Some time ago I posed a challenge to the apprentices/applicants.

Here was the wording:

I got a decluttering exercise for everybody on the apprentice list. The primary point is to get less attached to stuff (and develop particular habits).

I consider everything I own for sale at any one point in time. Essentially, the world is a library I can “borrow” things from by buying them when I need them and then selling them again when I no longer need them.

Along with this, there’s a secondary point. Namely, to learn not to automatically think of Walmart everytime there is a need for something.

So the instructions are as follows

1) Acquire some used padded envelopes. Maybe you throw them out at work. Maybe you know someone. Maybe you can get them via craigslist or freecycle. If not, maybe you need to “build your own”. Get some bubble wrap (again, try to get it used). The main goal is to create “padded transport”. If you can get bubble wrap, you can use a paperback to make an envelope. Maybe you can think of a more clever solution here, I’d love to hear that. (I just used the cardboard box from a bottle of liquor which was the perfect size for a DVD + brown paperbag + tape + plastic bag to wrap the DVD.)

2) You’re going to sell those CDs or movies you haven’t watched or listened to in ages. I leave that up to you. I have mine listed on amazon. If they sell, they sell. If they don’t sell, I keep them. You never know. I usually list at the lowest “used” price. This usually results in a quick sell. If you don’t, you’ll hang on to them longer.

3) I only do this for stuff that will sell for more than $2. Lower priced stuff, I list on

These are just the sites, I’ve used. Again, if you find something else works better, let me (and everybody else) know.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go through this exercise and list your unused stuff and possibly sell it.

I’m just using CDs and DVDs as an example. You can also use the exercise to sell other stuff you never use. I usually use freecycle and craigslist. You could try eBay. It depends on local demand and value.

I am sending this to all apprentices. Let me know by email if you can commit to this challenge. Be prepared to write a post on how it worked out.

(Now, it may be you have NO excessive stuff which has been lying around untouched for 6+ months. In that case, congratulations 🙂 ).

Time period: About a month. (A couple of days to set it in motion).

On the surface, this may appear to only have to due with either decluttering or the mechanical process of listing stuff for sale. However, there were three important points which also got covered which are more important than decluttering!

  1. Thinking of everything one owns as being for sale means that one starts thinking of the world as one’s personal library. It is not as convenient but it works. To give an example: I’m getting into woodworking and thus I need some chisels. Now, I could get some cheap chisels from Walmart or Home Depot or Lowe’s or some such. This would cost me $30, I’m guessing. At some point in time, suppose I’m no longer interested in wood working. At this point I can’t get rid of the used plastic chisels. Nobody wants them. That’s $30 lost plus a few pounds of chisels to the landfill. Worse, I could be materially committed to lugging them around and like most people end up in increasingly bigger housing. Instead I got some used Sorby chisels on ebay. I paid $89 for four chisels (3 never used) including shipping. On The Best Things, the new price is over $200. Once time comes to sell, I may be able to come out ahead on this one. Meanwhile, my chisels are way better than the “default consumer choice”.
  2. Improvisation is important. Since we could walk, we have been trained to buy our solutions. The simple pancake recipe from yesterday has been replaced with a $2.99 powder. Most of these commercial solutions is very simple “technology” that everybody can easily do on their own. Yet, we have successfully been marketed to forget that and leave it to the experts. We are only trusted to whip out a credit card and add water. In the challenge, I therefore stipulated that the packaging material could not be bought! The challenge was to find another way.
  3. The third point is to start thinking of stuff as something you use. Not something you own. Nobody really cares about your level of acquisition. We think we should care about other people’s stuff and we secretly covet having their stuff, but we don’t really know why. We have just been trained to respond positive to quantity and shrink wrap. Hence, I put on a time limit. If you haven’t used something in 6 months, you just own it. Since ownership is a social construct, that means, it just happens to be located next to you and that you’re responsible for “hosting” it. But why own a warehouse or keep a museum?

Here are some of the stories.

Singing Sammy:

Up to this point I’ve been able to select 15 books and 4 gift cards and list them for sale on craigslist(*). Unfortunately I have had very little success there (I don’t live in a very well-populated region). So I ended up deciding to sign up to sell them on Amazon and I’ve sold 4 books so far! Only posted them 5 days ago:) I also found a great deal of used packaging supplies at my dad’s office, and have sent 3 of them off already with some unique packaging. The other one should be sent out today! I was only able to make $25 so far- But since I’m in the infantile stages (after deciding to switch to a higher traffic site), and I am hopeful for future sales!

