Mountains to Piles

It’s pretty shocking how many items, things, must haves, etc we can accumulate over the years in our homes. We thought with only two of us in our household and a pretty “sterile” life (as our families can surely attest to) the downsizing would be the easiest part of going to a full time RV life. We were thoroughly surprised how much we had acquired over the years though and how neatly it can pack away out of sight and out of mind in all the crevices of your home. It seemed like endless mountains of stuff as we started gathering it all up. It was even surprising where we were able to find things stuffed throughout our house(don’t forget or underestimate how much is in your attic/basement/or packed inboxes).

We had to make some serious downsize changes in our life since we made the decision to transition to a Class B RV for our full time vehicle. You’ll have to determine on your own what applies to you as everyone’s situation is different. Just like with us, everywhere we researched advised against having a storage unit and keeping anything permanently if you are going full-time, but there are things we simply could not purge, things that were just too valuable to us. We will discuss our storage solution (>>>>>>>>>) but there were items we decided because of their nature were irreplaceable or would not be able to repurchase them again when we come off the road.

Knowing the small nature of the RV we felt would best fit our RVing plans, we utilized our master bedroom closet as the “going with us” staging area. Everything we thought we might bring with us or want for some reason or another we piled in our 9’ x 9’ closet. “If it could fit in there, it will fit in our RV,” we told ourselves reassuringly hoping this would emulate the square footage and storage limitations of the Class B. Later we realized this was not accurate at all and we would have to even downsize some more, but it was a great starting point that’s for sure.

As we began to go through each room we had to make a determination based on several classifications on where things were going to go. The categories we placed things in were:going with us (the aforementioned closet pile), long term storage,family/friends, donating, or selling. “Going with us” went into the master closet as mentioned, but the rest of the groups is where the “shell game”began. Deciding where to organize the piles while still living/functioning in our home and getting it ready to go on the market proved to be a task and an extremely fluid situation.

In our first attempt we started with the bonus room as being the staging area for long term storage items. We place tape on the floor in varying sizes to match with storage units (5’ x 5’, 5’ x 10’, 7’ x10’, etc.) to define how much room we would need. As we planned to rent a long term air conditioned storage unit to keep our most prized possessions. This provided us with a visual of what we considered significant in our lives and an opportunity to mentally determined if we “really” needed to store the items if it would push us to the next size. Talk about pressure! This process started out with great intentions, but eventually lead to every category getting piled into the bonus room losing all of our organization leading to complete chaos.

The first few months of the downsizing process were probably the most difficult and overwhelming for us, but we slowly got into a rhythm. Once the first few items made their way out of the house either sold or given away it became addicting and provided us motivation to continue pushing forward. The more this happened the more excited we got and the more space it provided in the house in order to organize what was left. Things snowballed and the emptier our house became the more the reality of our RV adventure became foreseeable. Similarly,to the answer of the old adage of, “How do you eat an elephant?” answer, “One bite at a time.” This is how we felt when it came to the downsizing.

Additionally,patience with one another, the process, and even other people is required. If you’ve ever sold anything online through the many available resources, you understand. No matter what you think your household goods are worth or how reasonably priced you think it is, people are still going to throw some insane offers your way. We put ourselves on a pretty tight timeline making this decision in June and wanting to be full time by November/December was tight. You have to decide your own timeline and how long you can hold out on selling your things or your own negotiating style. Just remember at some point you might want to go back to the brick and mortar life and will have to purchase an entire house of goods. We have put all the money we have made from these sales into its own bank account to ensure we have something there for when that day comes. The amount is nowhere near the amount we spend on buying the items but it does mean that when we decide to come off the road we will have enough to start and rebuild as we have done in the past.

All and all when it comes to downsizing the hardest part is separating with your personal belongings. It took us many years of to amass all the items in our home and it is difficult to let them go. At the end of the day though, the majority of it can be repurchased or replaced. We are guilty of holding onto things ourselves. Those old family photos (printed ones which are nice to have instead of digital copies), paintings and portraits, handmade crafts from our niece and nephew, military mementos or keepsakes are some of the items we felt are irreplaceable and could not part with.

Summary

  1. Start in one room at a time (preferably the easiest one!).
  2. Be patient with yourself and your partner.
  3. If you have the space, make piles which fit your needs (Keep forever, Going with us, Friends/Family, Selling, Donating, I’m not sure right now) A word to the wise, the last pile helped alleviate a lot of fights for us and gave us each time to go back to the item later and decide.
  4. Repackage/down size like items (gather all your pictures in picture storage boxes or scan them and go digital if possible).
  5. Remember in the world of RVing all plans are made in Jello - they change and you must change with them. We quickly realized though we thought we could get our “keep forever” pile down to a 5 X 5 unit we simply had too many precious items to keep, so we flexed and went to a larger size…no biggie we are new to this and things just simply will not always go as planned.