Everything I Own

All My StuffAfter three months of working, planning, and stressing about it, I moved out of my Chicago apartment yesterday. I’d like to thank my dad for making the trip up from Indiana to help me move. Being an engineer, he has a much better understanding of how things can fit in a space than I do, and this came in handy when packing all my worldly possessions into a car.

The picture on the right is everything I currently own piled up on the floor of my parents’ house. It feels strange to move things back to my childhood home at the age of 27, especially since I haven’t lived here since the summer after my first year in college.

Although I’m only staying with them for a couple of days before I’m on the road, they have been gracious enough to host the things I won’t need now (but will want whenever I make my home somewhere). In the interest of simplicity in my own life and of not becoming a burden in theirs, I slowly chipped away at my possessions in the months leading up to the move.

Of course, I wanted to do this without just throwing a bunch of things in the trash. One of the main reasons I’m heading off on this adventure is to be a better steward of the planet, and throwing away what I’ve accumulated seemed irresponsible. Instead, I focused on selling, donating, lending, and, as a last resort, recycling as much as I could. In the interest of helping anyone else who wants to downsize, here are some things I did:

  • I digitized all my hundreds of CDs to high-quality mp3 files and stored them (along with all other important files) on an external hard drive and a cloud-based backup service (CrashPlan). I then sold the CDs to resale shops like Reckless Records in Chicago and SecondSpin.com. I took all of the CDs that didn’t sell to Best Buy to be recycled. I walked the 7-mile round trip to the nearest Chicago Best Buy around 10 times with a messenger bag full of CDs and stuffed the CDs into the appropriate depository at the front of the store. This brings me to:
  • Best Buy electronics recycling is where it’s at. In Illinois and Indiana (and probably many other states), Best Buy offers a free electronics recycling program. In addition to the aforementioned CDs, I recycled audio cables, an old desktop computer, a printer, a tuner, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. No questions asked other than if I would like a recycling receipt. Please don’t throw out your electronics when it’s so easy to recycle them.
  • There were a few things that I donated to a Goodwill-like service in Chicago called the Brown Elephant.
  • I lent (or foisted upon, perhaps) friends much of the art I’ve purchased or received over the years. I’m proud to say that my Drew Etienne collection will still grace someone’s home even while I’m away on a farm.
  • I loaned the music equipment that I intend (or hope) to use in the future to friends who will get more use out of it in the next few years than I will. I sold the gear I no longer wanted on Craigslist and eBay.

I probably still have too much stuff. I didn’t reduce my book collection much, since I want to have a small library when I end up somewhere more permanent. I kept all of my correspondence from the past 10 years. I still have about eight pairs of shoes. Still, it’s a start, and it’s good to know that all I own can essentially fit in a car — especially because I will soon be fitting everything I will need for the year onto a bicycle.