Downsizing For RV Living

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Wow! Downsizing our belongings for full-time RV living…It makes me shudder a bit when I think back to that month. As I’ve mentioned before, we lived in an 1800 sq ft house (with a garage FULL of motorcycles and parts) that needed to be downsized to what our tiny new home could hold. Since we were going from Dallas back to south Texas to meet up with Lucille, we rented a 5×8 U-Haul trailer to carry all belongings that remained after the big purge.

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I won’t lie, it was hellacious at times; and toward the end, I wanted to just toss a match in and run away. The funny thing is it now seems like so long ago, such a fleeting moment in time. I learned a lot about the importance of the things around me, our marriage was stretched but grew stronger, and in the end, the realization of how little we had left was freeing.

While I don’t think I have all of the answers to prepare for full-time RV living, I hope some of these tips that worked for us may make the process a little easier for someone in the future.

1. Mentally prepare yourself for the task.

While getting rid of most of the things you own is an undertaking I don’t think anyone can fully prepare for,  I do believe you can get close.  For me, it was fairly easy to flip the mental switch; but for some, letting go things (especially sentimental things) can be a very tough job. If you’re struggling with holding on, I highly recommend reading this article by The Minimalists. While I don’t agree with every aspect (I still love having actual photos I can hold in my hand), it offers an excellent insight into letting go.

2. Take inventory and organize your things. 

Before doing anything else, I started an inventory, using a Google Spreadsheet to organize my thoughts.

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This was helpful mostly for the larger items I wasn’t able to move around. When we started on the smaller stuff, I took everything that was behind a cabinet or drawer and spread it out. It was quite chaotic, but helpful to see an overview what I was going through.

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The kitchen was the first and easiest area of the house I tackled. I came up with a great criteria to determine if something should stay or go: Do I use this now, and if so, will I continue to use it in the future? If the answer was yes, and it was something we would need in the RV, it went in a keep box. If the answer was no, I had to decide what to do with it: Should I sell, donate/giveaway, or toss it? One of the most important things we learned in the whole process was don’t be afraid. Once you’re able to be at peace with letting things go the whole process becomes a lot easier.

To organize stuff as I went through it, I had various boxes throughout the house which were labeled, making it pretty easy to sort and pack things.

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I also had an entire room I jokingly called “the show room”, which was where we moved everything waiting to be sold. This helped so much when it was time to start selling everything off! I even hung a blanket over the entry to the kitchen, so I could do pre-sales inside the house before the official garage sale.

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3. Get rid of it: sell, donate, trash. 

Once we had done most of the mental work of deciding what would stay or go, it was on to the hardest part: getting it out of our house and into someone else’s.

For the large pieces, I did pre-sales on Facebook groups and Craigslist. I found that while Facebook actually worked quite well, it was very time-consuming, and people seemed to flake out more than actually show up.

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Our garage sale proved to be the easiest way to get rid of things. This was due mostly to my desire to just have it all gone. We skipped the haggling and offered things for a steal, since our goal was having less stuff – not getting rich quick. At the end of the day I put the items that didn’t sell on the curb for free and took what was left the next day to the donation center. In hindsight, I realized it would have been helpful if I had prepared more. It turned out we found quite a few things lurking around later that we could have easily sold in the sale.

In addition to our sales, we gave things to friends and family and donated the rest to a local charity. I was very much of the mindset that if I had something someone else could use, I would prefer to give it away rather than make a few meager dollars trying to sell it. It was great knowing our things were getting a good new home and would hopefully remind friends and family of us.

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The last option was to trash things. Anything that was broken, unusable, or just plain trash that had somehow hid itself around our home went to the curb. We actually made a call to our local waste company and arranged a special pickup of everything on the curb for about $85. Not have to worry about getting it to the dump ourselves was the best $85 we’ve ever spent.

4. Store it. 

I know many full-time RVers choose to keep their belongings in storage. However, I have read so many accounts of people who regretted storing their things. They found out months or years later they didn’t miss their stuff at all, and they could have purchased those items new again for less than it had cost to store them. Some might disagree, but it was definitely an encouragement for us to get rid of things, instead of keeping them for the day we might decide this wheeled life isn’t for us anymore.

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We did end up having to get a small storage unit, but it was a temporary last-minute solution since we were on a deadline to be out of our house. We will be going back through Dallas next month and since we’ll have Lucille with us we’ll have a bit more room to take things that wouldn’t fit in the U-Haul, like our kayaks!

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This was the night before we were supposed to be moved out…and as you can see, there was still stuff EVERYWHERE. It ended up taking us a few more days than we originally planned, but we still managed to do it all in only a few weeks. The day our house was finally empty was one of the happiest days of my life!

5. Don’t forget to have fun!

We have amazing friends who came out for “packing parties”. Not only was it great to have their help, but awesome to be able to spend time together before we left. And finally, when you’re done, give yourself a high-five. You just finished the most difficult part of becoming a full-time RVer!

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We have gone through our things and weeded out even more since moving. We’re trying to follow the “one thing in, one thing out” rule to keep the clutter at bay and surround ourselves only with things that add joy and value to our lives. We don’t have it perfected yet and probably never will, but we’re content with the balance we’ve found so far. :)

-Kate

 

26 Comments on “Downsizing For RV Living

  1. Matt & Kate,; awesome blog post, and VERY timely! LOL we are just a few days away from our deadline to be or of our rental and former in our 30ft 5th wheel. So far we’ve done pretty good, although I have to admit I’ve been putting off the task of going through my crafty room! But I have a plan and places for things to go ď tomorrow is the day that plan gets put into motion. Wish me luck! We have been living in the 5th wheel (parked bedside or house) for 4 days now, wanting to get out two fur babies used to being in it. They seem to have settled in just fine so far.getting excited, and following your journey at the same time!

