The Great Minimizing

Simplifying our lives and making some extra money in the process

Abagail and I have been reinvigorated with minimalism and frugality over the past few months. We’ve practiced and followed minimalism in the past, but we lost our way a little. We kept convincing ourselves that we needed this and needed that, and we somehow amassed a whole bunch of stuff that we didn’t need, use, or enjoy.

After refreshing ourselves about living with less by reading books, watching videos, and having conversations with each other, we set out to sell and donate our excess stuff. This wasn’t our first time minimizing our things, but this time has felt significant because of our renewed focus. I’ve been calling it The Great Minimizing.

Abagail and I are no strangers to saying goodbye to what we own. We moved across the country with what we could fit into the SUV we owned at the time. It forced us to decide what we needed and did not. There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot we needed aside from some clothes, a few sentimental items, and our most used and portable kitchen utensils.

In the three years since settling down in Portland, we managed to amass a quite a bit more stuff. Stuff we didn’t even need. A book here, a piece of furniture there. Yet another electronic gadget. It just happened.

Inspired by a renewed focus on minimalism and simplicity, we went through and questioned everything we owned. Through this process, we were able to declutter our home and make some extra money by selling what we didn’t need and donating the rest. As of writing this, we’ve made $11,202.65. Wow, $11k over the course of two months isn’t bad at all. We took that money and invested it as part of our goal to reach financial independence.

Piggy Bank - Wide

I started with my clothes and got rid of the items that no longer fit, had a permanent smell, or didn’t make me feel great. I can’t even remember what clothes I did get rid of, which speaks volumes. From there, I focused my effort on my office. This meant going through my electronics, art supplies, and various items we had stored away in plastic bins. It took me a full weekend, but I was able to separate out the items to keep, donate, and sell. Abagail went through her clothes and our bathroom and kitchen items.

It took time to go through our stuff, but it was worth every minute. We have less we need to maintain or think about. We have more space to live and room to think. We’re less overwhelmed by the things we own. Some of the stuff was sentimental but never used. Some of the other stuff was used often once upon a time but no longer was. Abagail and I try not to be precious with our stuff. We know it isn’t what makes us happy.

Here’s a look at some of the stuff we sold:

Certain items that we sold are clearly the reason why the number is so high, like our car and some electronic gadgets. But most of that stuff was just sitting around in our closet or barely being used. Abagail also sold quite a bit of clothes and shoes using an app on her phone called Poshmark. I was surprised by how much we were able to make selling items I initially thought we should just donate, like an old phone, mp3 player, pen, etc. Those little sales added up.

Donating items is pretty simple. We typically bring them to our local Goodwill, and that was that. You can get an itemized tax-deductible receipt which is great.

Selling stuff takes time and effort, but it’s very much worth it. We use Craigslist, eBay, Poshmark, and local consignment shops to sell our stuff. Each has their own ups and downs, and we’ve found certain items to be ideal for one and not the others. Craigslist is great for items that are expensive or challenging to ship. It’s also typically a must faster way to make some cash. eBay is good for selling easily shippable stuff, especially electronics. It’s such a larger audience than Craigslist, so if something doesn’t sell on Craigslist, try eBay. Poshmark is great for clothes. Our success at consignment shops is pretty good, but they’re typically looking for clothes and accessories in excellent condition.

While making an extra $11k sounds quite nice, there’s a big underlying problem. How the heck did we amass this much stuff in the first place? We would have saved way more than $11k if we didn’t buy any of it in the first place. This is the truly difficult part of minimizing – not acquiring more stuff afterward. We’re now being hyper-diligent about what we do buy and bring into our lives.

We ask ourselves the following questions before we buy anything to hold each other accountable:

  • Do we actually need this or do we just want it?
  • Does buying this item attract more items into our lives? (e.g. buying a fancy bike results in buying a helmet, a lock, a bike pump, fancy biking shoes, saddle bags, etc.)
  • Does this item remove negativity or does it introduce a whole new set of problems?
  • How easy and affordable is it to maintain this item?
  • Will this item last us a long time?

For me, I get into a sort of mania when I want to buy something new. Especially some piece of technology. I’ll watch a bunch of videos, read reviews, and check the website regularly, convincing myself little by little that I need this new gadget. There’s not one new gadget that I’ve bought in recent memory that has actually made my life better. To avoid this mania from happening, I’ve stopped following any technology news and podcasts. I’d rather spend that time learning about living a better life with less than about how some new phone or watch or whatever has 2x the processing power.

The resources that inspired us the most were:

  • Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki – an approachable book in living with less stuff and lots of tips on how to let go
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – an actionable system of how to go through thing systematically
  • The Minimalist Ninja on YouTube – Nina, the creator of the videos, has so much to share about frugality, minimalism and more

The Great Minimizing will continue. We’ve got some ideas on how to simplify our furniture situation. We’re also going to do regular passes through our stuff to evaluate if we still need it. I know I’ve got some books that I want to read and then sell or donate. I’ve also got a plastic bin of shame filled with cords that haven’t been used in years. Living a minimal life is a constant effort. It’s about fighting against the consumerist urges we have and culling through the things we do own.

What do you have that could sell or donate? I bet you could make a pretty sizeable chunk of change with minimal effort by selling the stuff you don’t use. It might not be $11k (or it might be way more), but the amount isn’t what matters. What matters is that you’ll have less clutter in your life and a little more money to put towards investing in yourself. You could pay off some debt, invest in retirement, or go on a vacation that you’ve always wanted to go on (just don’t bring back a bunch of stuff with you!).

Author: Brett Chalupa

day: software developer, night: comic artist