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Burn All Your Crap In A Bonfire (If That’s What It Takes)

in Money Basics, Rants, Sell Your 'Stuff'

Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.

Early this week, I received an email question from a passionate reader.

I’ve changed a tiny bit of the details to protect the guilty, but the question went like:

Hi Baker!

I forgot to ask you a question about money vs time. I hope you don’t mind that I ask you here: I have a bunch of crap- loads of it. But at this point I’m thinking it’s not the best use of my time trying to sell it all.

I’ve got 3 kids (7, 5, and 21 mos) and Im thinking it best to donate most of it except for a few items that are clearly worth over a hundred dollars. And spending the time instead creating and writing my blog.

Would you agree with this decision or would you still recommend the selling process?

Much appreciation,

-Really sweet lady that Baker hasn’t asked permission, so he won’t share her name here. :)

I love questions like these, because they are simple, straight-forward and easy for me to provide help!

Here was my response edited for the blog:

Hey (secret woman) thanks for emailing and all your kind words!

I tackle this problem a lot – but only from people who are really honest with themselves (like you). :)

I always give the following advice:

The single most important thing is ridding that crap from your life.

A.k.a. getting it out of your life will reclaim so much time, stress, and energy that throwing it into a bonfire would be beneficial to you.

Now, obviously we don’t want to do that! So donating the far majority of small stuff is usually worth it for busy people and entrepreneurs.

One other idea is to host a mega yard sale – it’s coming up on Spring – you likely wouldn’t need too much planning and could devote one weekend to dumping a ton of it a micro-prices. Essentially mark everything to move quickly. Then on Sunday bring a truck and donate anything that’s left.

We’ve found these weekend projects can be fun family bonding moments, can generate a least a little bit towards the blogging or travel fund and can save you a trip or two to Goodwill, etc…

If it were me, I’d donate it. My wife would likely coordinate a mega-yard sale and then donate.

Do go for listing the “low-hanging fruit” or the larger items you know will sell for a decent amount of money on Craigslist or eBay.

But if you try to individual list every single item you sound like you’ll be far less likely to actually succeed at the most important step – getting rid of it for good!

:)

Hope this helps… please take pictures if you go the bonfire route!

-Baker

Haha!

Obviously, I’m being cheeky when talking about the bonfire. But I’m not being cheeky about the end result.

Nothing is more important than parting ways with the crap that bogs down your life.

In other words, it’s easy to get sidetracked.

It’s easy to get attached to the “value” that you put into something years ago (or even weeks ago) and thus let it keep you from ditching the physical clutter that plagues you.

Don’t let anything stop you!

In Sell Your Crap I have a full walkthrough with recommendations of where to sell what item (based on its value, size, shape, type, etc…). We also provide a full list of where to donate specific types of items (to avoid bonfires). :)

I don’t have the space to break that all down here, but we always start that process by setting a “floor” or minimum value that we will invest time in selling. For some people, the floor may be $5. Anything worth at least $5 they will sell.

For other people, the floor may be $100. Anything less than that and they are donating – above that they will work on selling.

You set this amount in your own life.

The lady who emailed me was in the middle of radically changing her life and her business – and thus her floor in this case was higher than it may have been even months before.

Bottom Line: Your excess crap steals your time and energy – and adds stress to your life. Sure, get money from it if you can. But let nothing stop you from your commitment to reclaim your freedom.

In case you were wondering… here’s her response:

You’re so awesome! I just may have a bonfire, but don’t worry — I will not link you to the cause :)

So glad you confirmed what I thought about this — for *me* it’s just not worth the hassle of a yard sale. Time would be much better spent towards creating our new life!

The crap is good as gone!

Perfect!

You can see the passion and the excitement in her emails. And I have no doubt that purging the crap from their life will only add to the momentum!

It’s springtime, folks.

Look around and identify the layer of crap in your life.

Time to have some bonfires!

(figuratively… or literally… your choice…)

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Trish April 19, 2012 at 11:36 AM

I hate clutter and the way it makes me feel. But after a few years living in a tiny house stuff just started to pile up around me. A couple of months ago I took a good look around and just couldn’t believe I’d let so much junk into my life! I’ve spent the past couple of cold months piling up everything that has no place in my life and I’m having a massive yard sale in a couple of weeks. Everything that doesn’t sell is getting donated. I can’t wait. It really is like I’m reclaiming my life. I’m so glad you’re encouraging people to do this!

