I thought about naming this series, “Getting Rid of Crap.” A bit crass, though true. But it’s hard to get rid of a lifetime of crap. It takes time, patience, steadfastness and determination. It also involves frequent trips down memory lane (which can slow the process). In the end, I realize downsizing truly is an art.
At some point in our lives most of us will downsize. The reasons and circumstances vary. For me, downsizing is a necessary step on my journey to be a fulltime RVer. Obviously. But over time, it’s morphed into a lot more than that. It feels almost spiritual. Getting rid of real crap has made room for me to get rid of emotional crap as well. That has been a wonderful, and surprising, side effect.
Now I can firmly say I’m ready to exchange possessions for experiences. I no longer want to work a stressful fulltime job simply to maintain the life, house and material possessions I have. I no longer want to trade time for money. The time is mine and I want to spend it doing what’s important and meaningful to me.
But this post isn’t about the spiritual side of my journey. It’s about the practical side of one aspect of the journey. Downsizing. It’s about sharing what I have learned and with hope it helps others who find themselves on a similar path. Whatever the reason.
There are so many different options at your disposal when it comes to getting rid of crap. When undertaking such a monumental task, start by asking yourself a few questions.
- How much time and effort are you willing or able to put into the task?
- Do you need to make money on your stuff?
- How dramatic will the downsizing be? Will you make use of storage?
- Do you accept this process might be hard, sad and more emotional than you expect?
For me those answers were: A lot. Absolutely, yes. Hopefully, no. And, yes.
When it is all said and done, for me, the time between the decision to fulltime RV and actually hitting the road will be somewhere between 42 and 45 months. This cushion allowed me to downsize in waves rather than in one fell swoop.
Have you heard the quote above? Once my goal to be a fulltime RVer was firmly established everything else, including downsizing, became obstacles. As long as I focused on the goal, getting rid of crap hasn’t been as hard as I’d expected. But that isn’t to say downsizing some possessions hasn’t been emotional and that isn’t to say you’d have the same experience as me.
Plus having the luxury of doing it over time allowed me to say goodbye, grieve and let go slowly.
From my earliest budget, I counted the funds from liquidating my life as a portion of the income that would help pay the startup costs. In budgeting for a Supersize LIFE, I estimated adding $20,000 to the dream pot by liquidating my life. A piece of art together with my car would make up 75% of that amount . The last $5,000 would come from everything else. Basically, I figured I would earn $5,000 five and ten dollars at a time. Hard-fought funds, for sure.
Some will say all the time and effort could not possibly be worth those few thousand dollars. I accept that’s probably a true statement. But it’s not the choice I made.
The good news might be that the $5 and $10 has added up, albeit with a ton of time and effort. The total will likely come in closer to $10,000 which is especially good news because I need to make up for the fact that the art piece, according to an art appraiser, is not worth what I hoped it would be.
Over the 2014-2015 winter, I gathered items for the first garage sale, room by room. Most of us could easily do this even if your goal isn’t eventually to rid yourself of most of your possessions. There are clothes that no longer fit, gifts not to our style or taste, more holiday decorations than are reasonable, DVDs never watched, exercise equipment purchased on January 1 with the best of intentions that now gathers dust. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Round one for me were those low hanging fruit items. In the summer of 2015, I had two garage sales. It was a start. Then I posted items on Craig’s List and learned how to use eBay. I donated pieces of art to charity auctions and drove several carloads to other charity bins.
Round two involved going through the house again but this time it was the items I wouldn’t be able to take combined with items I didn’t have a need for before leaving. During 2016, I downsized by having two more garage sales, posting more items on eBay and Craig’s List and making more trips to charity bins. I also started gifting my possessions.
As I write this, I am six months from putting my house on the market. Entire rooms and several closets are empty.
This last round is going to be the toughest as I deal with what remains. It includes items I like and use (such as a juicer) that cannot come on the road (in the case of the juicer, it is too big and heavy to justify the limited use, even at once or twice a week).
If you have read any of my Downsizing posts, you know the stories of a few items I have said goodbye to in the name of reducing my living space. But this Logistics series of posts is the how-to of downsizing. Whether you are looking to just get rid of a little junk or doing something as radical as I, I hope this series will give you some ideas of ways to do it.
Today’s post is an overview to downsizing. It’s meant to get you thinking about whether it’s something you want to tackle. And it is perfectly okay if the answer is, “No way.”
Watch for the next Logistics post where I’ll talk about the non-internet downsizing options. Share your downsizing thoughts in the comments.