Last Updated on July 29, 2020 by Jeremy
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In 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 on 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 phenomenon 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
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 seven 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.
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.
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!
About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.