Selling Stuff & Letting Go of Ego and Fear

I just sold G’s crib. My first baby’s sleeping place. The crib that I spent hours researching, finding the best available product that fit in with the style of our home. It was a contemporary, clean lined style. Solid mahogany wood with a deep stain and no visible hardware. It was beautiful to the eyes. And I just sold it. I also let go of the down filled chair that I had custom upholstered to make the most comfortable place to nurse my baby. I scoured baby stores to find the best deal, enjoying the process of filling up G’s room with pleasing things and making it into a simply elegant, peaceful retreat. The chair sat below the wooden car mobile that we reached up and played with. The memories are sweet.

But, it’s all gone.

After living in Central America for the past 2 years, we have come back to the states to sell the rest of our possessions. Two years ago we sold most of our stuff and moved from Colorado to Costa Rica. But we kept ‘big’ things. We stored these ‘big’ items, like furniture, mattresses and other personal stuff for ‘just in case’ insurance: Just in case living abroad was not working out. We could then move back and have all the stuff that would be expensive to buy again.

But, it’s all gone.

Aside from a few key pieces of artwork, there was surprisingly not much that I had the tugging need to keep, even my beloved All-Clad cookware has a new home in someone else’s kitchen. We love living abroad and don’t plan on returning to the US yet, so we have no need for these things and we let them go at crazy low garage sale prices.

Selling it all for pennies on the dollar!

Selling it all for pennies on the dollar!

I thought it’d be more difficult. In fact, I wrote the following in anticipation of the feelings I thought I was going to have.

  • “So, why is it so difficult to let it go, when, for two years, I didn’t miss it at all?” It turns out, it wasn’t difficult to let go.
  • “How do you let go of one life that was so good in so many ways and keep living this newly created life that is so good in so many ways?” Well, this new life has no room for the old stuff. We hold so tightly to the things we have that we are no longer are able to reach out and grasp the new…experiences that would change us…fill us up. If I kept my hands full of the past, I could never fill them with the present and look forward to the future.

I expected a paralyzing feeling of my possessions being ripped from me, but instead I received a warm feeling of release. I have the photos and memories of how joyful picking out all the items was. I know how darn comfortable the down filled chair that I spent hours nursing my baby felt on my bottom.

I remember fondly those times, but I am SO enjoying the present that the past is, well, passed.

By getting rid of our possessions, we feel fully free, light and unencumbered, like a bird being able to choose which direction it wants to fly.

I have no use for those items anymore. Our current chosen lifestyle takes us to new locations with our interests and desires. We don’t want to be loaded down with having to sell things in order to experience more. We move every 6 months or when the eagerness strikes our fancy. All of our possessions fit into 2 suitcases and 2 carry-ons. Bye Bye stuff, Hello Freedom!

Bye Bye, Ego

Then I realized that all this stuff wasn’t just sentimental in nature, but it also was deeply inter-weaved with my sense of self, my ego. I enjoyed having beautiful things. I’m very visual and I enjoyed the lines, colors and beauty of the things I chose to see everyday. I also enjoyed receiving compliments on those things. A little ego burst that all my ‘research’ and scrutiny of making sure that no bolts were seen on the crib I eventually bought was noticed. Ahhhhhh, like a little pat on my back.

This selling of stuff is more than just letting go of the physical, it’s letting go of the emotional and mental stuff that has an attachment to my ego.

My stuff was my ego.

My stuff was my ego.

It’s stepping out completely from all that I’ve grown up knowing, acquiring and practicing for much of my life.

Now is a new life, a new way to live.

A part of me has always known this new life in spirit, but social conditioning is strong. Following your own path can be arduous in the face of conformity. People question you, they try to convince you that you’re wrong, then they make up reasons for your decisions and believe those reasons and some even stop being friends with you. C’est la vie!

Living the life that society has trained me to live and now living this polar opposite life of letting it all go to travel and live life on our own terms is contradictory. Society markets that my stuff, my style, my house define who I am. And it did, but it doesn’t anymore.

Do things and money make us happy? The answer is sometimes, but it’s not a deep down sustainable happiness.

I still appreciate nice things, but I don’t need them. They don’t define me. My ego is not attached.

Bye Bye Fear

And then I thought about why we really kept those things. I realized that Fear is what made us hold on to those things. A fear that things wouldn’t work out in Costa Rica. A fear that we made a mistake. The fear of having to pay for that stuff again. The fear of not having nice things anymore. It was Fear. It was our “What if?” insurance. But, Fear doesn’t encourage, it doesn’t celebrate. It steals and belittles. It was the fear of letting go our comfortable ‘old life’.

