Selling “Everything” (Part 1)

I posted an “Irony Alert” on the front page of the site — that even though we were behind schedule on writing articles for this project, we had to commit all spare time to cleaning out the house because it sold much more quickly than anticipated. Well, we are out, and gearing up to write again! The lesson here can help if you want to try Residential Cruising …or otherwise simplifying your life

Mentioning the huge rush to downsize in my flagship publication This is True, one reader put that together with some auctions I was running to sell stuff, including the original script I submitted to the show Star Trek: The Next Generation (the full story, if you wish, is in my True blog.)

“You might reiterate the need to *drastically* reduce possessions,” wrote Jordan in California, who is also a reader here. “Your story about the Star Trek scripts drove home to me how drastic that cutting needs to be. I know that I’m a horrible packrat and am trying to do something about it, but the thought of getting rid of that kind of memorabilia makes me shudder. You might transcribe some of that story over to [Residential Cruising] to emphasize the point.”

So here’s the expansion of what I wrote to him at the time.

Selling “Everything”

Kit and I made the conscious decision to let go of nearly everything: our house, our cars, our (physical: thank goodness for electronic!) books, my pots and pans and great quality knives (I like to cook), a lifetime accumulation of tools, virtually all mementos — nearly everything but our clothes and everyday-use items.

And it’s freaking hard to do.

Luckily, Kit had decided to cull things some time ago, and she’ll describe that effort in Part 2 of this article. That really helped …and I wish I had joined her at that time too. At least I did start to cull a few things a little later. But once the house went on the market, I upped my game. Then we got an offer. Oh… crap!

You Have a Month!

When the offer came in, they wanted to close in a month — and we had just started a long-planned 10-day trip. We said no way, since we couldn’t sell and/or give away a 20-year accumulation that quickly. Hell, I still had some boxes I packed up from my Jet Propulsion Laboratory office when I left there to move to Colorado and work on This is True full time.

I immediately hired someone to come to my office and start scanning important papers and such so I could have it all in my computer, rather than trying to haul around paper, journals, and more. That, though, was only one tiny piece of the puzzle.

Jordan in California is absolutely right: it’s a drastic change to get rid of everything you own, at least the physical items. The saying is that you spend the first half of your life accumulating things …and the second half of your life getting rid of it all.

I didn’t want to fit into that mold, and neither did Kit. We decided to divest virtually all of our stuff.

“Stuff” is More than Just Stuff

Getting rid of everything absolutely IS a huge mindset change, and it’s not just “stuff”: we also dropped our side jobs to get their weight off our shoulders, and to concentrate on just three things: the main careers we love, our mental and physical health (which includes lots of intellectual stimulation thanks to travel and the onboard education/entertainment you would expect on any cruise ship, and especially Residential Cruising), and each other.

An extremely messy desk.
Reminds me of my desk. (Photo: Wonderlane via Unsplash.)

Yes it absolutely gives me pause to let go of the original script I wrote for Star Trek, but I’m not letting go of the most important part: the joy and professional satisfaction of being invited to the studio to talk about other stories I might write for them. I thought putting it all up for auction was a good way to ensure that those “things” will go to people who value them, and of course the proceeds will help support True, and our new adventure.

Nearly everyone has thoughts of “I need to de-junk my life,” but hardly anyone actually does anything about it. The result: when they die, their heirs (spouse or kids) have to go through their living space and, probably, toss most of the stuff into a dumpster. Starting with putting the house on the market, Kit and I had a few months to do it (shorter than the expected 6-12 months!), but at least we had the opportunity to move the more important “things” to where we want them to be.

For instance, some of my papers are going to the Internet Archive, and a curator there is gleeful at receiving them. Future historians will be able to research a significant aspect of the early planning of the International Space Station due to what I’m providing them, which I think is awfully cool …and one hell of a lot better than an executor pitching it all into a dumpster.

So the Lesson to Learn?

First, yes: do “try to do something” about being “a horrible packrat” while you still can!

You can decide whether your precious stuff goes to a good home (especially if it’s historic or valuable in some way), or ends up in a dumpster.

So whether you want to do Residential Cruising or just leave the planet with all of your stuff where you want it to be, the time to start is now. I sure wish I had started earlier, but you can learn from our experience.

Yes, we netted $10,000-$15,000 in cash even doing it in a rush …for $50,000-$75,000 “worth” of stuff. We could have easily doubled the take had we had double the time, but things happened faster than expected. Which, of course, is what happens for a lot of people: they get sick, they have to move in a hurry, whatever. So here’s your wake-up call. Get started now.

— — —

Part 2 Coming Soon: This story from Kit’s point of view and probably in more detail, and what her experience was when her partner had deadlines that meant he couldn’t participate fully in the process.

