Steps to Downsizing for a Traveling Lifestyle

Dreaming about a life on the road after watching all those travel shows. Well if you truly want to pack up your life and take off around the world, there’s a lot to be done beforehand. It’s hard work to get everything slotted away so you can go away worry-free. Downsizing takes planning, dedication and organization.

Planning this type of new lifestyle takes a good bit of planning and organizing, trying to undertake this at the last minute can be overwhelming, stressful and may not leave you with enough time to get everything done if you have a deadline in mind. So to help give you a guideline we've created a travel planner guide with a timeline to help you get rid (or store) a life full of stuff before you take off around the world.

This complete guide to downsizing illuminates each of the steps on the timeline, so you know exactly what to do and when you need to do it.


Sell your second car

If you are a two-car household try to figure out how to arrange your life so you can get rid of one of those money-sucking vehicles right away.

It might mean one partner needs to cycle to work during the summer and carpool or take the bus during the winter. Too many people view their cars as necessities when really they’re just ultra-expensive ways to avoid minor inconveniences.

By selling your car it will make you money and help you get fit if you decide to cycle to work.

You can sell your car privately through sites such as Kijiji, which is the most hassle but will also get you the most money. If you can’t handle the stress of a private sale, sell to a trusted dealer or to somewhere like CarMax. If you go this route you will be making less money than you would selling it privately, but it’s quicker, easier, it will be off your to-do list and you'll start saving money that you can use for your travels.

To Do Eight Months Before You Leave

Arrange to rent or sell your house.

Of course, this only applies if you actually own your place.

If you choose to sell, you’ll need to adjust your timeline based on the market in your area, but even in a hot market, you need to start at least 6 months out.

It takes time to find the right agent, dress your house, and arrange the showings. The paperwork after you’ve sold your house can also be a long process. It can also be complicated by the fact that you may have left the country by the time everything is finally ironed out.

Renting your house out is a great option if you know you’ll be returning to the same town and you are absolutely sure you want to keep your house.

Be warned if you keep your house and are renting it out it can be limiting. For instance, what if you arrange a one-year lease and you decide to keep traveling for 18 months? What if you realize after your life-changing experiences that you no longer want to live in that same city or a house that big? What if your renters ditch after two months, leaving you with an empty house to fill from across the world? What if something breaks and needs to be repaired, how do you handle that from overseas.

In that case, enlisting a rental management company to take care of all the problems that can happen with renters is a must if you want a stress-free trip.

To Do Six Months Before You Leave

Start selling valuable items on eBay & Kijiji.

A concept called the “80/20 rule” applies perfectly here - you use 20% of your stuff 80% of the time. Start looking at how you live day-to-day life, paying close attention to what you repeatedly use vs the stuff you “need” but never actually touch. For example, under my bathroom sink were two large baskets of hair/beauty products I “needed.”

After observing my habits, I realized I only used the small selection of products I kept in a drawer and only 1 or 2 items from those baskets under the sink. This showed me I could completely eliminate the rest.

Be Ruthless! Even if you think you need it, you probably don’t. The 80/20 rule can be applied to anything in your life, from your bathroom to your closet to your kitchen. Start mercilessly going through each area of your home and your life. Below are examples of how we ruthlessly trimmed down.

If you have records, designer clothes, or other collectibles that you can bear to part with. You do not need them weighing down your soul. – leave at least six months to sell them.

Start now and use all the money you make to start padding out your travel savings account!

Request a leave of absence from work.

If you have a job and you don’t want to quit outright, now’s the time to have a sit-down with your boss. Explain your plans, underline how much you love your job and ask them to grant you a leave.

Doing this early will give your employer time to find someone to replace you and it will give you time to work out a Plan B if they say no. For teachers, doctors, and other professionals who are lucky enough to be allowed sabbaticals, check the rules. You may need to give more than six months’ notice.

