Selling Everything We Owned Has Been Truly Liberating

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Selling Everything We Owned Has Been Truly Liberating

Selling everything and just taking off and leaving is a dream a lot of folks have… even if it’s just a fleeting thought.

To actually do it though sounds crazy. Who would do something like that?!

Yeah, we were those people. We got rid of just about everything we owned and headed to Panama in the summer of 2019.

At the time, we were just going through the checklist of moving preparation to make it happen. One of the biggest items on that checklist was to get rid of most of what we owned since almost every place in Panama is fully furnished.

That meant getting rid of our house, cars, and just about everything else that comes to mind.

When all was said and done, we took two suitcases each on our move and left behind a 10’x10′ storage unit that wasn’t even stuffed full.

What we didn’t realize at the time though was just how liberating selling everything we owned would be.

Selling everything… well, almost everything!

When we decided to move to Panama, we resolved that it would make more sense to get rid of most of what we owned and start from scratch.

Some of the reasons were financial. For instance, the housing market was looking good (who would have thought it would keep booming though?!). We also didn’t want to pay big monthly costs for a giant storage unit for so much stuff. Storing everything including our cars just didn’t seem like a smart idea.

Shipping everything to Panama didn’t make a lot of sense either. The cost to ship a container to Panama is very expensive (think $10-20k). Even if we went that route, American furniture doesn’t do well there because of the humidity. And Panamanian cars are different than what they offer in the U.S. so mechanics may struggle to work on them or have a hard time getting replacement parts.

But in general, eliminating all the baggage from our lives and starting over seemed to be in line with the whole idea of moving forward with our new adventure.

So that’s what we did – we sold the house, sold our cars, and sold most of our possessions. Selling everything was a much more time-consuming endeavor than we had thought about, but we got it done over many months. Except for the house and cars, we used OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace to sell the majority of our stuff. There was also a lot of word of mouth through friends and family to make it happen.

What we couldn’t sell, we gave away or donated to charity. Eventually, most of what we owned was gone. It was almost a little eerie in a way at first.

That said, we decided to keep some things in a 10’x10′ storage unit including:

  • Memories – old photo albums (though I’m working on scanning all those)
  • Tools – these sell for pennies on the dollar but are expensive to buy
  • 2 bed frames and headboard/footboard sets
  • 2 bikes
  • 2 TVs
  • A few small bins of clothes (mostly cold-weather clothes for visiting in the winter… brrr!)
  • Camping/Road trip equipment (for when we’d visit the U.S.)
Our storage unit
This was taken when we first filled the unit in 2019. We’ve added some more to it since then, but it’s strange seeing everything you own in a little pile.

The thought was that we’d keep the storage unit for a year to determine if we were going to stay in Panama. If we decided after that time that we were going to make Panama our permanent home, we’d eliminate everything in that storage unit.

If we decided we’d be coming back, however, having some of these items in storage (along with our 2 suitcases each) would give us a little bit of a head start in getting situated again.

A feeling of freedom we weren’t expecting…

Selling everything made sense in our situation and that’s why we did it. Moving to a different country – one in which places are generally fully furnished – helps to justify eliminating most of what you own.

But a repercussion we weren’t expecting was the freedom it gave us.

Logically, it makes sense, but it wasn’t why we did it and we didn’t really consider that benefit at the time.

While in Panama, one of the big perks we gained is in moving while there. Think about it – when you live in a place you furnished yourself, moving is a real pain in the #$%! You almost always need to have a place beforehand to move to or you’ll be moving multiple times with a storage unit or one of those PODS in between. Additionally, if you’re my age, offering friends pizza and beer to move ain’t cuttin’ it anymore… time to bring in a mover!

But when you’re in a fully-furnished place and assuming you’re not buying a ton of junk while there, moving is soooo much easier. You pack up your two suitcases each (or whatever you have) and go. Imagine not feeling stuck in a place simply because you know it would be too much of a headache to move.

That’s an amazingly liberating feeling, my friends!

We’re moving into a new condo next month and I can’t imagine that it’ll take more than one or two trips in a small SUV to move everything. That includes a few ottomans and deck chairs that we’ll be selling before we leave Panama next spring. Crazy, right?

Another benefit of selling everything and getting rid of a lot of your clothes is that when you’re traveling, you have a lot less to choose from. That makes packing a little more streamlined to do!

Of course, when you have less stuff, that means there’s less to clean up. Imagine limiting the number of kids’ toys everywhere simply because there aren’t as many. That means more room to store everything as well.

Things somehow seem a little simpler when you have less junk surrounding you. A small burden that you may not even know you had just seems to melt away.