The biggest ‘thing’ I let go was my ego, which I thought was pretty small. Ego is fear, I understand that now. It really doesn’t help you move forward, so I let it go.

Carry less weight

The one thing you learn traveling long term is how little the material things we surround ourselves with actually matter and how much you think you may need them, but you actually don’t. We learn to get by with little and learn to be perfectly fine with it. We enjoy the freedom of mobility and lightness.

We realize that if all the stuff that we had in storage burned, we wouldn’t miss it that much. Life is meant to be lived in the present, not the past. And our stuff, all the mementos we keep around the house, are the past.

The bottom line is that the more I let go of the things in the present, past and future that I think I need, the more I am giving myself a choice of which direction I want to go, simply because I’m carrying less weight, literally and figuratively.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”
Lao Tzu

What about you?

What can you release to get you closer to achieving your dream?


P.S. To my best friend, Nicole, for letting us commandeer your beautiful home for two weeks and have 3 garage sales to rid ourselves of all this stuff. You rock!

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20 Responses to “Selling Stuff & Letting Go of Ego and Fear”

  1. gail May 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Beautifully said, as usual S! Getting rid of baggage is the best thing we can do for our true selves. I find myself back in consumer culture, shocked and amazed at how much stuff we have re-accumulated after getting rid of it all (even the big stuff!) but now I take pride in finding everything second hand – mostly free that people don’t find ‘good enough’ for their home. And we still don’t come even close to what our friends and family have stored in their garages, store rooms, and now the trend is to rent an off site storage locker for the stuff that doesn’t fit in the 3000 sq ft homes. The new motto here is “live simply so we may simply live”.

  2. Beto May 31, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    Hi S, I’ve been following your writings since I read about your adventures in Costa Rica, my hometown. And well, even as we have a lot of natural wonders you undoubtedly know about, some of us here also want to explore the rest of the world as well. And that means learning to scale down on accumulating possessions – even further down than we think. These days, there’s little motivation for me for acquiring stuff I can’t haul around everywhere I travel now. When you travel abroad for an extended period of time, you come to realize that stuff isn’t what defines you, and that many purchases are actually done to try to impress others, to keep up with the Joneses, even if we don’t say it so.

    It’s not that I don’t appreciate owning things. I can’t deny the comfort of sleeping on a bed I get to choose to my liking, or have a nice desk to work on, or read a book from my home library built over many years. However, you also get to realize there’s more to life than all that, so it comes down to choosing what is really important for you and your own life. Anyone can fill his or her own home with stuff over time. For now, I’m choosing to rather fill my own life with one-of-a-kind experiences. 🙂

  3. Jennifer Pearce May 31, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Reading your post brought me to the question I’ve been thinking about a lot, in one form or another, over the past several months, What do I want to define me? I love that kind of food for thought. 🙂

    I love how you said, Ego really doesn’t help us move forward. I’ve also noticed it is extremely skilled at blocking our way, when we allow it to.

    I have also come to realize, like you, that life is so meant to be lived in the present. The more we can let go of living in the past and future, the more we can fill ourselves up with living a wonderfully rich life in the present.

    So excited to see you guys!!

  4. Erin May 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    You guys are ahead of us and that scares me a little bit, haha. We have only started our travels and are in the second month. We have a garage full of items we kept back home… Does this mean in a year or two I will go home and sell everything I have?…. It’s a scary thought, but I haven’t missed any of it, either!

    • S King May 31, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

      Erin, my hope is that you’ll do it sooner than later!
      It is a little weird feeling that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, tying us to any one particular location. We’ll always go back to Chicago to visit family and friends, but other than that, we are free to fly with the wind.

      It also makes it a little awkward when someone asks where we live and we have to answer “Well, currently we live here, but we don’t have a permanent home”. That throws people off and they don’t know what to make of it.

      I’m not sure I know what to make of it yet either.

  5. Amy @WorldschoolAdventures May 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    Wow! Good for you guys. Now that is freedom. You must feel so light in this world without anything tying you down.

  6. Genevieve May 31, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    Good Job S! We sold all our stuff before moving to Costa Rica, and even if we came back to Canada, I enjoy seeing my previous possessions at my friends and families’ homes! I like the idea that what made us happy once can now make other families happy! Kisses for you, K, G and I xxx

  7. Living Outside of the Box May 31, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    Awesome! Congrats on a job well done…and a lesson well-learned! Hopefully we can follow suit, although I’m sure we won’t be *as* good as you guys at it!! One chapter closes…another opens! Here’s to another adventure…the indefinite adventure of life!

