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Luther’s Success Story: Selling $6,000 in Crap and Taking One Backpack to South America

in Do What You Love, Sell Your 'Stuff', Success Stories

Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

Can you imagine getting rid of everything you own except for what fits in one backpack, and making $6,000 selling stuff you no longer need on eBay? For Luther Cale, selling his crap became the key that would open doors to a treehouse in India, a freak show on Coney Island, and a jungle in Ecuador. It’s also allowed him to write a book, 33 Ways to Reboot Your Life, to help others open the same doors.

Luther, who has made selling his crap into an art form, is content with so much less. “I still have some very nice things and everything I need. (I) look at my rooftop office in the Andes and hear the river flowing and see the trees to know that all is well,” he said.

Oh, and he’s gone swinging in the Andes, as you can see in the picture above. Now THAT’s cool.

Would you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I have walked in many worlds and learned many amazing things about what it takes to “breakthrough” and create a life that works.

My many reboots have taken me to India, Brazil, Connecticut (no, seriously!), Nashville, Tennessee, the mountains, beaches, jungles of Ecuador and a dozen other countries. I helped take a company public. I went to a training session for the freak show on Coney Island and learned how to swallow swords. I worked for eight months across from a physic surgeon and shaman in South America.

I helped internationally launch a mobile tech company in partnership with the world’s largest telecom. I wrote a bunch of books. I modeled for a Russian fashion designer. I lived in a treehouse in India. I had a lot of fun. I considerably upped my “life force.”

What led you to Sell Your Crap (the book), and what led you to sell your crap (the action)? What was the biggest thing you were hoping to accomplish?

I first found about you through Leo’s blog and have followed your adventures ever since (including the RV days!).

The (Sell Your Crap) book came out at a perfect time because I was planning a move to South America and didn’t want to take a lot of crap. The main thing I wanted to accomplish was some extra cash for my trip and to streamline the ridiculous number of electronic devices I owned.

Talk about your stuff-purging mindset. How did you decide what to get rid of? What was the hardest thing to part with? (And do you miss it?)

I got rid of mainly high-end electronic gadgets (with some medium-end ones thrown in there for good measure).

My exact criterion was this: Does it fit in the one backpack I am taking with me for my move to South America? Anything that did not make the cut got sold.

So I really thought first about what things were most functional for me for my move and worked backward from there.

How much would you say you sold altogether? What did you do with the money?

I sold $6,000 worth of stuff. $2,000 I used to acquire new stuff that was more appropriate (either more minimalist or more multi-functional for my move). $4,000 I used for a plane ticket to South America plus the first few months of living expenses.

Tell us some more about the actual sales process. Where did you primarily sell? Any particular horror stories – or wins?

Sold everything on eBay.

For most items, I looked to see what the best price was on eBay and then beat that price by $50 (remember that I was generally selling $600 to $1,000 items). I set the time frame to 5 days. I was relentless in follow-up with interested parties. All items sold for my asking price and within my asking time.

One buyer requested a return on an item I had listed (internationally unlocked Samsung Galaxy Note) because there was a minor scratch on the front that I had not listed (mainly because it was so slight, I didn’t even know it was there!). I re-listed at $50 lower with full disclosure and some extra photos, and the phone sold in no time.

Now that you’ve sold all this, you’ve done some pretty amazing things. Talk about where you’re living and tell us a little about your new project, the book. What led you to that (and to the “rebooting your life” concept overall)?

My whole notion of rebooting my life was to double my energy, improve my health, and make a difference. For 10 years I have been traveling around the world learning from some of the best sources on living food nutrition, energy and transformational therapies, as well as starting and growing online businesses. Shockingly, one of the last actions I took personally was to get rid of all my crap.

Wow, what a boost in energy that provides! Can be done in one week and will at least double your energy, probably more. It was so powerful that I included it as one of the 33 items (including your course) in my book 33 Ways to Reboot Your Life, which is a very practical guide for specific things anyone can do to double their energy, improve their health, and make an impact.

What’s the single biggest difference in how you feel now vs. before?

Lighter, freer. I have an opportunity to go to Chile in December, Panama in January, and Bali in March, and all that will be quite easy and stress-free because I don’t have a lot of stuff to carry. And I am not spending money on more crap, so I can instead spend on things that enhance my life and make a difference for others as well.

What’s the single biggest struggle you have now?

Ha! Once a gadget addict, always a gadget addict! Ecuador is not on the same release schedules as the United States and Europe when it comes to electronic gadgets that I like such as tablets, cameras, and smartphones. So when I see the latest greatest (on the Web), I have a flash of coveting it.