If Panama’s on your radar as a possible place to retire to, check out Retire in Panama Tours. It’s a first-rate way to see different parts of the country, learn about the pros and the cons of living here, meet other ex-pats living here, and gain a lot of the right resources to make the transition easier (immigration attorneys, for example).

Oscar, Rod, and Megan are great people, too. They have the knowledge to guide you through Panama, answer your questions, and ensure that Panama’s the right place for you. Check out Retire in Panama Tours for more info!

The downside of selling everything you own…

Selling everything has been unexpectedly liberating though we do have a slight problem because of it. We’re moving back to the U.S. next spring and finding a furnished place in the States is a little harder than it is in Panama (especially at the prices we have there!).

Chances are we’re going to end up with an unfurnished apartment when we first move back. That means we’ll largely be starting from scratch on furniture and other “stuff” like kitchen supplies.

But we’ve learned quite a bit over the past several years. First off, we’re not going to build up a ton of junk again – we’ll get what we need but not stuff we’ll rarely use (if ever!). We’re also probably going to look at buying furniture second-hand. There’s a massive premium for new furniture and it resells for next-to-nothing so that’s a no-brainer!

And we already bought a 2012 Honda Pilot for the awesome 40-day road trip we took last year. We love this car and, with us being retired, we’re not anticipating getting a second vehicle.

Selling Everything We Owned - Was That a Big Mistake? - 2012 Honda Pilot

So yes, selling everything doesn’t come without a few issues, but nothing major. And there’s no way that I’ll get caught up in having a bunch of useless junk anymore.

Owning stuff is like a giant anchor in life – I’ll take the freedom of possessing little and doing a lot any day! The benefits and flexibility work well in our lives.

I hadn’t really thought about this as I don’t know much about the topic, but this philosophy seems to follow some of the ideas behind minimalism. I’ve never considered our family to be minimalists and that wasn’t the intention per se, but maybe there’s some overlap in this newfound freedom.

I don’t expect everyone to eliminate all of their possessions – it’s simply not something that’s going to happen for most folks. But for those of you who do get rid of a lot of the clutter and stuff in your homes, you’re in for a real treat. The freedom you gain from an undertaking like this is such an unanticipated pleasure that it’s hard to go wrong.

Have you ever considered selling everything (or a lot of it!) to reduce the amount of clutter in your life?

Plan well, take action, and live your best life!

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

24 thoughts on “Selling Everything We Owned Has Been Truly Liberating”

  1. In the last few years, we’ve come to appreciate how much “stuff” gets accumulated in life. We’ve had a few older family members pass due to age and how the older generation’s accumulation ultimately because a weight for the people who have to settle their estates. A lot of “collections” that don’t have much value (certainly more sentimental than economic) really become hard to deal with because you feel bad donating/trashing/whatever something that was important to someone else but has little importance elsewhere.

    One thing we’ll be doing is making sure we don’t saddle our kids with that baggage!

    1. So true and a point I definitely forgot about here. Everyone thinks their stuff is so valuable and desired… but their kids just don’t want it most of the time. And it becomes a chore for them to have to deal with it once their parents are gone. I’m with you – not putting our daughter through that fun either!

    1. I forgot about this one, Fritz – you don’t mess around! Our restocking is going to be a little different this time around. We’re going to be very picky so we have the ability to stay nimble and move around more easily when we want to… like when we come to live in your place or RV! 😉

    1. I thought the same… before we needed to make it happen. Once we did, my wife and I looked back and so much stuff we thought we needed in our lives but really didn’t. Most folks do tend to accumulate things over time and that’s really the point – we didn’t even realize it, but all those things were sort of like an anchor in our lives. Just the feeling of liberation has made the decumulation well worth it – at least in our lives.

  2. A very interesting approach. But I think it is really difficult for most people to take such a step in life)) We are used to owning things and associate ourselves with them … Therefore, only a “strong” person can do this. I am always interested in reading your posts – it is inspiring)

    1. Thanks, Illia – there’s no doubt that most folks aren’t going to be able to eliminate everything they own – and our situation is pretty unique. That said, I think most of us could agree that we own more junk in our lives than we need to. And like Jim Wang mentioned in another comment, that ends up also becoming a burden on others when we pass. I know that people aren’t going to just eliminate everything they own, but I thought it worthwhile to share the unexpected result of what happened with us when we did. Possibly that’ll motivate others to at least declutter and eliminate some of the extra baggage in their lives. 🙂

  3. Jim, we just moved into an AirBNB in Lima for 6 months and it was a huge process to pack for 6 months. We limited everyone to one suitcase per person. It was an exercise but 1 week in and we really arent missing anything. The world is so connected, now you can pretty much find anything anywhere so that helps also. My youngest daughter will only brush her teeth with this one Dr. Sheffields chocolate tooth paste, so we brought it and we told our daughter when it finishes she has to switch to regular toothpaste =)

    1. That’s fantastic, Nadeem! It’s always easier to just overpack, but then it becomes a hassle to travel with and as you said, you’re generally not going to miss anything.