  8. Family Travel Bucket List June 1, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    WOW! You sure did have a lot of stuff in storage! Funny how attached we can get to things…my Kitchen Aid mixer was the hardest “thing” to let go of…and then a bunch of other traveling wives said they’d put theirs in storage!

    I think one of the hardest things, for me, about selling all of our stuff was realizing that we were truly only getting pennies on the dollar for items I spent so much time buying, maintaining and looking at. There are times when I miss my “pretty things”, but they do pale in comparison to the amazing experiences I am giving my children…and myself.

    Great job on getting rid of SO much! Now, how many massages did you trade this stuff for again? 🙂

  9. Lisa Wood June 1, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    It sure feels good to let stuff go! I have sold off or given away most of our big stuff. We still have a shipping container full of things that we love – photos,pictures etc. And a few other items. But to be honest i could easliy say goodbye to what is left. Every time I go back to the shipping container I get rid of more stuff that we do not need. I go through a box, and I end up giving it all away.
    Its funny how much things we think we need to be happy, yet happiness comes from being with those we love, in places we love, and with experiences!
    It feels so good 🙂

  10. Heather Costaras June 1, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Awesome post! I’m currently in a similar process of purging the STUFF. With every load that makes its way out of the door, I feel lighter… and less burdened. I can’t wait until it’s all gone.
    I agree with Lisa… happiness comes from being with those we love, in places we love – and with experiences. We are we want to accumulate memories and experiences… not “stuff”….! 🙂

    • S King June 1, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      It is a bit insane at how much stuff comes out of the closets, cabinets, drawers and garage. Once all laid out in the open – it’s mind-numbing that we thought we really needed all of it at the time.
      Now the mental and physical weight of it is gone and we really ready to fly!

  11. Rachel Denning June 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    This is a very beautiful narrative of a journey I have also taken. Freedom is worth more than all the ‘stuff’ in the world. 🙂 Good job.

    We’ll miss you on the other side of the world. This hemisphere will hold us a little while longer.

  12. Mike Routen June 1, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    What a fantastic post!

    Thanks for the encouragement to take the leap to getting rid of the junk that is anchoring us to our current life.

    I’ve gone through this type of purge once before and after it was done, I marveled at how much useless stuff I was paying to store each month.

    We are now motivated to start our own purging efforts so that we can be one giant step closer to finding our own freedom!

  13. Amy Oldham June 2, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    I found your blog through Rebecca’s sanpedroscoop and I’ve enjoyed reading about your family’s adventures. Last year we sold our home, two cars and all our possessions to move to San Pedro with our three kids. We kept a few tubs of keepsake stuff and scrapbooks with the grandparents, but everything else was sold. I thought it would be difficult to let it all go…and we did sell it cheap…but it ended up being the easiest part of the move. The hard part was saying goodbye to the people we love and knowing we wouldn’t see them for at least a year. Like some other readers here, I didn’t think we had that much stuff in our home, but once we cleaned out every drawer, shelf and closet, we saw just how much we had. My kids even had great attitudes about letting go of their toys and things. Some people thought we were crazy…”don’t you want to keep some of this?” “you got that china for a wedding gift!” “what will you do if you move back? you’ll have to start all over!” The “what ifs” can really hold you back and we decided to start fresh. Besides, I enjoy the hunt of finding new things so it will be fun to shop if we ever need to outfit a home again. For now, it has been wonderful to not own anything. You don’t need a filing cabinet full of warranties, insurance and random papers when you don’t own anything. Who knew being a renter brought such freedom! I do have to admit that after just one year, we have already accumulated some extra stuff. We donated some things to a yard sale recently and were suprised how much we had to give!

    Best wishes to your family! I will keep reading!

  14. Allison June 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    You write so beautifully, S. Love your perspective and insightful observations. I’m so delighted Brandon & Jen have you as friends… and that you’re in the same area again.

  15. Rose June 15, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    I am new to your blog and to the concept of location independence. I found your post very inspiring. I am ready to begin purging and boy, do we have a lot! I know it won’t be easy but I think it is long overdue.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. The more I read, the more excited I become at the prospect of becoming location independent. Look forward to reading more!

  16. Lisa September 13, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    We are planning an extended stay in CR this winter and we’ve been following your blog in preparation for it (also for fun!). I love this post. It brought tears to my eyes and a warmth to my soul. Thank you for stating so beautifully such an important message and life lesson.

    • S King September 13, 2012 at 8:07 am #

      Thanks Lisa. You’re time in Costa Rica will be life changing and fun. I hope that you’ll continue to stay in contact with us. Good luck on your move!

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