In light of the fact that we have spent the last three days moving into our new apartment, it seems like the perfect time to address the question that all long-term travelers have to deal with at some point.
What are you going to do with all your stuff while you’re gone?
We knew we were coming home in less than two years, and we also had planned to settle in Colorado, so we chose to get rid of the stuff that we didn’t think we’d want/need later, and we drove everything else out to Colorado and loaded it into a storage unit. The biggest argument long-term travelers have against storing everything is that, well, it can cost a fair amount of money. Depending on where you are, and how big of a unit you have, you could be spending anywhere from $50-$200/month. If you are living in a city, your best bet is to drive out, usually a half-hour will do it, and you’ll find rural storage units that can cost 1/3 of what you’d spend in most major cities.
It might seem, at first glance, that the $1000-$2000 needed to keep your stuff could be better used towards travel, especially when you factor in the money you could make selling it all! The thing is, if you know you are coming home, you need to realize that you still are going to need a bed, dressers, bookshelf, couch, TV, dishes, towels, sheets, silverware, cups, pots and pans, a microwave, etc… when you return.
We have a really nice mattress that is only a few years old. We have basically brand new dishes, pots, pans, glassware and kitchen appliances, most of which were wedding presents. We bought a new TV just two years before we left. Realistically, we would have had to spend far more money to replace these items than we ended up spending to store them, even taking into account what we might have made if we sold them. If you don’t have high quality items, or many items at all, then storing things might not be worth it, especially if you have family or friends that are willing to keep a few personal items for you.
If you go the storage route, there are some things you can do to make packing, and unpacking it all just a bit easier when you get back.
- Bike boxes, usually free from bike stores, are great for flatscreen TV’s or artwork/mirrors.
- Shredded paper is fantastic for packing material. Just start shredding everything you’d normally recycle. You can get a cheap shredder for $20 that will do the job nicely.
- Number your boxes. Then, make a list where you give a basic description of what’s in each number box. For most things it can be as simple as just labeling the room the box should go in. There are a few things you’ll want to name specifically though – like your wifi router, or the corkscrews…
- Tape up all the edges of the boxes. It’s a pain, but it’s incredible how much dust can sneak into boxes from those edges that weren’t taped.
- Make sure you have a super thick, high quality mattress protector. In addition, wrap your mattress (and box spring if you have one) in another layer, or two of thick plastic. If the plastic isn’t thick enough it will tear, which leaves your mattress open to moisture (and mold…ick) and bugs. If you are going to bother to keep it, keep it right.
- If you store your mattress upright, make sure it is exactly upright, and stack boxes flush with it so it doesn’t sag.
- Cover the furniture in some kind of sheet or cloth in the storage unit. We didn’t. It was a mistake that required many hours of cleaning.
- Put wooden palates down on the floor of the storage unit. This will give you some protection in case of minor water leakage inside the unit.
Storing your belongings isn’t for everyone, but if you know you are coming home eventually, and you have even a few expensive items that you’d like to keep for the future, it might be worth it in the long run.
If you are a long-term traveler and have a different solution for dealing with your ‘stuff’ while you’re gone, let us know in the comments!