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Renee April 19, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Hilarious! I’m getting ready for a new phase of my life and I’m trying to figure out what is important to keep. I have a free storage shed so storage is not an issue. But, the energy to schelp my shit around, is. My intuitive urge is to “Burn It” at the same time I suspect the deep cellular fear “waste not want not” idea that I was raised on, family having barely survived the Bolshevik revolution, selling off all of their “wealth” into the black market to thwart starvation. I believe that the power of the hidden and generational stories of starvation hidden in our DNA are at work in our mass-consumption culture. It’s not just having more bigger better props to demonstrate the illusion of wealth to the outside world, but a innate survival mechanism.

That said. I’m gonna get it down to the essentials and experience freedom from stuff, and trust that FREEDOM is more valuable even in my survival and certainly in thriving than all the stuff in the world.

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Leslie April 19, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Hi Baker,

What a timely post, I was so grateful to see it in my inbox today. I have been procrastinating about really purging many items in our house and now I am motivated once again. Last year at this time I spent many months clearing out things, since we were planning a move to another state but now I realize we have still have so many things in our life that we don’t use or care about. I think what is holding me back is seeing how much time/money/emotion we wasted on buying, moving, and organizing this stuff. I feel so sad we did this and its a bit of a mourning process to know that it really is meaningless “stuff”. Thank you for your blog and giving all of us tools and insight on how to free yourself from the STUFF!

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Jenny April 19, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Love this post. Sure, you could get money out of it. But time is money.
And I get such a rush out of going through a large chunk and giving a sizeable donation all at one time – it’s like YES! Exactly *this much* (stretches arms out) stuff is no longer a problem in my life. Just took care of a decent purge before I moved apartments last week.

Plus, so much stuff I keep and use until it’s really well past people would pay money for it. But living in SE Asia, I try not to do the whole SWEDO thing, but usually someone can get use out of my old items.

I recommend Second Chance Bangkok as one of many options here.

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Brooke Castillo April 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Baker,

I have a huge crush on your life and that is why my husband, two kids, and I are in the middle of selling everything we own from our five bedroom house. I hear what you are saying in your post, but I want to add something because I think it is important.

Burning your stuff in a bonfire is too easy. One thing I have learned is that if buying our stuff was as hard as selling it, we wouldn’t buy nearly as much. If we knew we were going to have to sell something we were currently buying, we would think harder about buying.

Selling everything we own while raising two kids and running a very demanding business has been HARD HARD HARD. Taking 30 minutes to list my $20 baking dish seems like a waste of time when I can make $300 per hour working. BUT selling that dish taught me so much-it was 100% worth it.

I had used that dish maybe five times since I bought it years ago. It was about $100 when I bought it. It took a week to sell it and then I had to package it and ship it. I WILL NEVER BUY a dish like that again. And I believe, had I just packaged everything in my kitchen and donated it, I would have made more money working, but I would have missed the gift that selling my stuff has given me.

I purchased “Sell Your Crap” I think about eight months ago. I didn’t act on it immediately because I knew the job was going to be overwhelming. I made a plan. But now, hundreds and hundreds of items sold later, I have a pile of cash and only a few things left to sell. It has been one of the most profound experiences of my life. Truth.

In the past, I have donated items and then just replaced them with newer versions. I didn’t learn much from taking my stuff to goodwill. But selling each item had taught me everything. So I would encourage “secret lovely woman” to consider selling as much of it as she can-not because it will make her so much money, but because it is worth the experience.

On May 1, our family of four will leave our house with four suitcases to go on our year-long trip around the country. We will not call movers (there is nothing to move). We will not pay for storage. And we will have that money we got from the baking dish to buy us lunch at one of the dive restaurants we will stop at a long the way.

THANK YOU BAKER FOR THE INSPIRATION!!

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anon@anon.com April 19, 2012 at 7:04 PM

I love this comment Brooke! Especially your line ‘we will have that money we got from the baking dish to buy us lunch’ :-)

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lora kathleen April 19, 2012 at 12:41 PM

I love this post because I struggled with the same thing. The frugal part of me thought selling/using the money to snowflake was the best course of action, but it was easier to get a part-time job to and just donate all my crap.

