Traveling for an extended period or with no end date is a dream come true for us. There are many others doing the same and many more (maybe you) wanting to. It can seem like there is alot to plan and do before you get on the road and truth is, there is but done step by step it gets done. One of things that needs to be done is packing up your house.
Our home, before we hit the road full time, was a modest three bedroom house with a living area, one bathroom (no ensuite), kitchen, small dining room and a laundry in a cupboard. Despite our home’s modest size, our lounge room was still 2.5 times that of Josephine our 18′ caravan. If we were to move into Josephine and out of our house, stuff, lots and lots of stuff, had to go.
Even now nearly two months after moving out of our house I cannot believe how much stuff we had especially given I was not a shopper and I was known for doing a decent cull from time to time. Yet on the day we were certain we wanted to travel ongoing in a caravan around Australia and I was imagining the space we would have in the caravan, there was a moment, looking around our house where I felt overwhelmed by how much we had. I thought of all the cupboards full of things, boxes of my books (hundreds) on top of a wardrobe, book shelves full of books, my glass collection, the garage (Daryl’s domain) which often you couldn’t even walk into, the garden shed, the renovation materials being stored on our property. I felt as though downsizing, sorting and packing were going to be a mammoth tasks. I was not wrong.
So we started on those tasks as soon as we made the decision we were going to travel indefinitely, this was even before we had decided our departure date. It turned out to be 9 months before we started our life on the road. And we were getting rid of the last of what needed to go with a midnight run to the op shop bin on our very last night. Hey you do what you need to, right?
The important thing is to start. For some of you it will be going in boots and all and tackling the bigger things like the garage and others it will be one drawer. Wherever you start in your home on the tasks of downsizing, sorting and packing it doesn’t matter, just start.
Storage or Dispose?
An important decision that needs to be made is what should you do about your worldly possessions while you travel? The options are:
- leave it all in your house as is and perhaps look at getting a house sitter or have your house ready for you to return at any time, or
- pack it up and put it in storage, or
- depart with or dispose of all (or most) of it.
Your decision is likely to depend on how long you are traveling for, the replacement value of your belongings verses the cost of storage, your need (financially or emotionally) to hang onto your items and what you feel comfortable with. There is no right or wrong choice here, only what works for you. If you do decide to put your possessions in storage it is still a good idea to consider what you are willing to get rid of and reduce your storage costs.
For us personally we knew we didn’t want to just pack everything up and put it all in storage. The reasons were we had minimal space for free storage (we cannot afford commerical storage costs) and the cost to replace our belongings will be less than the storage fees and a removalist in the future (we have no plans to return to our current house). By our calculations we found we will be financially better off to replace items in the future when we again need them. Therefore we made the decision stuff had to go.
Stages of Packing Up a House
Here is how we tackled and achieved this task over the 9 months.
It doesn’t matter if you are getting rid of (just about) everything or putting your belongings in storage, this is the step of getting rid of the things you don’t use and or you won’t miss. It is those things hidden in cupboards, underbeds and in spare rooms that just stay because there is no motivation or time to pack it up and get it out of the house. A life on the road is now your motivation.
I will say even if you don’t end up traveling getting rid of things that are doing nothing more than creating clutter has a huge positive impact on your physical and mental health so it is well worth doing anyway. I simply did one cupboard, one book shelf, one set of drawers at a time. I made the commitment to find at least one thing everyday that could go.
It’s a good time to start looking at your things through the lens of “do I love it” or “is it something I use” and unless the answer is a resounding yes then give serious thought to getting rid of it. Trust me when I say that by stage 3 of this process you could very well be getting rid of things that in this stage was unfathomable.
2. Minimising and Sorting
This stage is when you reduce or cull items that you are using down to what you just need. It is also the stage of sorting and really get to grips with what you have. This is the stage where I found more pairs to socks than I ever knew we had!
