Downsizing For RV Living
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.