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Kurt Swann April 19, 2012 at 1:09 PM

Baker! Life is funny! People can get stressed by having too much stuff and then they add more stress by trying to sell the same stuff that causes the stress in the first place :) I’ve had that same question in the past as the “secret woman.” I generally resolve it in favor of giving things to Goodwill, which is close to my house. The time, effort, etc. that goes with selling doesn’t seem to be a good trade-off compared to taking 5 minutes to donate to a good cause. Kurt

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Ivan April 19, 2012 at 2:52 PM

I’m with you, Kurt.

I used to get bogged down with snapping photos, and thus cluttering my iPhone with the pics, then telling myself I’d put them up on Craigslist and make some quick cash.

Only once have I actually made good on the promise and posted something. It was my son’s bike and I actually sold it for only $10 less than we purchased it for 2 years earlier.

That said, the pictures sat in my phone for a good month or two before I had the time to go through and choose the best shots. After creating a decent ad (with some basic HTML knowledge), it took quite a few emails and responses before I actually got someone to come over and look at the bike.

Luckily she bought it on the spot. Funny thing though… she bought another bike that I’d posted a separate ad for (a $20 upsell).

The original bike I posted is still in my garage and survived two moves. I’m hoping to give it to my nephew but it’ll probably end up wither in the Goodwill truck parked in our shopping center or at the Children’s Home Society if I have the time to trek downtown.

Bottom line, unless you really can’t afford to give stuff away, find a charity (or a Goodwill drop-off) and leave your stuff, notice I didn’t say “crap”, there. Trying to sell stuff, at least for me, has been a HUGE waste of time and energy overall.

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Laura April 19, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Are you psychic or something?! Our sale is in 3 weeks and we have our house clean out scheduled (literally on the calendar) so that every room is purged before the big day. We have it annually now because with 2 kids (both the only grandchildren on both sides of the family = extreme “generosity”) we seem to accumulate more than our small house can handle each year. Thanks for the extra motivation!

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Charlie Forness April 19, 2012 at 1:49 PM

This is very timely for me right now. In the last six months a great deal has changed for me. I turned 39, can see 40 in my sights, and decided that I’ve been living very incongruently for a long time. My tastes have moved toward restorative in meditation, yoga, and taking care of my body and I’ve got two year old triplets running around so it’s become less about me and more about them.

So the things I had a year ago, contributing to that life, no longer apply and I’d been holding on to them to try to ebay them, but if I haven’t had time to do so the last couple months, I probably never will. So…I guess I’m donating them now.

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Vic April 19, 2012 at 2:33 PM

Isn’t there a native American burning ceremony for the start of a new time cycle or life phase? There’s also the giveaway thing, but fire appeals. I’ll have to research bc when i read “bonfire” all I feel is a great heaving sigh of relief.

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Beth April 19, 2012 at 2:49 PM

This is a fun article (and I wish I could throw some of our things into a big bonfire). Someone in my house collects papers and it is hard to get him to let those go, lol. That’s the perfect fuel for a fire when he’s ready. ;)

I was going to have a garage sale, but my husband has been busy with school and now is working towards getting into med school. With so much happening, we just don’t have time. So, I took lots of things to the thrift store and donated them. But…I itemized, so that we can benefit a bit on our taxes next year.

I saved some of the more valuable books and things to sell on EBay or Craigslist.

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This Aggie Saves April 19, 2012 at 2:58 PM

I’m sure I could have several small bonfires for all the stuff I have. I’ve got a box of things to sell sitting in my room right now, untouched for the last 6+ months. That tells me it’s not gonna get sold, so I need to reevaluate what I want done with it. Donating looks to be the easiest way to get rid of it!

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Freedom | Rethinking the Dream April 19, 2012 at 4:04 PM

We went through a huge purge of stuff as we prepared to sell our house and downsize into a smaller apartment. We sold a few high dollar things on craigslist and ebay, and then garage saled the rest. The garage sale was a bit of work, but we priced everything so low (most items only $1) that the majority of our stuff was gone on Friday, and by the end of Saturday, we only had three bags of stuff to take to goodwill.

