The Psychology of Selling Things

A couple of months ago, I was given the challenge of reducing all my possessions into three boxes since my housemate graciously offered to store my things while I’m on my cycling trip, but only three boxes. This morning, I finally sold my Lego sets, which are the last few items I needed to sell to complete this challenge.

I’ve been trying to be a minimalist for a long time and it’s only now that I can truly identify as one. In the last two months, I sold or donated over 100 items, mainly on Facebook Marketplace. I want to document the challenges I had while downsizing and some surprising take-aways.

To begin, I had already read several books over the past few years on minimalism. These include Digital Minimalism, Goodbye, Things, Love People, Use Things, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, etc. Also, even before my housemate gave me this challenge, I was already selling my possessions here and there on Facebook Marketplace. I like using Facebook Marketplace because it’s fast and easy to list items and the commission fee is 5%, much lower than Ebay’s or Mercari’s.

In the beginning of my purging process, I had to sort all the things I want to keep and separate them from the things I want to sell or donate. It was a continuous process that became easier as I started to rid of more and more things. This is because keeping things, along with selling things, is an emotional process. In the end, it became a change in mindset.

We often think the items we have contain a lot of value, both monetary and sentimental. The sentimental value is just your personal connection to the thing itself. But I can also say that monetarily the items are not worth as much as you’d think in the first place.

I struggled to price my first few items because I thought a certain thing is worth X value, because that’s the value that’s worth to me. As it turns out, in 98% of the cases, the value that someone is willing to pay for the same thing is X minus Y, where Y is the difference in value that seller thinks it’s worth. The trick is to convince myself to accept the Y and sell the item at a discount.

The key to selling things is to be at peace. Not only on the price of the item, but also on the fact that the item will find a new life with someone else. I have already used the item, now it’s time for someone else to enjoy it, and hopefully take good care of it. So I think of Y as the karma factor that the buyer will be a good steward of my things.

As for sentimental things, I’ve already saved at least one thing that is given to me by someone special, I don’t need four or five different things from the same person. Therefore, I will cut down on these items, especially if they are bulky.

The process got easier as I reduced more possessions. There is certainly a momentum since I’m on a deadline. Giving yourself a deadline is a very good idea for selling things. It created urgency and as a result, creativity. Perhaps it's split a listing into several if the item has multiple things in it, such as my Lego collection. Perhaps it's lower the price on a weekend and see what happens. These are only some of the things you can try.

I became more flexible on the price as I sold more and was more open to offers from buyers. Many times, I ask the buyer what is their best offer and not give my lowest price that I’ll accept. This takes the pressure off of me and not accidentally reveal too low of a price by myself.

One item that’s worth the most and I had to sell quickly was my car. The Kelley Blue Book price had it at around $6500 to $7000, so I started at $7000. As it turns out, this price was too high and I didn’t get any interested buyers. I know I had only two weeks to sell the car so I lower the price every couple of days until I hit a price point where there were more interested buyers. If I didn’t use this strategy then my car would still be sitting on the driveway. I got lucky that there was an easy buyer who bought my car, even though I had to deal with a bunch of other buyers trying to low-ball me.

The whole process of selling and donating things is an adventure itself. I certainly learned a lot in dealing with people and negotiating. Selling second hand on a marketplace is not something you should avoid since it is a useful skill to have. It might take some time, but if you set a deadline or create a sense of urgency you can do it, too.

Remember that the whole point of downsizing is to be at peace. I can’t describe to you the feeling that I current have now that my stuff is in two boxes, a duffle bag, along with a guitar. If I need to move somewhere, all my possessions fits in one sedan and I can do it in one trip. That’s something few people can do.

I became someone with a scarcity mindset to someone with a grateful mindset as I downsized. This is the opposite of what you think might happen as possessions are reduced. When I had more things I sometimes had trouble remember where a certain thing is located, or that I would keep things just in case I need it later. This is not a healthy mindset since the cycle just continues until you accumulate more and more things. Now I have fewer things I feel I'm so grateful for the items that I kept since they are the most important ones. They are the all-stars of all my things and they deserve to be taken the extra care. As Rabbi Hyman Schachtel said: "Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have."

I also realized the true meaning of enough, both mentally and materialistically. As a human, I was born naked and I hope to die with nothing, or close to it. This downsizing is a big step toward this goal. 

Lastly, I’m very grateful to have my housemate to store my things while I’m cycling. And I’m so glad she gave me this challenge two months ago. Now I can cycle in peace. Just two more days until the start of my journey. The next post will be from the road!

All my things (except my cycling stuff)!


  1. You are amazing Hiatt! We can all learn so much from you. I hope you have an amazing trip!

    1. Thank you, Anne, for your kind words! Tomorrow is the big day!

  2. These are wise words even for those not embarking on a trip around the world.

    1. I'd like to think I'm doing my part to minimize my impact on this earth of ours.

  3. I feel challenged my the downsizing. I soooo want to do this ... not sure in this season tho.


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