Wanting to mess around with gear – sell some stuff, re-acquire some new stuff (which I think is all fine and well – I have just now limited myself to one time per year to upgrade my kit if needed). But with the natural restraints of not being able to get the new stuff (or even sell the old stuff) as easily, I realize that everything I have is just fine.

I still have some very nice things and everything I need. Just need to stop the monkey mind and look at my rooftop office in the Andes and hear the river flowing and see the trees to know that all is well.

Where do you see yourself going from here?

I have spent 10 years acquiring knowledge. I will spend the next 10 sharing it. This is the reason I wrote the first book. I have already written a sequel as well. It’s like the information is coming to me and outlining itself in my head faster than I can write it down!

I will also be hitting the road internationally and doing seminars, as well as hosting some weeklong seminars in some special places I have discovered here in South America!

I am at the beginning of a fun journey and definitely Selling My Crap was a key step in keeping my options open and my ideas and movements flexible.

What one challenge would you give to Man Vs. Debt readers – something they should do today or this week to get closer to living their dreams?

I’ll give you two.

One: Get rid of 5 things today. Doesn’t matter if you sell them or give them away. Just pick 5 things that are no longer serving you and move them out of your life today.

Two: Get out a blank piece of paper and spend 15 minutes answering this question: “If I sat down in this same exact spot three years from today, and was looking back over those three years, what has to have happened in my life, both personally and professionally, for me to feel happy with my progress?”

Don’t duck this exercise. Stay with it for 15 minutes and write down whatever comes to you. (Credit to Dan Sullivan for the question.)

Any parting words of advice for our community?

Sure. This work is not just about being free of debt or struggle or obstacles or anything. Instead, this work is about being the biggest, best version of you that you can be.

Having the most fun, making the most impact, learning the most, sharing the most. There are so many people around the world doing amazing things and you could be one of them. Starting today. Every single person who is doing amazing things started one day. And that day can be today for you.

It all starts with a decision. Your decision.

What do you want to be? And are you willing to take Luther’s challenge?

Share your progress in the comments!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike March 14, 2013 at 10:05 AM

Could you write some more on how this lifestyle has positively impacted others?

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Tina March 14, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Great article. Question, what was the turning point that made you look for something else in life? And, How long do you plan out 1 week, 1 year 10 years? I have a family of 7 and I would like to make more memories with them that include travel. We(my family) seem to be caught up in the stuff/gadget got have it. Hard habit to break for 7. When one has the itch for a new gadget it’s not long before everyone has the itch. lol!

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Do or Debt March 14, 2013 at 3:38 PM

Great article and very inspiring. Unfortunately, the only thing worth money I have to sell is my computer which I can’t do. I have only one bag of stuff and that is mostly clothes and some sentimental items. What about people that have nothing to sell? I think I just need to make more money! Congrats on all the traveling though!

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Amy Hagerup March 14, 2013 at 3:57 PM

Fascinating. I really love this blog. Is Luther single? I think this would be hard for a family – the travelling lifestyle, I mean. Also, it sounds like he mainly sells electronic stuff. I don’t have that much electronic stuff to sell and certainly not anything that I am not using already! But I admire his gumption. I think it is important to continually get rid of stuff!

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Leah March 14, 2013 at 5:09 PM

Love it! Fun and inspiring! I’m sharing this with my husband. :)

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Hope March 14, 2013 at 11:07 PM

Remarkable!

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Martha March 14, 2013 at 11:11 PM

Here’s my problem. Part of my plan towards financial independence is becoming a full-time online seller. I search for underpriced bargains, flip them online and make money. So, part of my business plan is to constantly acquire “stuff”.

Unfortunately, the hunt for treasures is alot more fun than doing the listing to get the “stuff” online, so I seem to acquire more than I sell. I am currently working on turning that equation around, bringing the inventory of “stuff” down and keeping it organized in an efficient manner so that it doesn’t take over my whole house. I’ve already managed to re-take my kitchen and living room, and declared them to be business-free zones. I still have a way to go – but it is constantly a work in progress.

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rebekka March 15, 2013 at 12:27 PM

SAME PROBLEM HERE!

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TheBrokeGirl March 15, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Wow, such an inspiring article at an excellent time! I’ve recently been looking into adapting into a more minimalist lifestyle and seeing the freedom it gives you and the possibilities it opens is motivating to at least make some changes. I look forward to reading Luther’s book to see how I can start altering my lifestyle.

I was shocked into reality into how much stuff I really own when I heard a loud crash in my closet – the master closet that barely fits only my stuff! I opened the door to find my shoe rack had broken under the weight of all my shoes. I counted and in all I have over 75 pairs of shoes. :/ My goal this weekend is to trash/donate/sell 20 pairs.

