessary just to bring your items to and from the storage facility, adding another potential cost onto the already high prices.

The nice thing about storage lockers is you should be able to find available ones in a variety of types in your city.  From outdoor lockers to indoor lockers with temperature control, options exist for all storage requirements and price ranges.  The only downside is that for 6, 12, or 24 months of storage it will eat into your travel budget a fair bit.

Savings Capability: Negative!

Originally we looked at renting a storage locker, but after doing the math of getting a U-Haul to take our belongings to Ohio, the rental cost of a storage unit for 15 months, and the subsequent U-Haul to move our items to our next city after we return, it didn't make sense.  Instead, selling our belongings for a good percentage of their original purchase value was our best course of action.

Freecycle

The Freecycle phenomena is one that has been catching on in recent years as a way to minimize waste that goes to landfills, especially when the item is perfectly usable.  With nearly 10,000,000 members in the international community, Freecycling is a popular way to get rid of unwanted items that still have value that Craigslist shoppers may not want to pay for.   You get rid of your items, someone else gets benefit from them, and you don't have to worry about how to dispose of it.

We have a few major items left, such as our 10+ year old television that we are trying to sell on Craigslist.  If we don't get any takers within the next few days, Freecycle will be its next stop before the curb.

Saving Capability: Breakeven!

There is no cash exchange here, but at least you can get rid of your unwanted items without having to store them or dump them in the trash.  For frugal people like ourselves, seeing a perfectly good item hit the trash is one of the most upsetting things about the whole process.  So before you dump that usable item, see if Freecycling would work for you!

The above tips are just some of the ways we have seen to either sell or store your life's belongings to go travel.  Naturally, since we lived frugally to save and purchased cheaper furniture, all of our belongings were sold for a nice padding of our account.  Whether your sell or store, we must highly recommend keeping the costs in mind when planning your next long-term trip.  If you don't, they'll be sure to sneak up on you.

What are your favorite methods to sell or store your belongings between long-term trips?  Comment below to join the discussion and let us know!

Looking to book your next trip? Check out the following services we use and love or click the previous link to read more!

10 Comments

  1. Great article! We are asking a lot of these questions about returning even before we leave! What have peoples experiences been like upon returning after selling?

    Post a Reply
    • I think it is all a matter of logistics on what you plan to do when you get home. If you want to live in the same city, keeping everything may be better. We sold it all, ended up back in the same city, and repurchased. It was no big deal but we needed more money later on to buy things, so it is important to keep that in mind.

      Post a Reply
  2. Great post! It’s always a difficult decision to sell or store all our precious things that we’ve held onto for so long. It’s only after we travel for a few months or years that we learn how meaningless it all is, even the things that were so sentimental at one time.

    My wife and I sold everything we owned a year ago to move to Central America and we haven’t regretted it one bit! Craigslist worked great for us to sell all our furniture and popular things, and eBay was good for the specialized niche things that needed the reach of eBay to sell. We learned so much in the process we wrote a few articles on it!

    Have a great time living and traveling light!

    Post a Reply
  3. On my first RTW trip I sold everything, primarily on Craigslist. When I returned I repurchased everything, which ended up being way more expensive than I anticipated. All the small stuff really adds up! Now, not even two years later I’ve taken a 1 year position in Africa and am faced with the same decision again! This time I’m storing it since it’s all so new and you don’t get nearly the value when selling it. If I would have known that I was going to leave again I totally would have bought the cheap stuff and sold it again!

    But storing it at someone’s house is the best way to go if you have that option!

    Post a Reply
  4. Woa, great comments everyone! Thanks so much for the input!

    @OCDemon – That is a great idea for if you’re able to keep the apartment. We obviously didn’t touch on that topic much, but subletting with furniture, if possible, is a double bonus if you can swing it. Unfortunately we couldn’t do that with ours, but having a friend pick up the lease where you ended yours is how we got our perk!

    @Lisa – Agreed! We are only keeping as much as we are just because we got some really nice kitchen and dining room items for our wedding. While we are intending of setting up life eventually, they are good enough we want to keep for when we do.

    @TravelnLass – When you put it that way, it is a small price. I definitely look at it as peanuts for some things that are not replaceable. Sounds like you have some pretty amazing items to show for yourself! We just have the fancy kitchen stuff I mentioned above and then my travel souvenirs, which, while cheap, cannot be replaced easily.

    @Andrea – I hear that. But, take what you can, right? I’m happy we parted with as much as we could. You can imagine the discussions we had on whether or not to keep the bed (and get the U-Haul to save a $600 bed? I think not).

    @Kate – That was mentioned in an earlier comment too! Good ideas for those who are owners and can do such things. I have to say I’m kind of jealous 🙂

    Post a Reply
  5. We ended up renting our house furnished and closed off one room where we boxed and piled up everything except the “big furniture” which was rented with the house. We also had 4 garage sales.

    Post a Reply
  6. We always sell furniture and appliances but sadly can’t part with everything. Has resulted in a 7 cubic metre entourage of stuff following us around the world. We could do better…

    Post a Reply
  7. Clearly I’ve been through this same dilemma back in 2011, Jeremy – though I was planning on moving PERMANENTLY to Asia. I had a one-way ticket to Vietnam, but of course wasn’t sure I’d not come screaming back to my beloved Seattle in three months, so…

    I’d already downsized to a little one bedroom in Seattle several years earlier, and most the furniture was forgettable. But I did have a few pieces that I couldn’t part with – especially should I ever return (see “screaming” above): an antique desk, a favorite day bed, an antique cedar chest I’d personally restored from 2 coats of green paint and three of white, to the original “waterfall” wood finish, and THE most rare and precious tiny glass and bamboo table and 2 chairs – just perfect for a small apartment.

    In short, all irreplaceable should I ever return and want to set up housekeeping in the States. So I scoured the storage locker situation in Seattle, and… yes, found that most near the city were quite pricey. But I finally found one just 10 min. away – a wee 5′ x 5′ x 6′ space for just $30 per month, and I managed to squeeze it all in (along with my collection of 20+ personally handmade art quilts).

    I figured, even if I was gone a year it would cost me less than $400, so well worth storing my precious antiques while I tested the expat waters.

    That was… nearly TWO years ago now! And I honestly don’t see myself returning to my native land any time soon. 😉

    Still… it seems crazy to still have a locker full of furniture back in Seattle. And perhaps one day I’ll return to Seattle for a visit and give it all away to friends. But for now, the $30 monthly debit just doesn’t seem like that big of deal.

    Post a Reply
  8. we sold off all of our big furniture, and what’s left in our shipping container is only personal items that I treasure – photos and drawings. One section has our 17 year old son’s things in there…once he moves out (with the navy) he will be taking his bed etc. Then the shipping container is basically empty.
    I never wanted to keep anything in case it got damaged! And besides I never want to own a house again 🙂
    Its amazing how much stuff we think we need to live with, when really its only the basics we need!

    Post a Reply
  9. I have found myself in this predicament after having purchased the “right” things for the sole purpose of never having to buy anything ever again. Actually I was thinking about renting a 2 bedroom apartment, then renting it to just a single person at a discounted rate, and using the spare room as a storage room. Costs more, but you don’t have to move anything.

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

13 Shares
Share13
Tweet
Pin
Email