    Rhonda & Ann

    • Thank you Rhonda!! It’s so easy to put off isn’t it! For me it was an easier thought to bury my head in the sand instead of just getting started. I can’t imagine already living in your new wheeled house and having to empty out the other…it was enough of a struggle to know Lucille was just waiting for us a few hours away. Good luck! Soon it will all be a distant memory behind you! 😉

    • thanks for sharing your blog about downsizing before living in an rv, we r in the process of looking at rv’s right now and getting things started so when we find the right one we want we can start our full time living in one as well. any tips can help

  2. Downsizing is the hardest thing. My visitors to RV52.com tell me that is their #1 issue. I spent some time and wrote a whole book on it. It’s what you wrote above, but much, much more expanded in the treatment.

    I combined TWO families, 4 people, 2 households into 400 SQ feet.

  3. Oh the days of packing, selling, organizing, etc. We had some super garage sales…and haven’t really missed a thing. Good luck with all of it!

  4. Courageous, inspiring, eye-opening! I don’t know you two well, other than our friendship on FB because of Matt’s Beemer motorcycle. But if you need a place to crash just north of Sacramento area in Rocklin, CA, I’d be happy to have you over for a few days. I have a spare room and a spare motorcycle to do some local exploring with. Cheers guys, keep us all posted on your adventure!

    • Thanks for the kind words Dan!! We should hopefully be in California in the spring and will definitely let you know! :) Thanks for following along with us!

  5. We are starting our fulltimer adventure next week. Still keeping the house and renting it out to family. Sure makes it easier! I know we will still have to much crap bit the first few months will let us prioritize. Good luck on your adventure!

  6. OK, I just found your post on Reddit and was curious. Hmm, 2 more people getting ready and doing what we are preparing to do.
    Lets see, how do I count the ways….
    01) Our 1st ‘test’ night, Debbie woke up to the sound of water, not a gurgling brook. I had not used a pressure regulator and we blew out a valve on the water heater and had a flooded living room. You too, huh?
    02) We took a trip to central Florida 600 miles from home when a local guy pulled up next to me and said I had a low tire. You guessed it, they were all rotten. $800.00 and 4 tires later we were in fine shape. You too, huh?
    03) When we got home I was underneath the 5th wheel and noticed something strange…. Where did the spare tire go? I don’t know but there is a rusty mount now hanging where a tire was before. When and where, we don’t know. You too, huh?
    04) We love to kayak and you 2 have kayaks.

    We are in the preparing stage to get rid of all our stuff and make the commitment to travel for a good many number of years. I will be following your antics, I mean, adventures since they seem to be very, very similar to ours so far. Don’t worry, there is more to break. We have found if it doesn’t break on its own, we help it along. I have broken a window, Debbie has broken a sliding door. Minor problems but just something else to fix on our Fort. If you ever get close to South Florida (Fort Lauderdale/Miami) drop a line and we will get together.

    Chuck and Debbie

    • This might be my favorite comment ever! Hopefully your troubles are smoothing out. I think the struggles in the beginning make the norm so much sweeter. 😉

  7. Love your remodels! I could never find good info or results on painting. Yours looks great! We ended up with a new 5er, so we didn’t need to paint after all. We’ve been FT since June. Wow, you’ve gone through so much already. I’m sure you’ll find much smoother sailing ahead. Have you heard of RV-Dreams? They have a great website and put on an amazing seminar. If you’re able to attend one, you’ll be amazed what you learn. We’ve been twice. Once before we had our rig and once after as we really wanted to get the 5er and truck weighed. Very important for safety.

  8. My husband and I sure wanting to be full-time RVers. The first steps of downsizing do seem overwhelming. Thanks for your tips! Ready to get boxes, mark them and get started!

  9. I just found your blog from Facebook and have enjoyed reading about your new adventures. We’ve been fulltiming almost 4 years now, and how well I remember the downsizing process. What a job.

  10. Thank you, thank you! This will be our venture this coming Feb, March and April! Oh and it will be our third and last step in downsizing. We sold our home last year (11/13) and are currently renting a townhouse, so we have less to get rid of, but a whole lot less than had we waited!

  11. what a fantastic blog!..congrats on making it through the purging process..we have about 10 days left till we make the transition into our trailer…wish I would have found your blog earlier!

  12. Just found this…awesome. I am planning to full-time RV in the near future and find the most daunting task will be downsizing and trying to figure out what I actually need to keep. Thanks for the tips.

  13. Wonderful story, you made me chuckle and made me feel that im not alone in this thought process, we are in the middle of downsizing selling our home, sold our business and it’s so emotional but as I see the house almost empty I don’t miss anything and am also thinking I shouldn’t have put what I thought I couldn’t part with in storage. We just bought an rv we love it and can’t wait to travel. See you on the road…:))))

  14. My husband and I are currently in the process of downsizing to go full time RV living by July. This has been quite a journey thus far for us. It’s nice to see our struggles match others when doing the…”conversion.” It’s not easy, emotional draining, financially sacrificing, but in six months when we have it “all”… it’ll be SO worth every obstacle. I’m very excited.
    -Southeast Texas headed to Smoky Mountains

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