(*) Seeing as I recently downsized from a full apartment of space to a single room, I have literally NO dvds, or CDs to my name. I also have already gotten rid of at least 40-50 books before the move (donated), so 15 books for sale is a pretty healthy number considering the small amount that I have left!

While I might not have some huge numbers to post, I think that there are two things that I’ve really been able to take away from this project. The first relates to the packaging supplies: It was SO easy to rustle up some used products, and not only did that save me the cost of purchasing them new, but I was also able to really think about the environmental benefits of it. It’s actually genuinely easier to use what I already have, it’s interesting that our first instinct to a problem is to shoot over to a store and purchase a solution, when it would actually be simpler for you to just stay home and improvise—Not just easier on the wallet, but on the time factor. Since the introduction of the challenge, I’ve had to mail 2 letters, and I’ve sent them using deconstructed/reconstructed envelopes DH had recently received for his birthday! I know that that’s only a small thing but it made me feel all Amy Dasczycyn-esque! I liked it 🙂

The other thing that I was reflecting on for the last little while was about keeping products that you aren’t using any more/won’t use. While you might end up selling am unused product for less than it was purchased for, it needs to be taken into consideration the extent of value that has already been extracted from it (for example a book). Or for example, if you received a cookbook and you know you’ll never use it. You might end up selling it for less than the purchaser paid for it- but you should still be conscious of the fact that you will be able to get some value out of the money that you are receiving for the book, rather than “wasting” the full purchase price by letting it collect dust. Especially since I am getting married next weekend, I really think that this experience has been useful to me because I KNOW I’m going to get a ton of stuff that I don’t need. Instead of letting them pile up in DH’s parents house, I’m going to sell them right away and get the cash to buy exactly what we want, and when/if we need it!

Silly Sneakers:

  • I currently have seven books listed on the Amazon Marketplace. I list books only if I can sell them for $5 or more; otherwise, I donate the books. I typically price the books a few cents less than the lowest listed price.
  • I donated three pairs of prescription eyeglasses to the Lions Club.
  • I mailed unopened prescription contact lenses to MADRE, an international human rights organization in New York and one of the few organizations I found that would accept contact lenses.
    I donated an old cell phone.

  • I donated 82 items (mostly clothes and knick-knacks with a thrift store value of $20 or less) to the local Value Village. The donation will give me a charitable contribution of $382.
  • I have two items that I will, but have yet to, list on Craigslist or Ebay. These are items that I can sell for $20 or more. The items include a pair of bike shorts and a water fountain.
  • I listed my kayak and kayak gear on Craigslist. I enjoy kayaking, but I don’t have time to get out in the boat as often as I would like. Just seeing the boat makes me feel guilty. I decided to list the boat on Craigslist for a discounted, but not super-duper-steal-of-a-deal, as I’m only willing to part with it if I can get a good price. The boat has yet to sell. I will relist the boat each week, possibly reducing the price ever so slowly.
  • I have a diamond engagement ring and wedding band that I would love to part with. I have all the original paperwork. I’m debating how to best maximize my returns. Perhaps sell the rings on Craigslist? Perhaps sell them through a used jewelry dealer?


I just did a huge purge over the last few months before beginning to travel full-time. Beyond a few boxes and furniture in storage with family, I use most of my current belongings at least once a week.
Everything my husband I need for a year must be packed in the back of a Subaru Outback. We have four 27 gallon storage boxes divided like this:

  • 1 box of my clothes (all seasons)
  • 1 box of DH’s clothes (all seasons)
  • 1 box of kitchen items and food (2 pots, 2 pans, 2 plates, silverware, cooking utensils, electric kettle, non-perishable food, and seasoning – we may add a hot plate)
  • 1 box of “miscellaneous” (set of sheets, pillow, blanket, tent, 2 bike helmets, and bike tools)

I also have a messenger bag for my laptop and an overnight bag with DH’s laptop and Wii. These will be used as carry on luggage for the flights we have planned this year. We brought our two bikes which have already saved us a lot of money on parking as well as been a good way to explore new places. Our toiletries are stored in a fishing tackle box which keeps them so organized I might continue using it when we get home. After doing this for only a month and a half, I’m already amazed that I ever thought I needed more stuff.


The surprising thing about this challenge is that even though I have sold 5 items (75lbs & $300), I keep re-evaluating why I have certain items. So, I constantly have about 5 items on craigslist. I figure this is going to get to a point of (a) not wanting to sell anything else or (b) more realistically, regretting ridding something that has sentimental worth. Otherwise, I can just buy another used one for a net zero loss, on average. The fun part of selling locally on craigslist is keeping track of the multiple flaky people on multiple items.

