Preparing for long term travel: what to do with all your stuff?

Preparing for long term travel: what to do with all your stuff?

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The day that we’ll be getting on a plane to travel for a full year is getting closer and closer. We’ve now officially moved out of our beloved apartment and in with the parents-in-law. So, for the past couple of weeks, we’ve been preparing for long term travel and packed up all of our stuff. And we found out that we actually have A LOT OF STUFF!

Fitting everything we own in a backpack for the coming year is both unrealistic and undesirable. Luckily, there are many blogs out there about preparing for long term travel with packing lists and packing tips. However, most of them only focus on which stuff to take with you on your trip, and don’t pay any attention to what to do with all the things you’ll be leaving behind. And trust me, you’ll be leaving a lot of things behind.

Preparing for Long Term Travel: how do you fit your life into just one backack and what to do with all your other stuff?
How do you fit your life into just one backpack?

With this blog post, I want to help you to decide what to do with all your stuff when you’re preparing for long term travel. Should you rent a storage unit and have all your stuff waiting for you when you get back? Or should you burn your bridges and just get rid of it all? Of course, the answer is not going to be the same for everybody and I can’t guarantee that you’ll be making the same decisions that we did.

What I can do, however, is to share with you the considerations that we made, in the hope that it’ll help you along in your travel preparations. Let’s get started!

1. Does it have emotional value?

If the answer to the above question is “yes”, then please, don’t get rid of it because you want to save on storage space. You’ll regret it forever. And of course, I’m not talking about that pretty side table that you love but never actually use. I’m talking about your photo albums, the earrings you got from your grandmother, your childhood teddy bear, or whatever else you’ve got that brings back memories and cannot be replaced.

How to prepare for long term travel? Keep everything with emotional value.
The earrings I got from my grandmother and wore at my wedding; definitely keeping those!

Pack up all the items that have emotional value and store them for when you get back.

That was easy, right? On to the next step!

2. Do you really need it?

Now, this question might be a bit tricky. Of course, you know that you don’t really need that tomato corer (yes, I had one of those…). But, what about those extra pillows that you keep in case you have guests sleep over? Or the stand mixer that you only use once a year, but cost you a fortune to buy? And how about that brand new vase that you got as a gift only a couple of months ago? You should really think long and hard about whether you really need all of it.

It can be difficult to part with some of these items, but do you really want to be weighed down by all this stuff? When preparing for long term travel you’re going to have to let go of many of these items. But don’t worry: getting rid of it can actually feel liberating!

Getting rid of all your stuff to travel: do you really need all those books?
We donated all of our books to the local thrift store. Hooray for e-books!

Bonus tip: don’t keep something just because it was a gift! If you’re not attached to it and don’t need it, it’s got to go. Nobody will hold it against you. Just think about it, would you want someone to hold on to an item they don’t want or need, just because you gave it to them?

3. How much does it cost to buy it again?

When we were having doubts about whether or not to keep an item when preparing for long term travel, asking this question really helped us out. For example, we don’t know whether we’ll be needing our fridge when we get back from our trip. Many apartments come with a built-in fridge, so we might not need ours. So we calculated what it would cost to store our fridge vs. selling it and possibly having to buy a new one next year. Turns out, in the case of such an expensive item, storing it was the cheaper option for us. We can always sell it when we get back.

Selling your stuff to travel: how much will it cost to buy it again?
Appliances are expensive! It’s probably cheaper to store them than to buy everything new after your trip.

For many smaller items, we decided to take the risk and sell them right away.

Bonus tip: wondering where to leave all the stuff you’re keeping? You can probably store some boxes in your parent’s attic, but I bet they won’t be able to take all your furniture as well. Be prepared to rent a storage unit if you’re planning to keep any furniture.

4. Will it sell for a decent amount?

Once you’ve decided that you’re going to get rid of some (or a lot!) of your stuff, you now need to decide where you’re going to leave it. We figured we had three options: sell it online, donate it to charity, or simply throw it away.

Any items that were broken, incomplete, really worn down or just out of date, we simply threw away. We couldn’t imagine making anyone else happy with our half-burned candles and busted old flower pots. (Why we even still had them is a mystery to me…)

The most important consideration that we made in deciding which stuff to try to sell online, is whether we thought it would sell for a decent amount. If you’ve got a lot of stuff to sell, it’s actually quite a lot of work. Remember, you’ll have to take pictures, write descriptions, negotiate with potential buyers, and package and ship all these items.

It's great to sell your stuff online, but don't underestimate how much work it's going to be!
It’s great to sell your stuff online, but don’t underestimate how much work it’s going to be!

Is all this work really worth it if you’re going to earn $3 on a vase? That’s really up to you to decide. We did sell some smaller stuff online, especially when we just started selling our stuff. However, most of these knick-knacks we decided to donate to charity.

How did we do?

In the end, we sold quite a lot of stuff. We didn’t keep track of exactly how much money we made from it, but we estimate it’s well above €1000. And when you’re preparing for long term travel, that’s a nice bonus. That money will go a long way in Southeast Asia!

Preparing for long term travel: selling your stuff will earn you a few extra bucks
Any money you earn by selling your stuff, can go directly into your travel fund!

And even though we also threw away a lot of things, we were surprised at how much stuff we still have left. If it weren’t for the generosity of my parents-in-law, who let us store quite a lot of boxes in their attic, we wouldn’t have been able to fit our life into our rented storage unit. I wonder how much of it we’ll be happy to see again once we get back from our trip…

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