To Do Three Months Before You Leave

Sell your furniture and other big items

There’s is furniture around your house that you don’t really use or need. Even if you’re renting your house instead of selling, there are certain items you will definitely be better off without.

Now’s the time to sell them on Facebook. Why Facebook instead of Kijiji? Using Facebook to sell our best stuff allowed us to avoid the Craigslist time-wasters and hard-bargainers while giving our friends and their friends a chance to get great bargains.

Another advantage of selling to friends? You can sell your stuff now and then get them to take it off your hands later, so you can still sleep in your own bed until you leave.

To set up a sale on Facebook, I took pictures of all of our items for sale and then created a For Sale photo album. For each item I wrote a description, specified if there were any flaws or scratches, and set a price. People put in bids or laid claim to items in the comments. Simple.

Then our friends came by to pick up their items when they had time, meaning we got a little social interaction along with the bargain. Everybody wins!

You might live in an area where there’s an active buy and sell group on Facebook. This is another great place to offload your unwanted treasures.

Arrange a storage space for the things you want to keep

By now, you should have a decent idea of how much stuff you need to store. If you’re renting out your house, try to reserve a room, the garage, or attic to store your stuff while you’re gone. If you’re selling, arrange to store your belongings in a friend’s attic or basement if you can.

If you don't have a friend or family place to store stuff look at using an affordable storage facility, such as Budget Storage Calgary, this way you know your items will be safe, dry and won't cost you a ton of money while you travel. 

To Do One Month Before You Leave

Give notice at work

Even if you’re only required to give two weeks notice, do your boss a solid by notifying them a little early. This will give them more time to arrange your replacement. You may even get a chance to train the new guy.

Pack and move everything you can to storage

Get ahead of the curve on this one. Don’t leave your entire move to the last minute. You’ll be stressed out and exhausted enough on the first days of your trip, without the added hassle of just having moved. Pack now and start getting used to living small. Make sure to label each box clearly and create a map where each of your items is located in both your friend's attic or in a storage unit so it's quick and easy to find them when you come back.

Arrange a buyer for your car

Leave extra time for unexpected hassles with your car sale.

Even if you use somewhere like CarMax there's always a bit of paperwork involved which can take a couple days to get resolved, otherwise if you don't leave enough time you could be left with an automobile you'll need to store if it doesn't sell right away.

To Do Two Weeks Before You Leave

Hold a Giving It All Away party

You’re so close. All the big stuff has been squared away and you’ll be winging your way towards adventure oh so soon. And yet, you’ve still got a ton of stuff sitting around that you can’t take with you and you don’t want to store.

The solution is easy and fun. Invite everyone you know (especially anyone in their 20s) to a party at your place. Announce that they should bring bags with them and take away all your stuff.

To get ready for our Giving It All Away party, we put everything we hadn’t been able to sell on shelves and in boxes and baskets around the house. We labeled bigger items, like patio furniture and potted plants. We emptied our liquor cabinet and let the booze flow freely while our friends “shopped” in our house.

Some people left with a carload of stuff, others left with small mementos of our friendship. Everyone left happy and we were left with a barren house; 99% of everything we had put out was gone.

If you're still left with some items you can always offer it for free on Kijiji or a Facebook group looking for free items.

To Do One Week Before You Leave

Give away smaller items to a charity shop

If you still have stuff left then take a load over to your local charity shop, they always appreciate donations.

Move your final things to storage

Now you’re down to the wire. Your house is empty and echoey and you have to sit on the floor because you gave all your furniture away. You’ll be nervous and excited and unable to sleep. Make sure you move your final boxes to storage early in the final week to leave time for any unexpected hiccups, like a messed-up truck rental or a misplaced storage key. You might want to sleep in a friend’s guest room for your final few nights. Or, try out your camping gear in your living room.

Squaring away all of the items you’ve gathered during your decades of adulthood is not an easy job. Start early, use copious checklists, calendar alerts, and handy timelines to keep all your downsizing efforts straight. And be ruthless. You don’t need nearly as much stuff as you think you do.

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