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This chapter is from the book

Get a Rope

  • Our living room, now an eBay shipping center, was littered with packages, small boxes, brown paper, and labels. Our previously-overstuffed DVD rack lay largely empty, and our video game consoles were as bare. Sarah peeked around the corner and admired the chaos. "Are you sure this is really worth it?" She nodded toward my trading card binder, which formerly housed an enormous collection of sports cards and gaming cards, but now was nearly empty. I looked up at her. "According to my math, once we sell and ship out all of this stuff, your car will be paid off and our MBNA credit card will be paid off next month." She looked at me for a moment just to make sure I wasn't joking. She opened her mouth to say something, but then just burst into a big smile.
  • June 2006

Over the years, I've had the chance to talk to many readers who felt they were drowning in their debt. They were simply overwhelmed with the amounts they owed, and it felt hopeless. Even after coming up with a debt repayment plan and ensuring that their interest rates were low, they still felt as though they were climbing Mount Everest without a rope.

To those people, I say, "Get a rope." What do I mean by that? What I mean is, give yourself a big boost on your debt repayment plan right out of the gate.

Go through your home, room by room, with a discriminating eye. Look for things that you don't use—or rarely use. Start with your closets, your junk-collecting areas, and your collections. Go through these items and ask yourself, honestly, if these items are adding genuine value to your life—or if they're just representing memories that you hold in your heart and your head, regardless of what items are filling your closet.

I'll use myself as an example. Once upon a time, I avidly played several trading card games, and I played with enough skill to amass a large collection of these. Yet, as time went on, I found that I really wasn't enjoying this enormous collection I had amassed. I'd look at them on occasion, but mostly I just enjoyed spending time with friends. My cards would go untouched for months, but I kept them because of the memories.

I realized, though, that the memories come from within me, not from collected items that I barely looked at. I might get a smile from the memories brought about by looking at them on occasion, but I could get that same good feeling from meeting and chatting with an old friend or keeping tabs with those friends on message boards or on Facebook. It was the camaraderie and the stories that I enjoyed, not a closet full of stuff.

So, I spent a week going through that collection. I sorted it, determined the items that had significant individual value, and sold almost all of them.

I applied the same philosophy to our DVD collection and our book collection and our video game collection. We sold stuff on eBay, at consignment shops, at used stores, and directly to people. Just like that, some of our debts went up in smoke, and we suddenly felt in control of our situation for the first time in a long time.

Try this approach with the items you possess. The unwanted, unnecessary purchases of your past can often serve as a wonderful rope to help pull you up to a new place in your life.

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