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Published on Sunday, November 16, 2003

After selling all, he mulls next move

What's the price of building community? It cost Christian Richardson about 75 cents on the dollar.

Richardson, 24, formerly of the South End and now surfing couches across the city, completed his sell-it-to-the-walls apartment sale on Halloween. He ended up with almost 25 percent of the retail prices he paid for his stuff, he says. The sale, which will launch him into a new lifestyle, lasted more than five weeks (as written about in a Sept. 30 story in the Boston Globe's Living section), and although making new friends and acquaintances wasn't part of the original plan, it's been a perk.

''I am getting to meet more interesting people -- whether or not it's for the sake of meeting them or because I'm actually going to be able to be friends with them and maybe utilize them in some aspect of whatever I'm doing next . . . a lot of people are attracted to what I'm doing, '' said Richardson.

What he did was sell all of his worldly belongings without having a definitive plan. That was intentional -- he planned to not have a plan. Richardson, a former philosophy major, looks like the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in tortoise-shell glasses and speaks in Zen-like contradictions. (A section of his website,, is dubbed ''an officially unofficial experiment in living'').

Over the course of the sale he estimates that about 135 people came through his two-bedroom apartment. Most came more than once.

John Sacco of Cambridge visited on a handful of occasions. When he showed up for the fourth time, his excitement was visible as he perused what was left. A few minutes later Sacco was wearing what the winter coat and boots he had bought with a roll of quarters.

It was a bit chilly -- Richardson had sold the thermostat. Sacco made himself comfortable on the black leather couch in the living room. He and Richardson started talking about ''meta patterns'' of personality, and as Richardson waxed, Sacco turned to a reporter and said: ''This is the spirit in which I visit. We sit here and have conversations and I pick stuff off his table.''

The talks are metaphysical, but the purchases are practical. Sacco has bought drawers, a few jackets, silverware, a toaster oven, and hockey skates.

Richardson isn't the first to have this kind of sale. In 2000, a young artist in Iowa City named John Freyer sold all his belongings utilizing a website he created ( He sold more than 600 items, including the website itself, and then started traveling the country, visiting people who had bought his stuff.

Richardson is going to do some traveling too -- destination undecided. There has been plenty of advice thrown Richardson's way by his customers, though, and some followed with offers. Now that the sale is over, Richardson has entered ''phase two,'' allowing himself to make plans. ''Phase two so far is kicking back and taking it easy. I'm not going forward with anything. I'm chilling and hanging out with friends. I feel less tied down to expectations. I feel more free to do what I want with my time than what I expected.''


Published on Tuesday September 28, 2003

Selling his sharper image for a more adventurous life
Boston man downsizes his formerly upscale life

Globe Staff

College graduate Christian Richardson, 24, is selling off the trappings of his gadget-crazy lifestyle and hitting the road with nothing but a few essentials.
College graduate Christian Richardson, 24, is selling off the trappings of his gadget-crazy lifestyle and hitting the road with nothing but a few essentials.

It's a fantasy shared by many a middle-aged, mortgage-strapped adult. Sell all the gear you've accumulated, pocket the money, stuff a few clothes into a backpack, and take off for Europe or the South Pacific, where freedom's just another word for nothing left to download.


Way more often than not, of course, reality prevails. That 60-inch plasma-screen TV is pretty cool, after all. And while it may be true that you can't take it with you, hey, why not enjoy it while you're here?

So meet Christian Richardson, 24, a college graduate with a promising future in the restaurant business and a taste for expensive toys such as high-end electronic equipment and fancy kitchen gadgets. Though it's a bit early for him to be having a midlife crisis, Richardson did something rather unusual, if not revolutionary, recently: He posted a list of his possessions on an Internet shopping site and invited everyone to his sale.

"I am selling everything," Richardson announced, supplying a link -- with home phone number -- to his own Web site.

Notebook computer, DVD player, DJ-quality turntable, studio speakers, leather sofa and chairs, cordless phone, kayak, binoculars, floor lamp, fish tank, wine rack, food processor, microwave oven, mixing bowls, martini glasses, even the bathroom towel rod and shower head -- all were for sale. His list contains 229 entries, from a $200 (his price) ADJ Pro-Scratch CD player to a $2 banana stand.

Richardson posted the notice on at 4 in the morning on Sept. 22. By 8 a.m., his cell phone was ringing furiously. It rang so often that by the end of the day he was 170 minutes over his monthly allotment and had yet to return several dozen messages.

Something about the sale, the whole idea of it, struck peoples' fancies -- more than just bargain-hunting might account for, at any rate. By that afternoon, Richardson was directing strangers around his apartment so they wouldn't trip and smash the Asian globe lamps. Many were seeking deals on barely used stuff; Richardson's prices (nonnegotiable) were generally half off retail, in some instances more. Others were curious, though. Was it desperation or inspiration that motivated Richardson?

"I got an e-mail from some MIT friends asking ... why is he doing this?" says Sahar Aminipour, 25, a master's degree candidate at Boston University Medical School, who showed up -- twice -- and wound up buying candle holders, a drying rack, two cobalt bowls, and a pair of headphones. "But talking to Chris, yeah, it made sense. If you're trying to find yourself, why not reduce the number of material objects that are weighing you down?"

Richardson has been eager to answer questions, too.

"I've said my goal is to walk out of here on November 1st with nothing but a backpack, a toothbrush, and a plan," he says. "Right now, there is no plan -- just one step at a time, the first step being to get rid of everything."

Richardson says he's not a closet Buddhist or born-again back-to-the-lander. In fact, he used to get the same buzz from buying a 300-disc CD player that others get from taking drugs or eating a good meal. Nor is he drowning in debt or depressed over a busted romance. The job he recently left, general manager of an upscale South End restaurant, paid nearly $1,000 a week, more than enough to support his Sharper Image shopping habits.

"People say I live more like a 30-year-old than a college student," says Richardson, who graduated from the University of Vermont in 2002. "I was always checking out the coolest, latest stuff. I bought a lot of things that made me feel I was on the cutting edge. But the problem is it's never ending."

The restaurant job -- a high-pressure, long-hours situation -- had its drawbacks. The harder he worked, the more miserable he felt. Owning a better subwoofer or shinier espresso maker wasn't going to make him any happier, he realized, whereas a change of scenery might.

Friends have suggested Richardson go hike the Appalachian Trail or take a cross-country car trip. Having sold his new Volvo, the latter seems unlikely, but adventure is definitely in the cards. Richardson is leaning toward buying a round-the-world plane ticket and spending several months globe-trotting before settling in a foreign city.

He wants to raise enough dough to buy the time and freedom most people can't afford.

What will he keep? A point-and-shoot digital camera so he can keep his website updated like as a sort of online journal. His backpack, of course. Camping equipment. To those who might wonder whether Richardson wouldn't feel freer by giving the money away, too, he has a ready answer. "Could I afford to? I don't think so," he says. "Unless this becomes a movement."

Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.