I also donated one laundry basket full of unused clothes. And, I will post some items on ebay shortly.


In my quest to rid myself of excess items (there are quite a few), I’ve gone my clothes etc and recycled/donated anything I haven’t worn for six months. I’ve also put 3 handbags, a belt, some jewellery and a commemorative stamp (yes, really) up on ebay.

My plan to sell a rake of secondhand books and CDs on amazon have hit a snag in that amazon will only pay into U.K., Austrian or French bank accounts and getting one of these will be difficult. They should fix this, it’s crazy! So instead, I’m going to hit a secondhand bookstore. Failing that, they’ll be going to a charity shop.

Some things I’ve learned from this experience:

  • Getting rid of stuff is not as easy as buying it.
  • You don’t get much for things – a fraction of what you paid in the first place.
  • I have a lot of stuff. This is mad, considering I’ve been gearing up for a house move ever since we put it on the market 17 months ago, and have been actively ridding myself of things since then. But obviously not enough!

My ebay sales are due to finish on Sunday, so I’ll report back on how much I earned from them (or whether they sold – I’ve a lot of watchers so far but only one bid).

The other thing I might consider, once I’ve found another buyer for the house, is a car-boot sale. I don’t know how big they are in the States, but they’re quite big here and it seems to shift a lot of stuff.

Update on this – I have made €37.18 from selling the two pairs of shoes, 2 handbags and a coin purse on ebay. The stamp is still on sale, the items that didn’t sell are going to a charity shop…


The challenge was challenge indeed! I had to re-evaluate my life’s priorities in order to begin the de-clutter.
I am an avid electronics, audio/video and photography enthusiast. When it comes to these things, my acquisitions are very strategic. I aim for the best (or best bang for the buck). But I often kept duplicate equipment as a back up or for convenience reasons. This needed to be stopped.

I decided to first be rid of all my CD/DVD collections. I’m still sorting them out, roughly 300 CDs and 150 DVDs. I will be putting them up for sale on amazon. I’m keeping my Bluray titles. Don’t you dare.

I’ve managed to de-clutter the following audio components that I no longer use: Vandersteen 2CE speakers ($450). I am debating to sell my entire audio system because my passion has waned and I rarely turn it on anymore. If I do, they will go on sale before August. Quicksilver V4 mono blocks and Quicksilver line-stage pre-amp. Music Hall cd player, and energy C4 speakers along with quality interconnects and speaker cables. I will keep a simple system consisting of NAD receiver and solid bookshelf speakers – just two pieces.

I have sold following photography equipment: Nikon 17-55mm f2.8G ($750) and Nikon 105mm VR ($700) lenses. The following will be up for sale: Nikon D40 camera along with 18-55mm, 55-200mm VR, 70-300 VR, and Tamron 14mm 2.8D prime lenses. I’ve decided to keep the system simple – from now on it will be one camera with 3 lenses (variable) and 3 primes.

I’ve decided to sell my canondale road bike and keep the Trek hybrid which I use more. I’m dumping my un-used ASUS laptop. More to come later as I de-clutter…

I couldn’t resist getting rid of some stuff myself. I have gotten rid of about 1.5 feet of CDs and DVDs. CDs are actually pretty hard to get rid of. Three quarters of a foot of CDs were simply donated to freecycle, where they go like hotcakes. I also went through my closet and got rid of a bag of clothes. This is now only 50% full. I can’t tell you how convenient that is in terms of getting things in and out. I like it! (Also see Miss Minimalist’s 7 steps to a minimalist wardrobe)

Something I do is to use the proceeds to regulate my acquisition of new stuff. Hence, I can’t buy something unless I get the money from selling something else. Superficially, that’s obviously not nearly as convenient as swiping a credit card. However, it keeps the acquisition tendency in check and it means that new acquisitions are carefully considered (can I sell this again some day?). Most importantly, it avoids ending up in a cluttered and oversized home which would be extremely inconvenient.

In terms of total stuff, I think I fall somewhere in the middle. Some have more stuff than me but some clearly have less. It seems that a really good way to declutter is to intentionally change one’s lifestyle so that there is no choice. We dumped huge amounts of stuff, when we moved into the RV. However, we did not get rid of things beyond that and I’d say relative to the RV, we are about 25% overloaded, since we have stuff outside in a shed.