I’m not big on garage sales normally, but in the case of a one time purge, I think it’s a good way to get rid of stuff and make a little money in the process. (with a bonus of not having to cart a bunch of stuff to a donation site.)

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager April 19, 2012 at 4:47 PM

I’m with Courtney on this, garage sale and then donation bins. Although I’m slowing getting rid of my parents old books and CDs on half.com which is a nice little bit of spending money.

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Rebecca April 19, 2012 at 6:33 PM

Wow, Thanks never thought of the “bonfire” route. That is just great. Seriously I understand about all of the “stuff” or crap that bogs our lives down. After having to move quite a bit mostly by myself with a baby who is now a toddler it was crazy the amount of stuff we had and still have. I have decided that for every “new” thing that comes into our house something old has to go. Most of the stuff I have gotten rid of has not been replaced.
I really hated having to pack my stuff/crap, the babies stuff, my husbands crap and then our collective crap. It was crazy. So now I have purged a lot of things and have donated quite a bit even the “high price stuff” just because I personally hate Ebay. Craigslist got me no where.
The lady who was purging might also want to try Etsy it might work for some of her things.

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Ivan April 20, 2012 at 10:23 AM

As the kids get older, it gets worse. Trust me.

Now that my two are 5 and 9, I tried a little trick that a buddy at work recommended.

Take the kids to a dump.

Sounds crazy but it works. The idea here is to show them where all our “crap” ultimately ends up. If possible, try to determine what could have been Christmas gifts, etc. It’s a great way to steer kids from becoming materialistic.

I like your one-in-one-out approach… I’ve just been unable to make this work at home and although my wife and I have been successful doing this with clothes, she just can’t do the same with her shoes and bags.

I guess I have to pick and choose my battles, huh?

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Andi-Roo April 19, 2012 at 7:10 PM

I love the idea of setting a cap — I think for us it would be to “burn” anything less than $25, because we can also use the money. We’ve been seriously purging and it feels great — but it’s so nice to have encouragement to start a “bonfire” on items not worth the bother. You are so right: Nothing is more important than parting ways with the crap that bogs down your life. Awesome advice which we shall implement pronto!

Andi-Roo /// @theworld4realz
http://www.theworld4realz.com/
theworldforrealz@gmail.com

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anon@anon.com April 19, 2012 at 7:12 PM

my partner & i are currently planning a big trip overseas for a year.
baker thanks so much for the energy you & your team put into this site. it really is inspiring and motivating… to par things back.

i thought we lived pretty lean. but even living ‘lean’ its amazing how much stuff you accumulate. i have decided to ebay things. i listed 30 things the other day. it took me 4 hours. not too long really.

my suggested method for those who want to try to sell their gear.
1. do it in bulk i.e. do 20 things at once.
2, take all the photos
3. upload all pics to photobucket
4. list on ebay using the same template for all

a couple of days in and i have made $40. it’s $40 i wouldn’t have had and it’s $40 off my credit card bill. i am hoping to get approx $400 for all my stuff.

it’s hard to describe but it is a wonderful feeling to make money back from the ‘crap’
x

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Phyllis April 19, 2012 at 11:26 PM

Another donation option, besides Goodwill, is Easter Seals. Call your local Easter Seals & find out where to donate. They also have trucks for pickup. I have a Special Needs daughter who goes to Easter Seals camp & I love donating to them. (In some areas, their stores are called “Savers”.) Taking time to sell is not worth my time, but I don’t donate junk. Goodwill & Easter Seals don’t need our trash. It’s expensive for them to dispose of. Also, many sheltered workshops take donations. They’re worth checking out too.

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Eric Pegler April 19, 2012 at 11:43 PM

After our 3 year old son passed away unexpectedly 5 months ago we decided to go through the house and get rid of a lot of stuff! We rented a 30 foot roll off dumpster from our local commercial sanitation company for $250.00. We donated loads of stuff to the ARC for a tax deduction. We were able to fill the dumpster and reduce our stuff by quite a bit! I have pictures if you want some ! What a lighter load! We still need to get rid of a little bit more stuff but was a great start! I also can park the car in the garage.