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rebekka March 15, 2013 at 12:26 PM

I love this! I have also been to Ecuador and Brazil, every single year I booked a trip to go backpacking. I have a knack for finding deals, so I can’t help but buy things sometimes. The great thing is that I started selling stuff on Ebay when I had a full time job. Now I sell everything I have, http://myworld.ebay.com/gugibabu, and started importing goods to sell too. My problem sometimes is buying more than I am selling. Maybe I’ll go for reselling gadgets too!

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Cassi March 17, 2013 at 10:30 PM

I’m starting college in the fall, so I have already started downsizing everything to prepare. I find it difficult, but I also enjoy the feeling of having less stuff to worry about.

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Luther Cale March 18, 2013 at 7:15 PM

Thanks for letting my story here. This has been a blast. A few responses to questions that were asked in the comments:

Mike – Regarding how this lifestyle has impacted others, I can’t say definitely. A few thoughts though: Before making a lifestyle change, I used to suffer from panic attacks. Now I do not, so at the very least, this lifestyle change has affected my immediate friends and family (and me, of course) in a positive way. From a bigger picture, I am excited to share what I’ve learned with others and I have a lot more time to do that. More than 10,000 people have already downloaded my book & in addition to the public testimonials, I have received numerous private emails about amazing results that people are receiving as a result of trying some of the lifestyle experiments that I recommend. Beyond that, I am much happier and I think happier people make the world a better place. For a more in-depth look at benefits of this lifestyle, you might check out the book Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin. There a lot of interviews across different generations about what it has meant to them in their lives.

Tina – The turning point for me was when I was in the doctor’s office with shingles at age 26 and waking up every day with shooting pain down my arm from stress and a general dread of going to work. On paper, I had it all, but something was seriously “off” in my real life. So I began a journey. Incidentally, I found what I was looking for, although I am not sure what I found could even be expressed in words. Though I’ll keep trying :) As far as how far out I plan, I have a set of things I want to accomplish in my life & then every year in December, I’ll sit down and make a list of 5 or 6 big things I hope to accomplish that year (usually in the categories of Career, Wealth, Health, Relationships, & Social/Adventure). Every few weeks, I make sure what I am working on aligns with the goals I’ve set out for myself that year.

Amy – I am actually engaged to be married this summer in Ecuador (to an Ecuadoriana)! Time to brush up on my Spanish some more to make sure I don’t flub my lines during the ceremony. Early in our relationship, when I invited her to join me for a trip to Vilcabamba (in the south of Ecuador) and she showed up with just one bag (and it was smaller than mine), I knew we were going to get along just fine. About half the travel I have done has been solo, half with her. I agree that a travel lifestyle with kids is more challenging, but still entirely doable. I have one friend who traveled with her husband and 5 year old around 3 continents and even had a baby along the way (in Brazil). It’s not for everyone, but it’s possible if that’s what you want out of life. Incidentally, just because you sell all your crap and/or live a simple life, doesn’t mean you have to travel at all. It feeds my soul, so I travel.

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Mike March 18, 2013 at 8:14 PM

That’s great! So far, 7 people have downloaded my free e-book (perhaps an e-pamphlet or an e-guide is more apt), though in its defense, it has been out a little less than 24 hours and was launched in secret. That said, I’m sure those 7 people have been profoundly impacted! We have been working on a “less is better” approach for about a year and I’m certain that it is an important key to happiness, so kudos to you and for your success!

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TheCheckDude March 21, 2013 at 11:43 AM

Incredible post!! Every 4 years I go through a “mid-life crisis”. The first time, I quit college to go race bicycles and work at a bike shop.

The second time I sold my bikes and used the money (plus some donations) to spend 6 weeks in Africa.

The third time… Well, that’s where I’m at, now. Turning in my resignation at my current job to spend some time camping, canoeing and writing. Should be about a 6 month break.

I find that I need to do something that scares me and that everybody else says is “crazy” every so often. Otherwise, I get to the point where I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror.

Keep being inspirational!

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KB March 26, 2013 at 3:40 PM

That’s so cool. A small part of me really wants to do something like that…but a bigger part of me is scared to do it. I’m not much of a risk taker, so I do more conventional things for fun, like doing mud runs. That’s pretty thrilling, and challenging, but it’s over quick. So I’d love to sell everything and just live, with no worries about work or money. But it’ll probably just remain a dream.

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Scottrick April 3, 2013 at 2:35 AM

I’m not sure I could get it all down to a single backpack, but I do appreciate having some simplicity in my life. One of my concerns now is that my fiancee wants to move to a two bedroom apartment so we can have a “guest room.” As though we really need that for seven days a year. It’s just going to be another place to collect more stuff than we need.

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