Downsizing into my SUV: My Methodical Approach to Getting Rid of Stuff

Phoenix, AZ

July 24, 2020: My 35th birthday AND the day my house went under contract. My dream of traveling full-time as a gypsy, vagabonding nomad was right there on the horizon… and the only thing in the way of ultimate freedom? A house-full of stuff.

I had 7 weeks until closing. So how did I decide what would go and what would stay?

It felt like a nearly impossible job. Decades of clothing, shoes, jewelry and purses, furniture, electronics, kitchenware, and so many things gathering dust in the garage.

In my master bedroom, I had a chest AND a dresser, their drawers filled to the brim. I had a large walk-in closet, healthily full, with organization cubbies and drawers. I did NOT want for anything. I literally had hundreds of pieces of apparel that I had collected over DECADES, and at $10 to $300 apiece, my closet was no joke. Two bathrooms full of toiletries. Decor that impressed vacation renters and interior decorators alike.

Guys, looking back, now two months later into nomad life… I had SO. MUCH. STUFF. Now, my old life seems almost unfathomable. But it wasn’t easy to get here.

Answering the question: Pack, store, consign, sell, bestow, donate, or trash?

I took a pretty methodical approach to downsizing when it came to my closet and apparel. I started with the obvious: separated my favorite clothing from what would become a consign-sell-donate pile. The former would be put into the two suitcases I would take with me on my journey and a few bins that would go into a storage closet. The latter would be anything that I hadn’t worn in ages, didn’t fit, just wasn’t really flattering on me, or was no longer my style.

In the “favorite” clothing pile, for my approximately one-year nomad life journey: a handful each of my favorite or most utilitarian tops, pants, sweaters, dresses, and jackets. I made sure I had a few choices for the typical scenarios — working in comfort around the home, hiking and gym-going, casual going-out attire, a few more dressy outfits, and a couple businesswear options for networking or Zooms. A plastic bin that would go in my car included a couple pairs of boots (hiking, rain), sandals (waterproof, birkenstocks), tennis shoes (street smart and for actual workouts), and a couple more business casual options (a cute flat, a wedge, and a heel) maybe a dozen or so total.

That still left a heck of a lot of clothing left. 

Next, I tackled clothing I wouldn’t immediately need but wanted to keep for the future. This was clothing that I generally had worn in the last year and wanted to wear again, but just didn’t have the occasion for it due to the pandemic and for my expected lifestyle this next year. I filled three plastic storage bins — one of winter clothing, one of summer clothing, and one for shoes. This I put in storage for later retrieval at around $75 a month.

Everything else: consigned, sold, or donated. (This was still the vast majority of my stuff.) Clothing that didn’t fit — oops, I drink beer and eat meat; clothing that I hadn’t worn in more than a year — I work from home, do I need seven pairs of slacks?; and, clothing that was no longer in style — and I wasn’t going to hold on to for decades for the trends to come back around.

For consignment, I used Plato’s Closet, Clothes Mentor, and Turn Style, with locations all around Phoenix. (I tried to sell a few high-end things on Poshmark, IE) a Swarovski-encrusted mixed metal Kate Space watch, with no luck. It’s a tough market for luxury items.) 

Friends came in and raided my closet for $1 a top or $2 a dress or pant, and everything else that friends and the consignment store didn’t want was put up at a weekend garage sale for whatever I could get for it. Leftover stuff was thrown into the trunk and dropped off at Goodwill.

Furniture, kitchenware and everything other than clothes

This part was not as difficult to sort, but damn, still a ton of work! Knowing that I had a 45-day closing (Covid time frames), I immediately started listing on Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp the big ticket items I could part with up front: my granite countertop dining set that seated 8. My three TVs. All the extraneous electronics that I found in various drawers and bins, like a Kindle Fire and iPod Nano that hadn’t been touched in years. Weights and a bicycle that were collecting dust in my garage. (Don’t judge me, guys. How much crap do you have furrowed away in your home that you’ve barely even looked at? My advice: get rid of it, now. What are you waiting for? Plus, the earlier you sell it, the more you’ll likely get for it.)

There was such a cleansing feeling to purge. I did not feel any loss at all — ok, except for the day that all my TVs sold and I still had a couple episodes left — but, cash in hand, it felt like a fair exchange. They got their material possessions for a fraction of what they would pay new, and I got to purge, feel freedom, and get some spending money for my travels.

I set a bunch of stuff aside for my newly engaged nephew, and put in storage only a small percentage of things to start out my kitchen whenever (or if?) I decided to eventually settle somewhere.

My #1 best rule to downsizing

Things are just that… things. They can ALWAYS be replaced. I asked myself: if it could be easily replaced, I would get rid of it. Why hold on it? It would take up space in storage and cost money to transport. Chances are, I would not miss anything.

And In case you’re curious how old Julie’s stuff shook out: I packed 2% of my things into my SUV, stored about 3% , consigned 5%, sold 50%, bestowed 5%, donated 30%, and trashed 5%.

Now over two months in, I can tell you… Nomad Life Julie hasn’t missed anything. (And I definitely haven’t worn everything yet!) 😘

More questions for me about the nomad life? Drop a comment or send me a DM on Instagram at @juliebrose 💝

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