I have a 650 square foot apartment in a condo building downtown in Austin, TX. It's a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom with a long hallway and two windows on the same wall.
It's a far cry from the last place I lived — a posh, 1500 square foot apartment with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, plus a huge living room, dining room, and a bunch of other little carefully architected nooks in the same extremely open floor plan with two walls of wonderful windows. The place was fantastic for entertaining, and I did so often.
Now, though, I'm embarrassed to invite people over. It's the boxes and shelves of crap lining the 25ft hallway you step into directly from the front door; the 2 computers, scanner, laser printer, photo printer and documents begging for attention scattered about a modern dinner table hidden in plain sight in the living room; the haphazardly arranged furniture — a giant beanbag, molded plywood chair, modern sofa, minimalist end table — interwoven with boxes, contents overflowing and sometimes balanced precariously. I feel like a hoarder.
Despite my impressive ability to ignore the junkyard I've assembled one or two items at a time, I find myself getting overwhelmed by it. I ask myself how I got to this point, and how to deal with it. The thought of starting over from scratch is perhaps more liberating than any other. But how do I keep from getting back here again? I need a kitchen trash can, and a sponge, and guest blankets, and hand towels, and spare ethernet cables. The turkey baster gets used maybe once a year, but it still needs to be stored away conveniently located for the other 51.85 weeks of the year.
I'm terrible at selling things. It isn't that I'm bad at sales, I just can't figure out how to efficiently trade an apartment overflowing with “stuff” for cash. Craigslist works okay, assuming you're selling something for well below market value. Ebay is fine if you're not selling anything too valuable, heavy, large, fragile, or not-allowed, but it still requires a lot of investigation and work to create an auction that is likely to net you a reasonable winning bid. I haven't stooped to nagging my Facebook friends into purchasing now-unused ice trays, the slightly weathered down-comforter I quit using when I got a new one as a gift three Christmases ago, or the abundance of USB chargers I've accumulated over the last decade. And I don't have a front yard or a garage…at least, not one that it'd be any sort of appropriate to sell dust-collecting DVDs, a novelty tape dispenser, and margarita glasses at.
Like a relationship, buying tangible things carries more than you consider up front. Unless you have the foresight to lock all of the things you'd like to keep in a vault the night before your house is burglarized for every last salt shaker and q-tip, you're obligated to haul around each and every thing until you find a way of passing it along to someone else. This is why if you don't want something forever, you have to consider how much work it'll be to sell it later. And if you don't think it'll be worth the effort to sell, you have to be okay with giving it away or trashing it, which can sometimes be harder than it sounds, like when nobody wants your outdated iPod with a cracked screen, or the cheap vacuum you used to clean your dorm room but won't fit in the city provided dumpster along with your weekly trash. And if it isn’t even worth the effort of trashing it, the right move is to simply not buy it.
Unfortunately, I still don't have an answer to how to sell or get rid of things effectively. I still have an apartment that doubles as a storage unit because I split up with my ex and downsized my square-footage footprint drastically. And I still get overwhelmed by it all. But I have started to notice a reluctance to buying stuff building up, and that gives me hope that I'll avoid this sort of situation in the future, even if I still don't know where the magic reset button lives.