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Jill (secret woman!) April 20, 2012 at 12:34 AM

Wow, this actually makes it all so real! And instead of being terrified by this sudden reality, it’s so motivating. Just reading my emails to you in this context brings it all home. There’s no going back. And I loved reading all the comments from your readers — I’m not alone! Sometimes I think we just need the “ok” to let it go by * letting it go *. Time IS money. And the bonfire has been started. Next week, I’m launching a very humble, modest and starkly-honest blog to capture as much of the freedom-fighting, de-cluttering journey my family is on.

I can’t thank you enough for making an example out of me!

The purge is on. Burn, baby, burn! (and I will be taking pictures :)

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Isela April 20, 2012 at 8:54 AM

I have been decluttering since a year ago, after a traumatic experience of my best friend moving to another city. She asked me to help her with all her belongings and was just shocking to see how much stuff we had to pack.

I decided then to reduce the amount of things I own.

Did I sell them? Of course not, why should I spend more valuable time managing stuff that in the first place I did not need it anymore? I gave away most of them, and recycle a lot.

My house is now so light, is unbelievable.

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J.G or IHeartTravel April 20, 2012 at 12:04 PM

I’m so with this post. I have gotten rid of some stuff over the last few months, but I am currently left with all the storage material. As you mentioned its yard sale season.

Whatever doesn’t sell, well donation time it is.

KEY: GET RID OF THIS CRAP !

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Jackie April 20, 2012 at 3:19 PM

Easter blessings, Baker et al! In the class you challenged us to think about transportation alternatives. One obvious one I put down was to sell the second car. I had put money into repairs in the fall…but PA requires inspection. When my mechanic checked it out, it failed for several reasons. Rats!!!!! So even though I didn’t really intend to sell it, I had to TRASH it. Good grief! I got $200 from the junkyard. Too make it a balanced weekend, I also trashed a great car I had given to my brother 3 weeks before he went into a coma. God rest his soul. He never came out of the coma before he died leaving lots of debts, no will, and my car. Since we had formally transferred title, I couldn’t sell it without opening an estate for lots more money than the car was worth. Lesson to everyone out there: if you own a piece of real estate of any kind or a vehicle with a title, make a will. It can be on a scrap of paper as long as it is witnessed. Just do it. I hated to trash 2 cars, but my driveway looks a lot better.

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Kim April 22, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Great Post! Love the bonfire way…I have burned many items that way. If it is’nt toxic in any way in it goes! I use to be a basket collector, they were everywhere. I finally decided I did not want them anymore, My daughter and I chucked 56 baskets out the back door and hauled them to my fire pit. What a great fire that was! Papers and things that I could not throw in the garbage that have some sentimental attachment burn good too! I have an easier time burning them to let them go. My thought is they are going back to the universe. I have hauled many many pickup truck loads to the thrift store that benefits homeless mothers and children in our area. I have given stuff away. Had 3 yard sales last summer. Hard to believe but I have along way to go. I even have my clothes down to about 50 pieces. If you have a hard time letting something go, the bonfire is the ticket!

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Kayla April 23, 2012 at 1:14 PM

I loved the Sell Your Crap ebook. My biggest aha moment was Baker’s suggestion to take everything out of a room and then selectively choose what you put back. Using that method since November we have taken ten truckloads of “stuff” to our local thrift store. I can’t tell you the difference this has made in our life! We even gave an old car away to a friend with cancer who needed it. Getting rid of stuff was truly what got our snowball going. It is amazing when you look at how much energy “stuff” takes in your mind and life. You have to dust it, inventory it, maintain it, and think about it somewhere in the recesses of your mind. I know we will continue to let go of more things – I’m thinking this will be something we do every six months until we reach our goals, but I WISH I had started sooner. There is nothing more liberating and mind-opening than getting rid of stuff!

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Samantha May 21, 2012 at 7:00 PM

I’m really glad to know that I’m not the only one who’s seriously considered having a bonfire to get rid of excess stuff! I’ve even entertained the idea of burning my almost brand-new house down. That’s a bit extreme but sometimes all the stuff and all the debt is just so overwhelming. Baker, your site is one of the many that has inspired me to downsize my crap and pay off debt. I hope to be light enough to travel frequent and far in the near future. Thank you for all the time you put into this site, I can find a useful tidbit in each and every article.

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Steven J Fromm April 20, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Love this! I want to get rid of all my stuff in the basement that is just sitting there and then tackle all the stuff in my library. Thanks for the inspiration.

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