It is culling your clothes, your linen cupboard, kitchen cupboards and so on. It is making do with two towels each rather than five. It is culling the forty screw drivers you have (or was that just us). It is getting rid of craft items you never use or the books you will never get around to reading (my book obsession was a hard one to let go).
It is also about sorting items you want to keep. For us that was items like photos, collections and so on. I bought plastic tubs and sorted items into each for storage. We ended up with about ten tubs full which I was pretty happy with given we had been a family of five. For you, it maybe all or most of your possessions and now is the stage to start packing up what you can and preparing for your belongings to go into storage. Do not forget to label your boxes.
This is also the stage where you will start to gather rubbish some which may need to go to the tip. We stacked or stored ours until the final stage as we kept adding to it fairly regularly and didn’t want to do repeated trips to the tip.
3. Final Riddance
This is the stage you have made a arrangements for your belongings to go into storage or the last of your belongings are departed with and or disposed of. This stage was the last month and really stepped up in the last two weeks.
This was when we were down to a mattress on the floor because we had given away the bed base. When the only furniture left in the lounge room was two camp chairs. This is when things we needed in Josephine were moved into her and we made do with the bare bare minimum in the house.
The last things to go were our fridge and washing machine (in fact I was doing a final load when someone came to pick it up). It was also when the rubbish went to the tip.
By this stage I had become adapt to being ruthless. We had a deadline to be out of the house with tenants moving in so it simply had to be done. Also mentally I had really shifted my mindset from living in a house to one of living on the road. I just wanted stuff that was not useful for my pending life on the road to be gone.
Personally I found this stage the most stressful and it wasn’t because I had trouble letting things go but rather it felt like it would never end. Minimising, culling and sorting had been going on for months and still I was looking at things that needed to go. All that could be done was to persevere and eventually we walked out of a completely empty house. What a relief that was!
What To Do With It All?
Minimising, culling and sorting means you will have lots of things to get rid of and apparently as I learned wishing it would all just disappear doesn’t get results. There is a fair bit of effort in physically removing items from your home and how you do it will be up to you but my advice is once you decide it can go, get rid of it as quickly as possible to avoid second thoughts and things finding a way back into your house. Also if you have a partner, spouse or children they may not agree with some of your decisions about what can go and they may help things find their way back too.
Here are some ideas for getting rid of things:
1. Sell It
Make some cash towards your travels or life on the road:
- have a garage sale or two
- list on sale sites on the Internet including Facebook sale pages
2. Give It
Save things going to land fill and feel good about being charitable and helping others out:
- give away to family and friends
- donate to charities
- pass items onto others for free who can use them. In the Blue Mountains where we lived is a fantastic group Pay It Forward run by community members where things are given away for free. We used this group to get rid of a lot of our things. Try to find a similar group in your area. You will be surprised what people will take off your hands. These are also a great way to score free packing boxes.
- put items out on your front lawn with a free sign on it
3. Toss It
It is always best to reduce how much goes to landfill or to recycling as much as possible which is why selling and giving away is so very important. Best efforts are still likely to result in you having rubbish. Disposing of the rubbish responsibly is very important.
- used household clean ups provided by many local councils, check with yours
- used your weekly rubbish collection especially your recycling and green waste
- contact scrap metal collectors
- finally take large rubbish the tip
After It’s Done
Moving from our house to our caravan was a mammoth effort over the 9 months escalating the closer we got to our departure date but we did it! Honestlty neither of us miss any of the stuff we got rid of, it’s quite surprising how much you learn to live without. Actually I am thankful and relieved not to have it all anymore.
Admittedly we have some of our items in storage, probably still more than necessary but it isn’t costing us anything and its likely most of it other than things like photos will be parted with in the future.
Getting ready for a big trip or a life on the road can seem like a huge task and while it is, it is very definitely worth it. We also have an article on determining your budget as part of planning for your trip you may want to check out too. Please also check out our blog for more information about living life on the road in Australia.
Happy travels and we hope to see you on the road soon.