      That’s funny about the chocolate toothpaste – we just got our daughter some of that for a stocking stuffer! 🙂

      Have a wonderful time in Lima!!

  4. We recently did an international move too, although it was with the military, so cost wasn’t an issue, but we did get rid of massive quantities of stuff that had accumulated in an attempt to streamline. It still felt overwhelming unpacking it all. And I’m adamant that if we ever live abroad on our own dime, we’ll be going the furnished-place route as well. That said, in the months before our stuff arrived, we actually found that we missed a lot of it. I struggled to cook without all the kitchen stuff I was used to, the loaner furniture was uncomfortable, and I sometimes didn’t have the right shoes or jacket for what we were doing. And I came to accept that we’ve got just the right amount of stuff for us, even if it’s still kind of a lot.

    1. You found the level of comfort that works for you and that’s awesome! Getting rid of everything isn’t something I could see most people doing (or being comfortable with it once they do), but it worked very well for us. Sounds like your move twisted your arms to clear out a lot of stuff and I would imagine that was probably pretty liberating as well. 🙂

  5. When older relatives would discuss their passing, I never wanted to hear that I would be inheriting old furniture or personal belongings. Personally, I wanted a small keepsake or cash, but I never wanted to be burdened by stuff. In my mind all that should be taken to Good Will where it can be used by someone that needs it. If I don’t use something for 6 months, I give serious consideration to taking it to Good Will or trashing it. It is freeing to the mind and spirit, to live in the present and clear the clutter.

  6. Jim,
    Think about using Craig’s List to “restock” after your return. Where I live (southern California), there is a treasure trove of gently used, FREE furniture on Craig’s List.

    1. Hi Elizabeth – we haven’t moved back yet. We’re still living in Boquete, Panama until April of next year. Here’s a post that explains the decision more to move back in some more detail:
      We Decided Not To Move Back Home to the U.S. Yet!
      and here’s a more recent post with some big updates on our plans:
      Our Moving Plans Changed Again… and That’s OK

      Also, we sold our cars back in 2019 before we moved to Panama. However, we bought a 2012 Honda Pilot last year during COVID (July 202) when we came back to the US for a few months. We bought that because the Panamanian borders weren’t open so we decided to take a road trip across the country (which was so fantastic we’ll be doing that again once we move back!).

      We still have that car here in the US and use it when we visit. We love the Pilot and it will be the car we use once we move back since we’ll only need one.

      1. Jim, I follow you posts for a while and find them very, very helpful. I am still working with a bit complicated situation – dual citizen working in US and living with family in Canada.
        I can understand your reasons to move back to US, what I do not understand fully is why again Ohio? I lived in Cincinnati for 4.5 years before transfer to Michigan and know well the “beautiful” Midwest climate. So, why Ohio and second question is what are your plans about Texas domicile?

        1. I get it, Alex – Ohio’s got two wonderful seasons… summer and fall. The rest of the year is something I’m not a big fan of immersing myself in. However, family is the big reason for going back there – Lisa and Faith are extremely tight with family and get pretty homesick. Moving to another part of the U.S. wouldn’t fix that problem very well. So for the time being… Ohio it is. That said, since we’re not tied to jobs anywhere, we hope to do more traveling during the winter months. I don’t think we’ll ever be snowbirds, but we’ll get out when we can for a few weeks here and there. With Faith being homeschooled right now, that works well. Once she’s in high school, we’ll probably have to stick around… most of the time, until she’s older.

          As far as Texas being our state of domicile, we’ll be changing that back to Ohio once we establish a residence there (likely in mid-summer after our big road trip).

  7. I hear you Jim! We’re going to be moving soon, and I can’t imagine what we’re going to do with all our stuff. It’s amazing how much clutter builds up over the years!

    1. Haha, it’s funny because even if you think you don’t have a ton of stuff as you prepare to move, you then realize there’s generally a lot more than you think! 🙂 Did you decide where you’re moving to for sure?

  8. I’m all for selling off everything and starting over. However, Mrs. RB40 would never go for that. She still has the piano she learned to play on when she was a kid.
    That’s alright. In the future, I think I’ll travel more and she’ll spend more time at home. We’ll compromise somehow.

    1. That’s really cool that she still has a piano from when she was a kid, especially if she still plays it. It’s those things that take up space that aren’t ever used most of us just never want to deal with that seem to just keep accumulating over time.

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