Stuff

We had our great estate sale this weekend where we sold most of our “stuff”. It was certainly the biggest step in uprooting in preparation for our new adventure – one we had been preparing for for a few months. We sold all of our furniture and about three quarters of everything we owned. It was as big of an endeavor as it was an enlightening experience.

The process started with building a storage area within our garage to store the stuff we wanted to keep. It was mostly our decorations for our big Halloween party along with Seattle type gear and clothes, a few mattresses, TV, etc.

Everything else included almost all the furniture, 97 boxes of densely packed stuff, and a bunch of clothes. We originally didn’t expect to sell everything, but then we learned that to rent the house, we’d have a better chance if it was unfurnished. So we took the leap and sold all of our stuff – with some help from Jon and his great crew at Ballard Estate Services. It certainly reduced our complexity.

Packing the first few boxes was hard, but it got a lot easier as it went. I saw a lot of stuff I had not seen in years (in some cases decades). Things like my thousand or so D&D miniatures from the 70s. Or two rare Czechoslovakian egg-shaped liqueur sets from my grandmother that I have never used. Many things brought back memories of course, but I didn’t feel wed to any of this “stuff”. We had downsized and gotten rid of stuff before in moves and spring cleaning, but never like this. My rule became “if I hadn’t seen or used it in years, it wasn’t really anything I needed.”

That rule extended to digital “stuff” too. I tend to be a digital pack rat, saving everything for decades across all forms of ancient media like optical drive discs and zip drive discs. That all went. All my graduate design projects and papers, including my thesis project. While I had kept the media readers too, I couldn’t connect them to modern computers so they all just sat in a box waiting for the day when I would have so much free time that I could go back and transfer all that stuff to modern media. That day never came, fortunately, and so it all went as well.

Surprisingly, Deb and the kids did well with this divesting activity too. As a family we tend to favor experiences over things, I think, which is a good thing given what we are doing.

The estate sale itself was an odd thing even though we only saw the beginning and end. The beginning as in people lining up at 7:30 in the morning, signing a list to get in first when it opened at 9:00. The end as in the people hanging around after the sale was over, still rooting around the leftovers. We found that there is a very unique subculture of people who thrive on estate sales. Who knew? In the end, most things sold – including our entire pantry of food, much of it partially consumed! Some, surprisingly, did not. I’m sure they will all end up in other people’s fine collections of stuff.

What I realized through this effort is that my stuff doesn’t define me. It may give a clue about who I am, but these clues may be just as misleading (like the liqueur sets) as they are accurate. The stories I tell people aren’t usually about my stuff; they are about people we’ve met, or things we’ve done, or places we’ve gone.

It’s all just stuff. At least, that’s how I’ve come to think of it. I know it’s different for different folks. But, if I focus too much on collecting this stuff, I’ll be dwelling in the past. It will tie me down and keep me from doing something really new and adventurous.

We are taking (relatively) few things with us to Costa Rica. Everything really needs to earn its place. When we come back, I expect we’ll come back with some incredible life experiences and stories and new friends. Maybe we’ll get more “stuff” 🙂 .

Postscript

The results are in. We had about 400 people come through over 3 days. The total from our estate sale is $4886.

It was a bit shocking to see that the sum total of most of our stuff is so low. In fairness, many of the pricier/specialty items (like those liqueur sets) didn’t sell. That isn’t surprising since it’s unlikely that the “right” collector for something like that would happen to appear at our particular estate sale. So, we can expect maybe $1000-$2000 more.

One of the more interesting tidbits from the estate sale folks is that people evidently were willing to pay more for partially consumed food (e.g., half a box of pasta) than a CD or DVD.

Things aren’t ever as valuable as we believe them to be (unless, I suppose, you carefully put each thing on eBay and find your perfect buyer somewhere in the digiverse but who has time for that?). I’m glad we are focused on experiences. The value of (most of) the contents of our house – $4800. The value of the experience of living in a foreign country for a year with our kids at this time in their lives – priceless.

12 thoughts on “Stuff

  1. I’ve always had the fantasy of owning nothing – inspiring to read your thoughts about doing it and what it feels like.

  2. I’m so glad you wrote about this Andy. I looked in to estate sales after your notification came through and was very curious about how it would go. Some then I’ve been looking at our “stuff” wondering what’s really important or loved. Frankly, I think my list is pretty small. Even some things that are super sentimental went on my mental list, because I realize that the memory that’s attached to those things is what’s truly important, not the thing itself.

  3. Andy, it sounds like the adventure is starting right in your own garage! Agree that the longer we save things, the more emotionally attached we become simply because we have been storing them. “I can’t get rid of that I had it for years ( hadn’t opened the box in 10 years). When my wife Carolyn and I moved frequently for work people used to ask us how we did it and I always tell people with each move we lightened the load and reduced the stress. You soon find out that if you don’t touch something for a year you don’t really need it. Best of Luck.

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