Last Updated October 10, 2023
Originally Published September 30, 2023

6 thoughts on “Selling “Everything” (Part 1)”

  1. Oh, Randy!

    You are singing my song. At the age of almost 85, I am still accumulating papers, folders, flyers, brochures, and receipts. As a card-carrying packrat and a full-time member of the “I seem to remember…” school, it has become even more difficult to let go.

    Having said that, I also recognize that I am fast approaching my shelf life and my wife and I have begun to sort, pile, and even ashcan some stuff. I find that doing it one bite at a time (like eating an elephant) is easier on the psyche that trying to do a whole room or desk or drawer at a time. I just hope my stamina holds out.

    Thanks for the updates and as an inveterate cruiser and cruise blogger, I envy you your upcoming lifestyle. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to bring our medical team along to join you in your adventures.

    Stay well, keep the news coming, and fair winds and following seas.

  2. We had to downsize when we decided to stay on in the country of our last job posting. Real estate prices here are crazy (think 745,000 USD for a 1,000 sqft govt flat in a prime area), so we decided to buy a small flat in the boonies. That meant downsizing from a 2,500 sqft apt.

    I was hard-hearted when getting rid of stuff. If I had to think about whether I wanted to keep something, it went. Bookshelves of books (thank goodness for electronic books!), cabinets of Japanese porcelain, closets of clothes, all were donated/sold for cheap. In the end, we don’t miss the stuff we gave away/sold. In fact, every few months I look around the flat & think about what else I can sell/donate. Downsizing is very freeing.

    Our ultimate goal is to live on cruise ships, but we’re waiting until all 3 cats pass away first.

  3. Thank you Randy for sharing this.

    Hope you and Kit have some wonderful adventures together as you leisurely make your way to the ship and our new and exciting life adventure, exploring the world!

  4. Hi Randy and Kit,

    A few years ago I decided to hand over some things to my nephews — 100 year old Christmas ornaments (some awarded to my father’s aunt for perfect Sunday school attendance), almost 100 year old dishes hand painted by my (sadly never married) aunt for her trousseau, photos, and jewelry dating back 2 or 3 generations. We had already removed over 20 boxes of books (nothing like moving to encourage downsizing, is there!) and numerous other things we simply didn’t need.

    I mentioned my plan at a book club meeting, and I couldn’t believe the response — easily 10 people applauded the idea as so many of them had been left to deal with the effects of deceased or ill relatives without guidance. It’s not all done yet but I’m getting there. It is surprisingly hard to do even without any loss or pressure, but well worth the effort. I hope to be done by year’s end and I can heartedly recommend it.

    I’ll be leaving notes for the next generation to learn about my husband’s family’s flight from Poland during World War 2 and the trials they went through — incarceration in a Siberian labour camp and immigration to Canada after the war. Stories that should be told. Congratulations on your own clearing out; and yes, you’ll discover a few things over the years that you wish you had kept, but nowhere near the number of things you’re glad you passed along. I’m looking forward to the chronicles of your journey.

    Part of the key for my being able to do it was that many of the things I had kept were raw materials for a couple of books I want to write. Even though some of them were decades old and now recycled, I have scans of it all so I can still use it for the intended purpose. Scanning tech is awfully good these days! -rc

  5. I completely agree with you Randy (and Kit). We “unstuffed” our lives in 2012. Unloaded and sold the five bedroom plus house, gave away or sold most of the stuff — a lot, furniture, china, etc. went to our kids — and kept enough to outfit a 2-bedroom apartment. Since then, we’ve lived in (and worked) in four countries, usually for about 2 years each. Along the way we’ve enjoyed wonderful opportunities to sightsee many other places, including the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall, Stonehenge, Australia, New Zealand … and, we’ve been blessed to have representative sampling of living in each of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. Now I joke that I’ve “gone island and am not going back.” At present we are on an island — okay, a barrier island — back in our home state of Florida. And trying to get rid of the last of that 2-bedroom apartments’ worth of furniture.

    So many folks we’ve talked to about getting “unstuffed” have said they wished they could do that, too, but very few every really do.

    Somehow I’m reminded that George Carlin had a routine about all the “stuff” we accumulate. (Yep: here it is.)

  6. In early November, I lost my living arrangements suddenly due to a tragedy. I was forced out and got rid of nearly everything. I had it done in 9 days. I kept the necessary that would fit in my car as I planned to travel. I found a place to stay during the winter and am still getting rid of stuff. Is is hard. Very hard. Lots of lovely things, most of my clothes, shoes and mementos. My road trip will be to California (from Florida) where I’ll empty a storage unit filled with more stuff. That will be just as hard. But it has to be done. I empathize with you, Randy. Wish me luck in California.

    WOW: 9 days?! Can’t imagine. Good luck in California. I’m sure it’ll be nice to not have the payment on the storage unit anymore: a consolation prize. -rc


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